Suzan Pitt: A Legendary Visionary Who Deserves A Fresh Outlook
In a world that overuses so many different terms, the word Legend isn't one that gets overplayed. But it is a word that often gets misunderstood. For example, Here In The United States, the word "Legend" is often associated with a larger than life character. It is also often related to a person who is very well-known to the main population. This is why a lot of Pop Stars are considered to be legends (even if half of them don't deserve it).
In the world of Animation, the word legend often gets associated with Animators who are known for creating brand-like characters. You can see this with Walt Disney's Mickey-Mouse, Akira Toriyama's Goku or Matt Groening's Homer Simpson. But to assume all Animation is based on this 'Character-Branding' tactic would be foolish. It would also be foolish to assume every single legendary Animator is known for falling into this trap. In fact, some of the most influential Animators are also the ones that the Popular Media seems to (unfortunately) ignore.
If you are a fan of Experimental Animation, very few people have as much influence as Today's Guest. And nobody can honestly deny the talent she possesses. Her Films are Poetic, Honest & Possess an Artistic Quality that you can rarely see in most popular animation. And she is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, Animation or not. She is the legendary Experimental Animator Suzan Pitt, and most of you should have heard about her by now. But if for some reason you haven't, prepare to be astonished by the Incredible work she has been associated with.
Before we really dive in though, let's look at Suzan herself. As I stated, she is an Experimental Animator. But that term is so Vague that it could literally mean anything that isn't mainstream. So what would be a perfect representation to explain her work? Well, she first garnered recognition in the 70's, and her work was very different in Structure & Editing Style than your typical Narrative Film at the time (or now). If a popular movie (at the time) like Jaws or Star Wars could be represented by a raging reservoir, her work could be represented by a calm & winding river.
For those who have seen & experienced both, we tend to notice that a Raging Reservoir is very rugged and harsh to experience. And a Narrative Film tends to be very Jagged in its execution. Sometimes this Jagged Editing Style works, but most of the time it is simply done out of Tradition (or at least that's how it seems). But one of the Great Aspects about Experimental Filmmaking is that you can play around with these tropes and create a Viewing Experience that is more Poetic & Cathartic. And above all the River Flows with the Calm Motion of Nature. And Suzan Pitt's most well-known film perfectly exemplifies this type of feeling.
If there is one Experimental Animated Short Film that could be considered to be Popular, that film would be "Asparagus." This one short film is often a major study piece in most Experimental Film Programs. It has also been discussed throughout numerous magazines & online Articles. Not to mention it also opened for a very famous film with an Eccentric Visual Director who is currently running a popular television reboot (I'm not going to mention the name, but you should be able to put the puzzle pieces together).
But all that aside, I feel like "Asparagus" deserves to be examined further. So allow me to give my interpretation of the film. As I stated earlier, Suzan's work is like a Flowing River. This can be seen with the way she showcases the Films message. Obviously, the film is about Sexual Liberation. But unlike other films that tackle the subject, Asparagus isn't erotic or brazenly explicit. Instead, it is far more Sensual & Spiritual. And this is great to notice, as it is far more Realistic to the Experience we (should) feel when we are Sexually Exploring our Partner. It is also one of the few Experiences where human beings share fluids, which brings us back to our River Metaphor.
I asked Suzan about this Poetic Structure, and she told me it was intentional. She connected the structure of the film to the Electrons we have in our brains. Our minds flow with Ideas and thoughts that create our personality. And Asparagus is a fantastic representation of what we feel like when we are connected.
We can see this in one of the first images, where two plains of existence collide with one another. One is of a Colorful Ground (with Jelly-Bean like Shapes), a representation of the Protagonist. We are very Colorful, yet we live a tragically grounded life. The other is of a Blue Sky, which has often been a metaphorical representation of Hope throughout Human History (rather this is Heaven, Progress, Flight, ETC.). And then we cut to a panel that showcases a phallic looking light.
But it isn't the phallic imagery which draws the attention; rather it is the Shades of Color that surround that lamp. It looks just like the Colors we saw on the ground about 30 Seconds Before. And this is where our faceless protagonist becomes excited (for better or for worse). Then the Woman turns on another lamp; this represents the excitement of her partner and their Colorful yet Grounded lifestyle. The Partner is (possibly) Experiencing the same mindset that our Protagonist is. And finally, we see the famous scene where the Protagonist lets out two Phallic Looking Asparagus.
This image is often the most cited in the whole short, mainly due to how awesome it was to see an Animated Asparagus getting shitted out by our Protagonist (I know, I said it in such an Intelligent Manner). But Awesome Visuals aside, this image also represents something far deeper. It represents that the Protagonist is letting go & allowing herself to open up to her more humane side. The Asparagus's (I don't know if that is Grammatically Correct) in the toilet also represent that this duo is allowing each other to swim in the same pool (or, fluid exchange). Then the lights fade, and the Title comes popping out. Before this Title, we only experienced the anticipation of Sex. Now, we get to sit through the Journey.
I won't spoil the entire short (as it should be Experienced first hand), but every single image counts for the Day-Dream like Journey our faceless protagonist goes through while Exploring & Connecting with her Partner. Not only are these images Jaw Droopingly Gorgeous (which makes the Experience feel much more passionate to the viewer) but it also goes through cycles. The Film isn't just a fever-dream of Colors like a lot of these Promotional Articles claim they are. Instead, it is a series of emotions in visual representation. In some instances, there is Doubt, in others there is Confusion. In one famous Image (which I will showcase below) we see the Protagonist walk through a Sidewalk with Billboards that showcase Sex Toys, Guns, Dolls & Cigarettes. This can easily be a representation of the Protagonists fears, if she feels like her partner sees her the way that the world sees Men & Women. This is why her mind wanders off to the Theater, or (in layman's terms) a show. The theatre is a Representation of Art in the form of Performance. Sex can be seen in the same way.
I do want to mention two other points before we end our Journey into the world of Asparagus. The first is what happens inside the Theatre. I won't Spoil what is shown in this Sequence (let's just say it involves fluids), but I do want to mention the Metaphorical Elements of having a Stop-Motion Audience view an Abstract Theatre Piece.
Obviously, from a Technical Standpoint, this Sequence is impressive. But what is one aspect you ask yourself whenever you see a Stop-Motion Animated Piece? For a good majority of us, it is how stilted Stop-Motion can look like. Obviously, this can change with the Animator and Budget (A Nightmare Before Christmas moves better & smoother than Santa Claus is Coming To Town). But that Stilted Nature exists in the Art-Form, you can't get rid of it. And this is why this Sequence works. The Audience can be a Representation of Society, or the Society that the Faceless Protagonist faces. It's judgmental; it's observant. It seems to only move when a higher person (say a Snooty Politician or a Boss) allows it to. It seems very Stilted & Unnatural. But in this Instant, the Protagonist doesn't care. She is allowing her Natural Instincts to cast a Show On Center Stage, and the World around her has to allow it. They can't control what happens on stage; only she can. And in this moment, the woman feels fulfilled. I won't spoil what happens next, but let's just say the Stilted Society accepts & even enjoys what is going on on stage. They might even be inspired.
The last sequence I want to focus on is the last scene where our Faceless Protagonist clutches & enjoys blowing an Asparagus. This is an Obvious Metaphor for a BlowJob. But the imagery (again) isn't the main focus. Throughout this entire journey, the Protagonist has had her clothes on. And she seemed uncomfortable & doubtful with what she is doing. But now, she trusts what is happening & even puts her own footing in the partner based fluid exchange. We can see that she smiles and allows the Experience to overtake her senses. But again, this isn't Explicit or even Erotic (unless you're aroused by Metaphors). This is her finding a Spiritual Awakening through her partner and allowing it to be a joyful experience. The Images that come out of her mouth represent a Stream, A Wicked Tongue, a Jelly-Bean Outpour (where did we see that image before) and a Pulsating Flower. But no matter what comes out, she is accepting. Finally, it ends with her Satisfied, and we roll the credits.
Despite how long that Analysis was, you can still go back and Discover more. I didn't even touch on the Mask (a Major Element in the Film) or the Bag of Tricks. So I urge you all to view Asparagus for yourself. An easy way to see it is to subscribe to Fandor (and no, this is not a Paid Promotion). You can also buy the DVD I promoted at the beginning of the Article.
It's no surprise that all of her films are Technically Jaw-Dropping To Look At & Examine. This is because Suzan was a painter before she was an Animator. And she still uses that Detailed Stroke to make her films stand out from one another. Every Frame in one of her Films can be paused & examined. It is also great to mention this because the style is more Natural, and therefore, more timeless. The Plastic Feel we see in most Modern CG Animation might be impressive, but it won't last longer than a few years. Suzan's work is proof that you can create something that is far more Transcendent just from listening to your own intuition.
It's also good to mention that all of Suzan's Work is told Visually. Remember that saying in Film School (if you went) that you should Show a Film instead of Tell One. Well, Suzan is the Perfect Embodiment of that Mentality. Most of the content in all of her films are Silent and allow the Visuals to take over your Viewing Experience. But it should also be noted that the Score underneath isn't just an Ambient Noise (like an old fashioned Silent Movie). The Rhythmic Nature of all of these Scores mixes perfectly with the Poetic Flow that these Films Possess. And just like the Film's itself, the Scores are like a Flowing River.
The best example of this is in my personal favorite Suzan Pitt Film. Joy Street isn't just a brilliant look on Depression; it is the most honest look at Depression I've seen in Media. I know that's a grand statement, but if you've been depressed before (like myself), you can understand why.
The Film opens up with the Green Fumes of Hopelessness. We can see these Fumes as Metaphors of Negative Thinking, or a literal smell of Nausea. But regardless these fumes are not appealing. But the more interesting aspect of the film's opening is that the backdrop is made up of Photographs, not paintings. And the Streets (at least at night) give a very claustrophobic feeling to the whole Scene. More on these Photographs in a minute.
After a few more Montage Shots we are introduced to our Protagonist. Unlike Asparagus, which used a faceless Protagonist, our Main Character in Joy Street has a very distinct yet universally recognizable face. We've all seen this face, and sometimes it has been our own reflection. The Structure of the face might be Unique, but the emotions are universally recognizable. And it is very unpleasant to stare at, which is why we (as a species) like to stay away from Depression as much as possible. But this adds up as our Protagonist is left alone with no-one to help her.
The only other face is that of a Small Colorful Mouse Statue, which only has a purpose of holding her already used-up Cigarettes. A Metaphor for how our Protagonist sees herself in this Society, a person who consistently gets used.
One aspect you'll notice is that the opening in this film uses a lot of Static Shots that happen to Zoom Across Screen. It also uses a lot of Motion-Blurs. None of this was done on Accident. For those who have ever Experienced Depression, life feels like a fog. Instead of flowing like a River or moving with the winds, it feels empty and cloudy. While the World moves forward, you're still standing in the past. And the Jazzy Ambient Score underneath perfectly accompanies this mindset.
Finally, we see our Protagonist try to call somebody. It isn't made clear who she is trying to call, but it doesn't matter. The Droned out sound of having a Phone-Ring perfectly represents how our souls feel when we are depressed. We feel like we are drowning, and the world won't answer & stop the disruption. Our Protagonist feels immersed in pain and goes back to bed. She hopes to forget about it, but the look on her face says otherwise.
Now we reach the introduction of the mouse. As I stated earlier, this was a Statue that was made to be used. But now, it comes to life. You can make your own representation of what this life like Mouse is supposed to be, but for the purposes of this Article, I will call it a Spirit. The Mouse has a very bouncy 1940's like Animation Style. But the purposes of this style isn't to remanence about the past. Instead, this Bouncy Animation perfectly represents the Joy of Life. It's hard to look at this Animation Style and not gain a smile on your face. And it is also a clear Contrast to the Animation Style we saw earlier. This Mouse is bouncy & fun; our Protagonist is sad & stationary.
Now we get into the part where this Mouse Spirit experiences the world around him (I don't know the gender, but I will just say it's a boy just for the sake of quickly defining the different characters). It might look like nothing but pointless fun to a first time viewer, but what the mouse spirit is doing in this scene has significant meaning towards the message of this film. More on that later down in the Article.
Then our lovable, goofy mouse spirit sees the Protagonist. More Explicitly, a wrist that has been cut. Suzan was brave enough to make sure every depressive issue in this scene was blunt & realistic. She could have easily made the Protagonists journey in Depression more abstractly (just like Asparagus). And it probably would have been excellent. But honestly showcasing the Protagonist in this light makes the scene that much more uncomfortable to the viewer. Depression is often ignored, and Suzan ensured that nobody could ignore the deep-rooted problems with our Protagonist.
Just like Asparagus, I don't want to spoil what happens in Joy Street entirely. So we shall finish this discussion on Joy Street by talking about how it ends. Our Protagonist (luckily) finds hope again. But she does it in a very natural way. Remember that scene where the Mouse has fun with the simple world around him. Well, this is how our Protagonist finds hope. She is able to go into nature & find the pure beauty of the world. She finds it playful & enchanting. And in the current landscape which uses Pharmaceutical Companies & Self-Help Books, this message is quite inspiring. Honestly, going back into nature is the best thing a person can do. You can find more personal insight from looking into a Pond or walking through a Forest. I live in Colorado, and luckily our population is very accustomed to the spiritual-like worth in nature. But, unfortunately, the rest of the industrialized world has forgotten about this. Now don't get me wrong, I like some aspects in the Industrialized World (I wouldn't write this blog without it). But it is certainly gray & boxed in, and has (probably) led to the rise of Depression. So maybe we should have a perfect balance of Nature & Technology. But's that's another conversation for another day.
What should be noted is that Joy Street is one of the best Animated Short Films Ever Made. And if you currently suffer from Depression, you should take a look at it. It would be hard not to find some hope yourself once you watch the Visual Journey.
These two films are some of Suzan's most famous work. And she is well known for the Animated work she Produces. But it's good to mention that Suzan isn't only known for Animation. In fact, at the time of this writing, Suzan is currently selling Jackets & Coats. Let's take a quick look.
For the sake of time, I'm only going to showcase a few of these. You can find more of examples over at http://suzanpitt.blogspot.com/. It's good to mention that all of the recent Jackets have the same ideological flow. Let me explain.
With the Exception of one (the Leather Tattoo Coat), all of these Jackets & Coats on the first page are very cartoonish. In my opinion, these drawings are even more Cartoonish than the Animations in her famous films. Why is this? Well, it has to do with the person wearing them. As impressive as these Coats look on a hanger, you don't see the brilliant contrast unless you put them on a person.
Just imagine a person that you know wearing one of these coats. Incredible Fashion Aside, the Coats also showcase the humanity inside the mind. Whenever we see a person, we see a firm figure. Our minds are the most invisible aspect of our human form, which is why we need to speak & communicate in order to really know one another. This is why a group of Pedestrians in the middle of a busy sidewalk look very stale, all of these people blend into one another.
That is the great aspect about Fashion (or it would be if the industry wasn't ran by Manipulative Marketing). It can showcase what we are & what we stand for without having to write it down or speak out. It is a piece of Art that showcases us, the one who wears it. And Suzan makes Coats & Jackets that are very personal to those who love the Art of Animation, just like herself. If you are interested in buying one of these Jackets, please contact Suzan over at email@example.com.
Now let's look at a final film, El Doctor. As you can tell, this film takes place in Mexico. What should be noted is that Suzan has had a history of traveling to Mexico ever since she was a little girl. And in the age of the current media (especially under Trump), it's refreshing to speak with an American who has such high respect for Mexico & it's culture. She drew the already previously mentioned 'Joy Street' in Mexico City. And she always saw the Country as a place where humans are allowed to be Free & Spiritual. She compared it to Kansas City (the city she was born in), which was very clean & fake.
It's also great to mention that Mexico City is a hot-spot of Artists. In fact, I (not Suzan) call it the Art-Capital of the North American Continent. This isn't just secluded to Traditional Art, but rather Expressive Pieces that showcased the individual's ingenuity. There are so many different Art-Forms & Styles in the Capital that some of these art pieces don't have defined terms yet. It is truly a Creative Hotspot for those who want to Experience what the Human Spirit can achieve. And this ingenuity is what inspired Suzan to make El Doctor.
One Aspect we should mention about Suzan's work is that it is Varied. Despite the Short Lengths (24 Minutes is her longest film), her Animated Pieces invoke multiple Art-Forms, Styles, Mixtures, Innovations, ETC. But none compare to the Varied Experience we see in El Doctor. Every 30 Seconds introduces a new image. There are multiple points where the tone of the image changes in rapid pace. Suzan employs non-traditional animated techniques in this short to make it fully realized (like filming Sand to showcase a Dream instead of a Brush). And it perfectly showcases the craziness we see in our day to day lives.
El Doctor is a film that follows a Doctor (obviously). But that oversimplified statement has a much bigger metaphorical meaning. In a Narrative Film, a movie about a Doctor would only showcase a certain moment in time. If we were to look at the Hollywood Model, these films would be a 'Special' moment in which the Doctor grows from one experience. But as any Doctor knows, you grow as you go day to day, trying to solve the multiple Mini-Crises of your Patients. And the impact of a Doctor doesn't end when you put up the White Coat. In El Doctor, we continuously see the Protagonists Hopes, Desires, and Fears.
I said earlier that Suzan's Films were like a Flowing River. But in El Doctor, a better metaphor would be the breeze of the wind. Wind is invisible, but we can feel it blowing from any direction. Wind can be calm & quiet, but it can also be chaotic. And most importantly, Wind is unpredictable. The Protagonist in El Doctor has an Unpredictable Life. And it isn't because he is a Doctor. It is simply because he is Human Being living in a World that can change in a matter of seconds.
Asparagus is about Sexual Liberation & Joy Street is about Depression. But if you were to name the themes in El Doctor, it would be life. When you watch El Doctor, you think of your own crazy life. And none of this was done by Accident. What Suzan did with El Doctor was make this Unknown Voice seem more Relatable. And if we can relate to this Animated Doctor from Mexico, we can relate to anybody. Human-Beings might go their different ways through the course of life. But that Uncertainty is Universal, as is the Emotional Journey we face day to day. El Doctor is one of the few films that can capture this spirit. And because of that, we should all give it a watch.
Unlike Asparagus & Joy Street, I won't spoil what happens in El Doctor. Those two films have an endless amount of Articles written about them. But El Doctor (despite the overwhelming praise) isn't as celebrated as those two masterpieces. So I hope that my Vague Promotion will be enough to sell you on this Short Film.
But if it isn't, allow me to introduce you to an incredible documentary named "Persistence of Vision." This Documentary was made in 2006, around the release of El Doctor. And it showcases the Creative Process that Suzan took to make the personal experience. Once you see it, you'll be floored by the amount of detail it took to create all of her work. And you'll be impressed by the incredible creativity Suzan & her team took to make this film possible. The Documentary is part of the DVD you can find on Suzan's Website.
But to end this long Article off, I want to go back to the word legend. After all of the hype, what does a legend honestly achieve? Well, that would be influence. Suzan (on top of all of this work) has been an Experimental Animation Teacher, a Speaker, an Art Curator and has given back to her fans as much as they take. Her Teaching Skills over at Harvard & Cal-Arts has inspired multiple students to take risks themselves. The slow but substantial rise of Experimental Media has given her old work a new voice. And she is a perfect example of how to think for yourself in a world that wants to conform.
This 4,000+ Worded Article might have talked about what Suzan's work has meant to me. But it deserves a fresh examination by you, the reader. If you have the ability, I want all of you to Purchase the DVD & share the work with all of your friends. And then, I want all of you to take 30 Minutes out of your day & discuss what her work has meant for you. Because in the end, her work wasn't meant for the Prestigious Elite. It was made for the ordinary person, and should be treated as such. So give yourself a chance & open your mind. You'll be thankful that Suzan has set such a precedent.
I'm not going to end this Article by forcing the Audience to examine a message. Instead, I wanted to thank all of you for taking your time to read my blog. I never thought that I'd be able to Interview such a creative force like Suzan Pitt in a short amount of time. It isn't unknown that I want to live in a world that continuously has its mind open. But at the very least, I'm grateful to have a platform where I can open my mind. Thank You All So Much! I hope that this Article as inspired you today.
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Again, thanks so much for taking time out of your day to read my Article. I hope that everybody reading this Continues to support Visionary Talent wherever they see it.