Thursday, 25 June 2009

Tom Schroeder "The Yellow Bird" (2008)

The Yellow Bird was one of those movies screened at Sundance this year. It is set in eastern Montana at the time of World War 1 and based on Jay Orff's short story "Bear Paw", the writer being screenwriter here. The twelve minute movie commences with a young rancher accidentally shooting himself whilst his fellow workers attend to the fences. There follows a very long journey by horse drawn cart to Havre where he would receive medical attention. Leaking blood and moving between memory and fantasy, key moments of the protagonist's life are brought vividly to life: childhood accidents, boyhood sport, hunting for bounties, young love, elopement and intending fatherhood. Connections to the war in mainland Europe and the significance of the yellow bird, the title of the film and symbol unravel, the colour being of importance. The link is to a website supporting Minnesota artists and organisations though there is an alternative screening on YouTube. I wrote about Tom Schroeder's earlier work Bike Ride in 2007. The Yellow Bird is a more serious, substantial work, well drawn throughout, Tom enlisting the talents of animators Victor Courtright, Paul Danhauser and Lindsey Testolin. I like the pace of the movie, the movement of the cart rolling out slowly over a flat Montana landscape, the director lingering over such details as bumble bees on flowers with a constant fluctuation of focus, either heat haze or fever. Add to that a developing picture of the boy/man and a tension as life hangs by a thread, a tension sustained to the end in an ambiguous conclusion as salvation and past failings meet.

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