Saturday, February 17, 2007

Spared Change and Ryan Larkin R.I.P.

The fine art of wallowing is the walk that I have been trying to perfect for the last little while. Frantically but methodically I pace back and forth trying to remember all the steps that make up this Danse Macabre. It is like chasing an anamorphic shadow that can only be caught in the spinning reflection of my former self. Fractured soundloops of memory work up to a fever pitch as the skeletons emerge out of the shadow box. Looming over me, the parallax makes them gigantic and skewed and I move further away from myself. I try and look back but I can only squint at the bottom line of hindsight. Lost in this closed circuit, I finally find some solace in the passing light of Ryan Larkin. Here, let me stumble back to a beginning...
I first read about Ryan Larkin in an article that Chris Robinson wrote for AWN back in 2000. I was immediately taken in. A gifted animator fallen from grace at the hands of a 'rock n' roll' lifestyle. Cool! I thought that Walt being strung out on meglomaniacy was the only secret tabloid of the industry. So, it was here that 'the Pimp' got me hooked on Ryan and the animation world. I wanted to find out more about Ryan. I even toyed with the idea of making a documentary about him (believe it or not). Anyway, a couple of year's past and I heard a rumour that Ryan was going to be working on his first film in decades with the help of the Quickdraw Animation Society and the Ottawa Film Co-op. But, when I asked Chris about it, he said that the deal had fallen through because it would have hurt his welfare cheque and that was all he had left (see Chris's article for the details). It was like Ryan exuded a stench of pathos but did not want anyone to help clean him up. Like some medieval Flaggellant, he masticated himself with the drink and the harshness of life's blows. This was penance of beer, piss and brine that preserved an image of self no matter how grotesque. But then, Chris Landreth came along and held up a mirror. Landreth not only did "a" documentary, he tapped into the power of animated documentaries (i.e. Sproxton and Lord, Park and Fierlinger to name a few) and he brought a credibility to the plastic eye candy of CG. The finished product, Ryan, was a two-headed silver coin in Ryan's cup that exposed the face of failure, bitterness and all, on the one side. But more importantly, re-illuminated the films of Ryan on the otherside and the uncalculable face value that he has contributed to the animation world. Landreth, as everyone in the world should know, went on to win an Academy award but more significantly Ryan Larkin was given the Norman McLaren Heritage award (or was at least nominated) to much dismay of some people in the Animation community. My point is that the light source was turned up a notch for Ryan and the genuine outpouring of respect from everyone might of just spared some change in him. This was then magnified with the help and support of friend Laurie Gordon and his shadow shortened even more. Then lo and behold Ryan started working on a film called Spare Change. He also recently completed idents for Mtv!! I definately do not want to make this into some Disney film ending! I am just saying that even though he clung onto loss for decades, it makes me happy to see that he was starting to get that something back of his former self even if it was just more money for drink. But I do think it goes deeper than that though. Maybe it is the hope of seeing someone coming back from the shadows that I cling to? Whatever it is, my hat is tipped, as well as my perspective, to the life and work of Ryan Larkin. He has shown me that there are different kinds of walks and maybe I can find my own way back onto the path I started 7 years ago.
Cheers to Ryan for he was a gentle soul and an inspiration.


esn said...

A trully wonderful post. Thanks for coming back.

"Street Musique" is one of the most interesting animated films I've ever seen, and it seems to embody, in its sheer explosion of ideas and loose structure, Ryan Larkin's life...

We probably won't know the full story until many years down the line.

jeff said...

Thanks alot ESN!!

Yeah, 'Street Musique' is amazing. There is just something about stream of conscious animation that is very appealing to me. Probably because that is how I write. Anyway, I will try and get back to the business of independent animation and the like.
Any good leads ESN?! You seem to be well read on the history of animation.

Gilliam said...

I was really sad when I heard about Ryan's death last week :( Street musique is also my favourite larkin's short, so free, inspiring and full of life. Syrinx and walking are wonderful too.

Rest in peace, pal.

Gilliam said...

I was really sad when I heard about Ryan's death last week :( Street musique is also my favourite larkin's short, so free, inspiring and full of life. Syrinx and walking are wonderful too.

Rest in peace, pal.

Anonymous said...

hey jeff.
nice thoughtful piece. you got the pimp in ya. :)

i'm giving my take on things in The Ottawa Citizen. I think it's running on Friday, Feb 23.

I soured a bit on Ryan post-2004, but can't argue that it's a tragic story.

keep on.

esn said...

Well, I gave you some leads in some of my previous posts. ;)

Some new developments have come up in one of them, though. Aleksandr Petrov's film "My Love" is going to be released by Ghibli in Japan in theaters and DVD - you can read more on his wikipedia page (heh).

Here are some clips from the film:

With English subtitles:

The Studio Ghibli trailer:

Oh, ALSO, you may want to check this out:

It is, of course, based on an unpublished script by Jacques Tati, and that man in the screenshot is Jacques Tati himself. I absolutely adore Tati - his films are genious.

Oh, and the director is the guy who made "Triplets of Belleville".