Sunday, January 23, 2011

JELLY'S PLACENTA - separating the sheep from the goats

Jelly's Placenta, the 30-minute black satire by filmmaker/artist, Christina Conrad, is a one-off. To say that it breaks new ground would do it an injustice. It is a film that aggravates, confounds, disturbs, and undermines almost all of our conventional beliefs and expectations about short-form drama, and it does so in a thoroughly disarming manner. Conrad's film aggressively and unapologetically confronts and divides - one cannot remain indifferent in its presence.

Though its narrative structure ticks all the "right" boxes of a traditional dramatic story - PROBLEM, GOAL, PLAN - the way in which it dramatises the core emotional relationships of its three characters is thoroughly unexpected and unconventional, particularly in the way it employs language, a verbal and visual language that has been variously described as absurdist, poetic, surreal, and which has produced near riots in some of its public screenings. At a screening in Queensland that I attended, a man jumped from his seat in the closing moments of the film and began screaming "It's the Devil's work! Get rid of it! Stop it!" before turning on the audience and upbraiding them for allowing themselves to be brainwashed by the film's "sinister message".

Such outbursts, whilst not common, have occurred enough times to give one pause in downplaying the power the film has to provoke and incite the most overt reactions.

The film, which was shot on location in the director's house in Sydney Australia, is beautiful to behold. To have built an equivalent set would've cost millions, which, in fact, it did - a lifetime of Conrad's work stares back at the characters from every wall - silent watchers to the unfolding drama - masks, paintings, sculptures. Counterpointed with a horrific mechanical monkey whose final macabre appearance near the end of the film captures the mad disintegration of a relationship with breathtaking succinctness.

The camera work, which one might prematurely dismiss as amateurish, operates as a bold, unpretentious and complimentary disturbance to the psychological imbalance of the world that both we and the characters inhabit. A world that strangely lingers for quite some time after the film has had its way with us. One audience member who left the theatre stunned and slightly confused by what she had experienced, was surprised to find herself laughing out loud on a city bus one week later, having just realised what the film actually meant (to her). The film has this facility - to produce delayed reactions.

Whilst Jelly's Placenta may not be everyone's cup of tea, it does the work that far too many films avoid - to shake us at our core, to wake us from our habits, to show us something that lies beyond the template, to seduce us - the consummate fools - into stepping over the precipice.

Though not available online in its entirety, you can get a taste of the film by visiting and following the links to three excerpts
that have been posted on YouTube.

Here's what one audience member who didn't run screaming into the darkness had to say:


I watched Jelly's Placenta and thank Christina for giving me the DVD.

True originality is always strange to others.

In my mind, that's because while the rest of us have been greatly influenced, true originality only has itself as its reference.

Christina has made up her own language. In art. ( film, poetry, sculpture whatever).

And as opposed to being some bland, inoffensive esperanto that the rest of us have learned to communicate with...that language is unique and surprising, dangerous and ultimately exciting.

So I understand Jelly's Placenta through that prism.

And thank and recognise and admire that Christina has the guts to be exactly who she is... through her art.

Besides that, the film is certainly beautiful to look at.

Now because I am only human and susceptable to patterns...I see similarities with Matthew Barney's The Kremaster Cycle.

Has anyone else mentioned that?


Visit Conrad's website : PRESENTING CONRAD

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