You want Nigel to hold his ground and not let his friend pull out those stitches, but you know he won't. You forgive him. You want it to be over quickly, but you know it can't be. "No, there is more," says the still-pulling friend, in some possibly unreal Scandinavian language. "Much, much more." You are watching Wisdom Teeth, and laughing, and crying from laughing so hard, or maybe just actually crying.
Others might be watching with you, but in some fundamental way, you are alone with this. Here you are again on the frontier between life's absurd misery and its hilarity, between viral-video superfluity and the most enduring of cinematic achievements. It's all yours. You think: Thank you, Don Hertzfeldt.
Scene from It's Such a Beautiful Day; Courtesy San Francisco Film Society.
It moves you to think of this guy, who's reportedly never had a real job, laboring under his lamp for years to show you a few minutes worth of hapless animated stick figures tackling the big questions on your behalf. You picture him emerging, bleary-eyed, from the cave in which he scribbles and talks to himself and photographs tens of thousands of drawings on an antique animation stand, trailing blood, guts, blown minds, and stirring swells of Classical and Romantic music. You marvel at how well he understands the mysterious relationship between cuteness and doom.
Scene from I Am So Proud of You; Courtesy San Francisco Film Society.
This guy, whose awareness of his own preposterously consumer-unfriendly style has earned him an Oscar nomination and cult-hero veneration. This guy who last year received the San Francisco International Film Festival's "Persistence of Vision" Award at age 33, and will be back in town to show and discuss his work this Thursday.
That includes, you now know, the final part of Hertzfeldt's epic trilogy about a man named Bill on the way to the end of his life. You feel for Bill, as you felt for Nigel, and for all the others. You don't want it to end, but you know it must.
An Evening with Don Hertzfeldt takes place Thursday, December 8, 2011, at 7 and 9:15pm at the San Francisco Film Society Cinema in San Francisco. For tickets and information visit sffs.org.