A Queer Bildnungsroman “Torrey Pines”

Presented by ArtsEmerson 
Torrey Pines
Directed by Clyde Petersen
Animated by Clyde Petersen & Chris Looney
Original music recorded in collaboration with Kimya Dawson and Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie)

Feb. 14 – 17, 2018
Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre
Boston, MA
ArtsEmerson on Facebook

ArtsEmerson presented a lovely set of screenings of “Torrey Pines” with a live band and live foley.  A stop motion film about a young adolescent’s experiences, the lead in the film was also the lead in the band which played, Your Heart Breaks.  The Seattle band has been touring with this movie since its premiere in 2016.  It is wonderful that this movie was brought to Boston, especially since there are few art pieces with trans creators at the helm.

Some non-sexual nudity, sexual themes, substance abuse and what reads post-viewing as child abuse did appear in “Torrey Pines.”  The art style employed collage with watercolor, glitter, ink and a reams of colored paper.  Crafty and clever usage of the materials challenged the audience to yield the occasional shared eureka moment, but also may have thoroughly confused folks of generations different from the lead. The local, queer and ally-filled audience gamely enjoyed what they could.  

By nearly excising all dialogue,  Petersen’s story became more of a mystery than a straightforward retelling.  Clyde Petersen’s experience was incredibly specific and the loss of detail becomes an obscuring screen.  This was probably very kind to the people who are being portrayed besides the lead and created a zen-like focus on the lead character to whom things happen.  However, since the main motivation of the audience became figuring out what is happening, it was difficult to sympathize or empathize with any single person and it was difficult to detect whether there are any conflicts or mixed motivations.  The music and foley filled the emotional void that a real conflict could have provided.

As a series of vignettes which are slice of life for a young queer person, “Torrey Pines” worked best.  Secondary and background characters emerged and faded regularly:  very important characters were sometimes given equal screentime as characters which had no effect on the lead.  Thereweare occasional blink and you’ll miss it shots which were important to the overall story arc.  

“Torrey Pines” is a queer bildnungsroman which might be inscrutable to someone unfamiliar with American pop culture of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It may be ineffable to anyone without any similar experiences.  It is still a storytelling achievement and proof positive that Petersen is onto something with his creations.

Queen’s Note:
We elected a racist, homophobic, climate-change denying bigot to the office of the President who is turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. As predicted, Trump’s government is coming for the the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and National Public Radio. It is ever important to remain vigilant. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD

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