PHIL MULLOY: AN APPRECIATION by Richard Meltzer
Well, for starters, I kinda think Phil Mulloy is the most entertaining--"interesting"--"engaging"--not to mention the most viscerally enjoyable animator since, oh, Tex Avery...okay?
His works are primitive in the very best sense of the term, and I'm not talking "neo"-primitive: I mean every bit as primitive as the Three Stooges. Simple? basic?...like a stick-figure version of Sam Beckett.
Phil is also a bloke who trucks in TRUE VULGARITY, and I'm not talking its Puritan mirror image (the films of Peter Greenaway, say). True vulgarity, like that of the Trashmen ("Surfin' Bird"), Sam the Sham ("Wooly Bully") or Bobby Bittman (remember him?), is not easy to come by, no no NO!--and ditto for its tag-team partner, the truly infantile. If you think Beavis and Butthead, those card-carrying infantilists, qualify as the real deal, I say PHOO: they're just a pair of flawed, dipshit hipsters--hipsters maudits, if you will. Phil Mulloy's real real deal leaves no room for hipsters, thank you.
When it comes to shitpissdoodooweewee--not to mention pustules, scuzz and scum--P.M. is a beacon in the night. The Ubu Gang? They're a pack of art school aesthetes--yuppie performance artists--Dada opportunists--by comparison. Pikers!
And then there's the consummate RHYTHM of his work--the timing and sequence of his anything proceeding to his anything else. A lot of the action feels improvised, or maybe that's the wrong word, uh, wrong concept--certainly not improvised in a real-time jazz sense. (Animation ain't instantaneous creation.) Ongoingly AD HOC--is that a bad thing? The simulation of real time, and the go-go-go of hot synthetic time. Some things feel inevitable yet gratuitous; others are total surprises that seem totally reasonable and totally, well, silly.
Man with a vacuum cleaner: have him use it to suck himself off. Drunk in the street with a bottle: make sure that after he's drunk it, it breaks...shatters. An old married couple who don't quite get along: have it turn out they're both gay. Waiters with trays on a staircase: have them wobble like, well, dumb cartoons. Use every opportunity to suggest the fragility of everything in this here life--and/or its cheesiness--and do so without it ever feeling preorchestrated.
When in doubt, have people in the next frame fuck. Gratuitously. (I mean isn't that what the meat-dance is? Isn't that its "context"?) Either that, or as a means of "explanation"--like how come the line for the men's crapper at the banquet in Sound of Music is so freaking long? Well, 'cause two guys are down on their knees (I forget now: are they employees of the banquet hall, blue-collar jackjoes?), committing an unnatural butt-act (hey: let those rich sumbitches WAIT!).
Or here's an idea: chop or shoot somebody's head off, or at the very least draw some blood--how ELSE to introduce red the COLOR? Or have humans, dogs or aliens piss, shit or puke.
GREAT MOMENTS IN FILMMAKING PER SE--When you've got actors, eh, maybe it ain't so e-z, so automatic, to get them to upchuck their lunch on the dotted line. "What's my motivation?" they'll probably ask--it's their training--and you'll then hafta bullshit 'em: "Sickness...uh...revulsion...perhaps you've swallowed a tainted rat or y'know, maybe..." Whereas with animation, see...ha ha ha HA.
Then he goes and toys with such material, "sends it up"--well, the fuck stuff anyway. Line drawings of persons poking each other can possibly (in time) get tiresome, so in Sex Life of a Chair the theme is CHAIRS fucking. Where the sendup, the fun, kicks in is the absurd lengths he goes to in sexually anthropomorphizing chairs, dig it, WITHOUT making any ref to them as seats for people's butts ('cept the potty seat for "coprophilia"). Extremely up to date--nothing if not contemporific!--he utilizes a CELL PHONE in the phone-kink segment.
Nor is he a slouch on the non-smut front: the wide world of non-anogenital, non-scatological ideation & meaning. What the McKenzies might call "topic." (Did someone say "politics"?) Check out Advert Against God, Advert Against Science, Winds of Change, The Chain, Intolerance and answer me this: who on the fat bloody planet makes hotter anti-war, anti-state, anti-church, anti-crummy-ideas, screw-the-rich, pro-"diversity" films--hitting the nail on so many goddam heads--than Phil Mulloy? Who could ask for more from a single filmmaker?
Clearly he wouldn't do it for money, but if you pointed a gun at his head--and showed him f'r sure it was loaded--I could see him having no trouble NOHOW depicting former Governor G.W. Bush of Texas, executioner of 130 or 140 or 150 (whatever the number ended up) mostly black death-row inmates, as a cold-blooded BUTCHER...but w/out the gun, no. He really ain't too big on PROPER-NOUN topicality--'s his preference, what're you gonna do?
Which is maybe just as well, eh, 'cause names've been known to trip him up. I know of ONE slip, and I don't mean to quibble, but in the advert for Sing Along With All Your Favorites ("Karlheinz Stockhausen...John Cage...Karl Maria von Weber") there is one name that flat-out don't belong. K.M. von Weber is a dandy dude to namedrop if you're talking melodious overtures of the 19th century, but if it's 20th century CACOPHONY you're after, Anton Webern is your man. Webern is who he means, or who he'd better mean, or else he's just pullin' our fucking LEG, in which case, well, fuck HIM. "Recorded live in Nashville"--all right!
Last but by no means least, it might be edifying to compare our man Mulloy to the late great Edward D. Wood--Edward D. WOOD??? That's right. One of the great, great, GREAT directors of the previous century, an architect of sheer delight--far greater and delightfuler than (for inst) Cocteau. Or Douglas Sirk. Or Frank Borzage. Or Kenneth Anger. Mulloy's treatment of the planet Zog and its inhabitants (The Ten Commandments/Number 3, Intolerance) is just REDOLENT of the space shtick you'll find in Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space--if you don't believe me, go rent it. Take your time, it's a good'un, or fast-forward to the fabulous SOLARONITE scene...hoo wee!
"One of the strangest episodes in the history of the world was about to unfold"--okay, tell me, whose line is that: Phil's or Ed's? (Great men think alike.)
Hey, folks--I hate to sound like a rooter, but Phil Mulloy is my favorite living filmmaker.