Watching the Best of the Ottawa International Animation Festival at ACAD last Friday reminded me how much I love Nicolas Ménard’s Wednesdays with Goddard. I’m hardly the only one to feel that way—it picked up all kinds of prizes on the festival circuit last year, including Best Animated Short at SXSW—but seeing it in the context of a “best of the fest” package was a perfect reminder of just how rare of a film it is. The mix of Menard’s simple shapes and bold colours with gorgeous pencil drawings from Manshen Lo looks like absolutely nothing else—even Menard’s own student films don’t have much more than a passing similarity (Somewhere and Loop Ring Chop Drink, both of which are fantastic).
The contrast is consistently jarring, but then, so is the film. Deadpan humour and sincere existential yearning are an uneasy mix, and Ménard never really resolves the tension between the two moods. You can read the film as a comedy or a tragedy based on your own mood as you watch it, and then re-watch it a week later and take it completely differently, with gags reading more like insights, and vice versa. Does that mean that it’s meaningless, or that it’s rich in potential meanings? Well, that’s the kind of question that can make you waste a whole afternoon.