Released as part of the FXX series Cake, Joe Bennett’s short Birds is maybe the sweetest memento mori you’ll ever stumble across. It’s a quiet film, a series of conversational excerpts all delivered by Joe Pera with his typical warmly offbeat cadence, sometimes talking about nothing, and sometimes about everything. Punctuating each topic are shots of birds, doing mating dances, eating, or just acting cute and goofy. It’s funny in parts, but it isn’t really a comedy. It brings up some heavy subjects, but it isn’t exactly dramatic. It just is, without needing to fall into one clean category or another.
If you only know Bennett from films like Scavengers, his high-concept collaboration with Charles Huettner, or his ultra-violent epic Odin’s Afterbirth, Birds might feel like a bit of a departure. But Bennett has always been interested in these quieter pieces. Films like Cody’s Positive Affirmations or From God’s Mouth to Your Ears are a bit darker and more absurd, but they show the same fascination with unusual dialogue and in letting speech patterns dictate the pace of the animation. There’s a similar mood in the films of Felipe Di Poi, who shared animation duties with Bennett on Birds. It’s not that the animation is secondary to the dialogue. But it does feel like Di Poi and Bennett are more willing than most to let the rhythm of the dialogue drive the rhythm of the animation, rather than base it on music or movement or action like most films.
In the case of Birds, that means the film takes on a gentle pace, one that cushions its eventual reflections on mortality in an unassuming innocence that makes it easier to take. The day turns into night, the birds move switch from friendly critters to nocturnal hunters, and the conversation drifts from the superficial to the profound. Surrounded by beautiful, calming, vast and frightening nature, maybe that’s just where the mind goes.
dir: Joe Bennett
syn: Warning: bird watching can lead to some serious soul-searching.