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Movie review: Animated 'Consuming Spirits' goes on a kooky ride

April 11, 2013|By Gary Goldstein
  • A scene from "Consuming Spirits."
A scene from "Consuming Spirits." (Handout )

It's safe to say you've never seen anything quite like the dark and kooky animated epic "Consuming Spirits," a 15-years-in-the-making labor of love for writer-director Chris Sullivan, who also produced, shot, edited, recorded sound, performed music and more.

With its startling mix of 16-millimeter-shot, handmade animation styles using stop-motion, sketches, collages and models, along with uncensored characters often resembling cadaverous marionettes, this twisted look at life in a faded Appalachian town is one decidedly idiosyncratic ride.

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True, it takes a bit of time to adjust to the movie's herky-jerky rhythms and impressionistic storytelling. But for patient (and open-minded) viewers, pleasures and treasures await as Sullivan weaves his tale of three local oddballs — lonely newspaper reporter Gentian Violet (voiced by Nancy Andrews), her co-worker and clumsy admirer, Victor Blue (Sullivan), and gabby radio host Earl Gray (Robert Levy) — linked by an accident in which a bus runs over a nun pivotal to the plot.

That Gentian was driving the wayward bus is just one of many pieces to the tale's jigsaw puzzle of events, past and present, that eventually add up to something more coherent, masterful — and oddly poignant — than it may initially seem.

En route, issues of alcoholism, mental illness, suicide, dismemberment, foster care and infidelity factor in. However, thanks to the movie's offhand tone and general loopiness, things never feel too terribly grim.

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'Consuming Spirits.' No MPAA rating. Running time: 2 hours, 14 minutes. Playing: At the Cinefamily, Los Angeles.

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