Last night Bruce Bickford visited London's Horse Hospital. LIAF and Jayne Colling had invited him to show the 2005 documentary Monster Road by Brett Ingram, followed by a London premiere of Cas'l. It was very busy and I expect everyone felt the same gladness as I did to be in the company of an extraordinary animator like Bruce Bickford.
The documentary bodyswerved the Zappa question (I think there may be copyright issues with the estate), which didn't seem too disappointing given the supporting role played by Mr Bickford senior, called Old George, a very clever man made more loving and benign by Alzeimer's. The father and son made very charming and eccentric hosts, and threw much light on the Bickford family and motivations behind Bruce Bickford's extraordinary body of work. His lust for movement springs from within himself, he looks quite frail but he fairly well bounded up a tree in Monster Road and we saw him whirling balls on fire around his head just by the family garage.
A lot of his metamorphosis is made with replacement parts, rather than squashing or building, so he has hundreds and thousands of trays full of morphing people and their weapons, pizzas, trees.. He refers to his protagonists as 'little guys and indeed he often makes them as small as he can, as small as new stick insects, in order to save materials and space. These little guys have to do a lot of fighting and spearing the enemy until their guts slither out, so once the battle is over they have to be mended before they get sent back into the fray.
Bruce Bickford has miraculously managed to get by without having to work either in the industry or with other people. He seems to live very parsimoniously and with the support of his parents, I think this is what makes his body of work so amazing but also, despite my admiration, what made the film Cas'l quite hard to watch. The film is untempered by any restriction and metamorphosis is the enemy of the edit so it's like being trapped in a slithering, garish, childhood fantasy. I'm not put off though, I'd like to see all his other films because he's a master of metamorphosis and I'm very glad that he's getting a burst of international recognition.
You can get Monster Road from Brett Ingram.