Look for Me: Animated Films the Gene Siskel Film Center

by Jared Weiss

Laura Heit “The Matchbox Shows”

Laura Heit “The Matchbox Shows”

Many works by SAIC alumnus Laura Heit were screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center last Thursday, November 19th. Four animated films were shown, consisting of stop-motion, hand drawing, and computer animation, along with a miniature “matchbox” puppet show. Heit performed “The Matchbox Shows” with tiny puppets that fit in a matchbox. The matchbox also doubled as a title card and stage set. Overall the works were smart, often humorous, and at times profound.

Heit’s first film, “Parachute” follows a girl as she leaves home for the city. It begins with a parallel story where a mother turtle deposits her eggs in the sand, leaving her babies to fend for themselves. The film then moves to the feverish city accompanied by a cacophonous soundtrack and the girl’s life therein. She is ogled by a passerby (who mumbles “I like the way you move”) and then falls through a hole in the sidewalk. Her cries of help come unanswered. Later in the film the girl receives a package from her mother. The package contains a parachute and after many twists and turns in the narrative she attaches it to the top of a high-rise and sails away. At the end the baby turtles enter the sea.

Heit’s hand drawn characters have an adolescent immediacy that is at times almost Basquiat-esque. They are rough but perfectly tailored to the narrative. Heit’s world seems to be an adult fascination with childhood and adolescence (what kind of animator or cartoonist wouldn’t be?). From this perspective she pushes humor to a deeper and more profound level.

Another film, “Look for Me”, begins with a playful question: “What if I woke up one day, and I was invisible”? The narrator goes on to say how, at first, she would want to go around and smash things; nothing that would “hurt people” she adds. Her voice is at first very excited. She lets animals out of the zoo (including a tiger; an animal that seems to reoccur quite frequently in Heit’s work). She also spies on a naked couple playing Scrabble and steals a pair of roller skates. As the film goes on her voice become less excited. We follow her boyfriend as he posts fliers with the headline “Lost Girlfriend”. At the end the invisible narrator spray paints on a wall, “Tomorrow I hope people can see me”.

“The Matchbox Shows” rounded out the evening with Heit performing over a dozen miniature puppet shows. They varied from a “peepshow” where the matchbox opened and a naked woman danced, to ghost stories, tight rope walking, and a retelling of a friend’s suicide. Heit ended the show with “27 Pictures of Myself Naked” consisting of 27 quite humorous drawings. For some reason the only one I can remember is “eating dinner with my parents” you guessed it, naked.

If you’re interested in watching more of Laura Heit’s films and/or puppet shows you can do so at her website: www.lauraheit.com