Film of the Week :: Asparagus, by Suzan Pitt (1979)

Asparagus is the work of American painter and film animator Suzan Pitt and it is famous to some for supporting screenings of David Lynch’s Eraserhead on the midnight movie circuit in the late 1970s. This exquisite film appears to operate in the same world inhabited by Lynch, sharing a ruleless use of space and a surreal peek into human psychology.

The film follows a single protagonist – a faceless woman living in a house that increasingly replicates itself and resembles it’s occupier. In both the domestic setting and the outside world, the asparagus vegetable takes on various possible meanings as it is gripped, sucked and excreted. Erotic metaphors and intellectual references lend themselves to a meditation on art, identity construct and the cost of reproduction that could be interpreted as a Freudian dream.

The film’s lack of clear meaning and complete openness to interpretation is one of it’s finest qualities. My interpretation of the faceless woman is that she is an artist and an actress – an elegantly dressed person living in an elegantly dressed home, but a creature without identity or personality, a blank canvas (onto which various masks are placed) capable of unleashing magic upon unsuspecting audiences. This act in turn unlocks the ecstasy that she thrives on – something altogether basic and primal yet beautiful and otherworldly.

The film’s other quality is it’s vibrant and colourful presentation. Now-rare 2D animation that evokes my memories of watching Disney films and The Snowman as a child, is combined fantastically with claymation that emphasises the detached and fabulous nature of the faceless woman. The soundtrack also accompanies the film’s journey and offers another opportunity to understand the protagonist’s (perhaps Suzan Pitt’s) inner psyche. It begins uncomfortably, teetering on the brink of relaxation but never quite reaching it. It then seems to become stuck during the middle of the film, only finding harmony with the film as the final act commences.

A children’s fairy tale for adults, possibly. A magical film that defies analytical efforts, definitely.

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