Indie Watch: The Greyness of Autumn
Despite their predominant popularity as Muppet-style children’s entertainment, puppets are often used for more subversive purposes on television and in the movies. From Peter Jackson’s outrageously offensive Meet the Feebles to the sewn-up serial killers in the Canadian television series Puppets Who Kill, puppet shows have proven to be fruitful pieces of nefarious and hilarious entertainment. Scottish filmmaker Chris Quick’s absurdist short film, The Greyness of Autumn, is a welcome addition to the relatively short list of puppet-based, adult-oriented cinema.
Although The Greyness of Autumn is frequently very funny, Quick’s film is a pitch-black comedy. The film hinges on Danny Mcguire (Duncan Airlie James), a telemarketer who loses his job and his girlfriend (Amy E. Watson) to forces beyond his control in the span of just a few hours. The speed at which Danny’s life falls apart causes him to descend into an existential crisis of Camusian proportians. Oh, and did I mention that Danny is an ostrich hand-puppet? Or that Nelson (Chris Quick), Danny’s porn-addicted alcoholic roommate, is a monkey hand-puppet? Or that the two puppets live alongside humans who don’t even cast a sidelong glance in their direction? This is the world of The Greyness of Autumn and your enjoyment of this bleak film will largely depend on whether or not you buy this premise.
Don’t get me wrong, the human actors in The Greyness of Autumn’s story, from Danny’s boss to his girlfriend, are aware that he is an ostrich. They just don’t care. Danny is as much a Scottish citizen as anyone else in the region. And, in the same vein as Trainspotting, Danny is a living example of how sometimes it’s shite being Scottish.
Fans of absurdist storytelling a la Will Self or early Peter Jackson will buy Quick’s premise and enjoy the dark humor of a felt ostrich discovering the fundamental uncaring randomness of the universe. The film stumbles in parts, but only when it overreaches by attempting societal commentary. As a social observer, Quick possesses the subtlety of Vanilla Ice freestyling about race relations. As an absurdist comedian, however, Quick is alarmingly funny. Gag sequences like Nelson diving head-first into a box of corn flakes and a montage of romantic flashbacks (which also include corn flakes) are full of energy and ingenuity. The Greyness of Autumn’s short script even fits a hilariously large helping of cruel irony into the end of Danny’s story.
All-in-all, Quick’s film serves up a copious amount of black comedy that has a great WTF-factor. The film is intriguing simply because it’s so strange. The great thing is, The Greyness of Autumn has something humorous and interesting to show its audience once the initial shock of its strangeness wears off.
A Gallery of Images from The Greyness of Autumn