Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trimpin DVD: an early report

A documentary about the sculptor, sound artist, and MacArthur "genius" grant recipient Trimpin has been making the rounds of film festivals, and a commercial release is due out this fall. We've previously written about this news here.

Recently, an advance copy of this DVD surreptitiously arrived at Starkland headquarters. Since I've been a Trimpin fan for years, I'm pleased to report that "TRIMPIN: The Sound of Invention" is a fine, engaging portrait of this fascinating individual and his odd, captivating works. The film strikes a good balance between Trimpin's persistent eccentricity and his effective creations that emerge in the real world, working flawlessly and charming observers both visually and sonically.
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Though I was somewhat familiar with Trimpin's story, it was an unexpected treat to watch interviews with both his father and sister, and to hear stories revealing that Trimpin's particular genius began to reveal itself early on. His interactions with Conlon Nancarrow, some of which I saw in Telluride in 1989, are also effectively presented.

The DVD's opening menu offers either stereo or 5.1 playback, and I found the surround playback significantly enhanced the DVD, at times placing you in the middle of Trimpin's sculptural installations. Indeed, the use of space is essential to most of his final creations.

Another interesting story arc in the DVD follows Trimpin's creation of a staged work for the Kronos Quartet. We see the initial meetings, an early presentation of a colorful "score" that perplexes the performers, the array of playback instruments that Trimpin conjures up, and a sense of the how the premiere performance finally unfolds.

This well-paced film was produced, filmed, and directed by Peter Esmonde, who explains that he made the film "out of purely selfish concerns," that "I needed to document the most creative person I could find, to discover how they'd managed to survive in this society. And I was lucky enough to find Trimpin."

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Trimpin with Peter Esmonde

Up to now, however, the film has only been viewable at various film festivals, where it has been well received. It's great to know that this fall it will be released on DVD.

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