The Art of Poetry Film with Cheryl Gross: “The Mysterious Arrival of an Unusual Letter”

The Mysterious Arrival of an Unusual Letter
Poem by Mark Strand
Film by Scott Wenner
Voice by Don Drive
Recording by Kelly Pieklo
Motionpoems 2013

I love animated videopoems. This appreciation developed while I was growing up watching cartoons with my favorite baby sitter, the television set. Although most animated videopoems cannot be compared to Heckle and Jeckle or Bugs Bunny, they still bring back memories of my formative years, eating Wonder Bread and butter sandwiches. The shows that I watched were filled with sarcasm and also had a dark side. When I look back, one could say that they were for the most part inappropriate and violent. That’s the down side. The up side is that they helped shape my sick sense of humor. Perhaps watching cartoons prepared me for adulthood. It’s sad to think of Tweety Bird as a role model.

The Mysterious Arrival of an Unusual Letter is exactly what I’m talking about in terms of it having a hint of darkness. The design is well done, the timing is perfect and the art is beautifully animated. The first scene involving the graffiti subway is a nice touch. I won’t bother to compare it to When At A Certain Party In NYC. Both are on the same level in terms of excellence. Both are wonderfully executed and although seemingly simple, they’re amazingly complex. Again the animation is flawless and I am still trying to figure out which program Scott Wenner used. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s some kind of 3D aspect in After Effects, but that’s a technical question we animators like to ponder.

The poetry is wonderful. The ending is a bit of a surprise, but not really. So many times we expect more from a situation and are left hanging. Although the character is plain in appearance he remains expressive and possesses an amazing amount of emotion. This coupled with the poetry makes this videopoem outstanding.

The Mysterious Arrival of an Unusual Letter tells a story that leaves you dangling. We are experiencing a small yet unsettling trip through limbo, which is perhaps closer to reality than we would like to be. It’s sort of like reading a book and having the last page torn out. I could bring this review full circle and continue to talk about how my childhood was shaped by Walt Disney and Looney Tunes, but hopefully by this point my taste in animation has become a bit more sophisticated.

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