Nearly 15 years in the making, Chris Sullivan’s Consuming Spirits is a meticulously constructed tour de force of experimental animation. Shooting frame by frame in 16mm, Sullivan seamlessly blends together a range of techniques—cutout animation, pencil drawing, collage, and stop-motion animation—into a distinct, signature visual style. In the process, he constructs a hypnotic, layered narrative, a suspenseful gothic tale that tracks the intertwined lives of three kindred spirits working at a local newspaper in a Midwestern rust belt town.
The pacing of Consuming Spirits unfolds in a slow, deliberate fashion, akin to the work of such independent filmmakers as Dennis Potter, Terence Davies, Robert Altman, and John Cassavetes. Like these live-action filmmakers, every frame of Sullivan’s animation film is crafted with attention to intricate detail. The accumulation of these images builds to a great atmospheric effect, achieved through an adroit combination of inventive set design, ever-shifting visual perspectives, fluid camera movements, a vivid color palette, and a haunting music track. Sullivan succeeds in creating, with great artistry, a hermetic, self-contained world emanating from his own unique and vivid imagination. –Jon Gartenberg
The title speaks of ephemera, but this multi-form animated film feels all too real. Of all things, a cartoon of Appalachia gives it a more honest voice than most live-action depictions, even suggesting that anomie and ennui can strike rural areas as much as urban ones.