Monday, September 29, 2008

Time Piece

Time Piece
Dir. Jim Henson
Starring: Jim Henson
9 min. 1965

Time Piece is an experimental short by Jim Henson (and starring him) that premiered in 1965.

For those who might not know, Jim Henson started his career with a puppet show that appeared after late-night news in Washington, DC. He made Time Piece as a side project between commercial gigs. Time Piece premiered at the Mesuem of Modern Art in 1965 and led to his involvement with Seasme Street in 1969. He went on to be part of the initial Saturday Night Live (1975) group and created The Muppet Show (1976). Features his was involved with include The Dark Crystal (1982), Fraggle Rock (1983), and The Storyteller (1988)

Time Piece is nothing like his puppet shows he is so famous for. However, his experimental short was nominated for best live-action short Oscar. In this film Henson uses the elements of time to explore how humans are restricted by time and time as a philosophical theory. Time not only appears as a visual motif in various clocks throughout but also as a motif in the audio as the audience hears the passing of time.

The soundtrack of this short plays a major role with its rhythmic and time keeping elements. The sounds of footsteps, clocks ticking, people chewing food, fingers tapping, cars driving, and whistles blowing, keep a steady space throughout the 9 minutes. These elements are also used for humor when Henson adds a “cartoonish” sound effect. The entire film relies on timing. Not only because it has rhythm but also for comedic timing. The space quickens in some moments right before a particularly humorous scene.

I found this film intriguing and very enjoyable because of the subject of time. Sometimes I feel time is taken for granted and in this film you see Henson going through a montage of events from eating dinner, walking across the street, doctors visits and nightclubs. In these scenes you see Henson in different attire, usually traveling backward between time periods. And depending on the time period his actions may change from a proper gentleman to a dirty caveman. In a way he is showing the evolution of humanity just in reverse order. As time moves on in this film, he is pulling us back through time.

Henson was very much inspired by surrealism because he takes ordinary events, such as crossing the street or visiting a nightclub, and then adds fantasy like images and references to pop-culture (Tarzan is an example). In a montage of him walking across the street suddenly he is crossing on a pogo stick and then later he is painting an elephant pink. He is also using his film as a way to comment on society and its values. Henson uses the dancer at a nightclub followed by a hungry dog and then a “naked” dancing chicken, as comparisons to the lust men have for the female body. Comparing his (and societies) lust for the dancer to the hungry dog craving the chicken is just one part of his film.

I know Jim Henson is not a “star” in the sense of a famous actor. But I picked this short because (besides my own fascination with experimental films) I think they do not get enough attention. Henson made a name of himself because of this film and I think that makes it worthy of our attention even if only for a few minutes. I found this film in the iTunes Short Film section.


Jeremy said...

I would put this film under the same umbrella as Tricialee's pick: Day of the Fight. Is it really star-driven if the star in question was not known when the film was made? Does the fact that we are talking about star directors change this? Maybe it's easier to make the case for directors' past films to be "star-driven" because they can put their stamp on the film moreso than a star-to-be in front of the camera.

Michael said...

Neat little film - boring, but neat. Yet, to pry into Jeremy's question i would propose that star-driven actually refers to persons of celebrity status. Maybe career-driven is the best category for this film. Let's face it, according to Kaitlin, the guy made puppet shows to be watched by who? Certainly not for kids.

kaitlin w said...

in my personal opinion star driven does mean "celebrity" status. but what does that mean? how do you categorize Nike ads that feature NBA players? They are stars. and those commercials are shorts. A star does not have to be a movie actor/actress.
With "Time Piece" it gained more popularity after Jim Henson's death in 1990. His star status is what earned him the attention. Yes he made this film before he became a "star" but watching it after his death gives it a whole new meaning.