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AUTOMORPHOSIS looks into the minds and hearts of a delightful collection of eccentrics, visionaries, and just plain folks who have transformed their autos into artworks. On a humorous and touching journey, we discover what drives the creative process for these unconventional characters. And in the end, we find that an art car has the power to change us -- to alter our view of our increasingly homogeneous world.
If you happened to wander by the Guild Cinema Saturday or Sunday afternoon, you might have seen a van parked outside with hundreds of brass ornaments and trinkets and $15,000 in Susan B. Anthony coins soldered to its body. You might have also seen a little sedan painted entirely in the style of Mondrian, and a Volkswagen bug covered with CDs, vinyl records, and functioning instruments (drums, a guitar, and a keyboard). Automorphosis, a documentary film by Harrod Blank, examines the trend of car art, and it does so with little pretense and a lot of soul. Automorphosis is, in more ways than one, about therapy. It s about feeling trapped and car art s unique ability to force one s identity out into the world (what better art gallery than the open road?). It s about loneliness, and how car art can help affirm one s existence by bringing laughs, joy, shock and surprise from others. This is what perhaps drives Blank, whose famous camera van (which is exactly what it sounds like) is able to literally capture the faces of awe and delight as the vehicle passes. Its most significant finding, perhaps, is that there is no generally applicable reason why people all over the country are expressing themselves creatively through their automobiles. Everyone who does it is different. The goal of Automorphosis is to explore, and revel in, the diversity in car art. The beginning of the film is at once humorous and poignant, explaining that corporate advertising alone defines most people s taste in cars. A little girl says she wants a Corvette because it s sexy; a little boy wants a Chevrolet truck because it s rugged. There s no personality in a car, the film asserts, that hasn t been predetermined by its marketers. Car art, then, is a way of injecting one s sense of self into a largely lifeless object. It s a way of turning what is considered a simple tool into an actual form of expression in which people can find meaning. The examples the film gives are numerous, and they range from hilarious to endearing to heartbreaking. There s Elmer Fleming, the Spoon Man from South Carolina, who drives a truck with spoons nailed into the exterior simply because he enjoys the attention, and likes to make people smile. There s Carolyn Stapleton who glued discarded cigarette butts onto her VW beetle and called it The Stink Bug to send an anti-smoking message. Then there s Steve Baker, who covered his van with pennies, believing that being surrounded by copper would help his arthritis. More than anything, it seems car art is about finding oneself in a way that is also engages others. As Harry Sperl, proud owner of a motorcycle shaped like a hamburger, puts it: I like to confuse people. It keeps me alive. --Daily Lobo (Evan Bobrick)
Automorphosis Rating: 8/10 Director: Harrod Blank How much do you love your car? Well, I can guarantee your love isn't as much as the love displayed by the characters on show in this doco which is out at the World Cinema Showcase. Automorphosis follows the very American world of art cars as they explain why they love the phenomenon and how it's taken over their lives. Basically Harrod Blank's doco meets up with those who are most proud of their car handiwork - from the Spoon Man who's decorated his vehicle with spoons, to the man who'd heard copper was good for arthritis and decked out his entire car with copper pennies (as well as a copper jumpsuit), these are all people who have a story to tell and a passion to spread. Initially, you find yourself agog, wondering what on earth these people are thinking and whether, quite frankly, they're nuts and their hobby is a little out of control. But what you begin to realise is everyone has a damn good reason for doing what they do and the world would be an emptier place without these guys and gals. In a film littered with so many visually amusing moments and images, there is no way I could do it justice on this page - you really do need to see them for yourselves. What's engaging about it is that the director is actually a part of this world and is trying to get people into his passion - and with infectious light story telling, Harrod Blank can't fail but to hook you in. Automorphosis is a brilliantly entertaining look at the world of art cars; and I'd be surprised if you didn't leave this doco feeling like it's time you did some work on your own motor. --Darren Bevan (TVNZ)
One man has seven cars, all decorated with paintings of his face and sentences that implore onlookers to cast him in a film. He lives in Hollywood. A woman in Forest Grove, OR, suffers from severe depression and has glued mutilated toy babies, skulls and death-metal slogans every which way onto her car. A Jesus freak in Arizona drives a loud van adorned with religious slogans and proclaims Christ's love through a mounted megaphone. A German novelty-store owner has turned his motorcycle into a plastic hamburger. There seems to be a cult of tricked-out bicycles going on in Brooklyn. And the director himself, Harrod Blank, has a VW bug outfitted with a television, a spinning globe, countless knick-knacks and the phrase Oh my God! scrawled in 25 languages. His obsession with turning his car into an art piece wasn't understood by his father, the filmmaker Les Blank, until Harrod made a successful film about it. Dozens of other wacky Americans, and their creations-on-wheels, are briefly summarized in Automorphosis, possibly the most loveable -- which is not to say cutesy -- documentary I have ever seen. Harrod Blank shares a kinship and understanding with his subjects that leads to a very warm rundown of the reasons they glue and paint things onto their vehicles. His doe-eyed method doesn't stay with any one subject long enough for much depth, but that's fine, because in a 76 minute film where more than two dozen creators of auto-masterworks are given their due, not a one of them is less than fascinating. --Alex Peterson (Portland Sentinel)