At a time when animated features have become synonymous with big-budget, computer-generated 3-D studio releases, Bill Plympton has remained stubbornly independent, creating quirky, highly personal hand-drawn films. "Cheatin'" is his seventh and most mature feature to date.
"Cheatin'" focuses on Jake and Ella, a loving couple whose wedded bliss is ripped apart by a conniving redhead who wants Jake for herself. The couple's struggles are presented without dialogue to a complex soundtrack that composer Nicole Renaud stitched together from original compositions and familiar music ranging from "Vesti la Giubba" to "The Can-Can" and "That's a Plenty."
While his characters lose and recover their mutual passion, Plympton fills the screen with the quirky, metamorphic visuals that have characterized his films since he received his first Oscar nomination for the 1987 short "Your Face." But the outré imagery complements the fragmented story instead of interfering with it, as sometimes happened in his earlier work.
The highly idiosyncratic "Cheatin'" is not a film for everyone (including children), but it will please viewers interested in the long tradition of independent animation in America, a tradition that stretches back to the landmark work of Winsor McCay in the second decade of the 20th century. At a time when so many computer-generated features have an increasingly homogenized look, Plympton — already at work on another feature to be released next year — is a welcome reminder that the art of animation is too protean to be limited to a single visual style, medium or point of view.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 16 minutes.
Playing: At Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.