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Review: Fascinating taxidermy documentary ‘Stuffed’ may make for an awkward Thanksgiving

Ferry van Tongeren admires his taxidermy in the documentary ‘Stuffed.’
Ferry van Tongeren admires his taxidermy in the documentary “Stuffed.”
(Music Box Films)

Effectively blowing the dust off those natural history museum dioramas, Erin Derham’s “Stuffed” takes a lively look at contemporary taxidermy in a documentary that’s as fascinating as it is freaky.

To be sure, this isn’t your weird uncle’s take on the topic.

Currently enjoying a worldwide resurgence, the meticulous craft has migrated from the trophy room to the art gallery as a younger generation from both scientific and creative quarters is drawn to the preservation aspect, reflecting environmental concerns rather than big-game hunting bragging rights.

Among Derham’s intriguing subjects is Allis Markham, proprietor of Los Angeles-based Prey Taxidermy, whose studio output is informed by an elegant realism; she’s one of a number of women profiled whose love of nature and sculpture have found an oddly logical intersection.

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Then there’s Amsterdam-based Jaap Sinke and Ferry van Tongeren, a pair of former ad men whose remarkably detailed, dramatically posed tableaux are informed by the paintings of Dutch masters.

Although the majority of those profiled would likely agree that their chosen profession lies somewhere between a hobby and an addiction — with at least one of them admitting that the revelation can be a first-date killer, preferring the term “3-D wildlife artist” — their passion is palpable.

And while the casually demonstrated prep work isn’t for the squeamish, the film’s aptly timed release should ensure viewers never consider their Thanksgiving turkey the same way again.

‘Stuffed’
Not Rated

Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills


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