I was made aware of director Tawd B. Dorenfeld fairly recently when I watched the psychedelic, stop-motion animation thing he directed for the recent Secret Chiefs 3 live DVD. It was an enjoyable selection of baffling imagery to occupy my eyes while I listened to some Secret Chiefs 3 stuff that did not make the actual DVD.
The Anna Cabrini Chronicles is a quartet of short films dealing with madness and suicide, scored by Secret Chiefs 3 Trey Spruance … sounds encouraging doesn’t it? I would normally do a detailed appraisal of the individual films, then a round critique of the whole. I find it a little bit difficult to do either in this case because it’s such a disjointed affair. The “stories” involve a selection of people doing battle with personal demons which are dealt with in a highly stylised and figurative fashion, which makes it difficult to discern what is actually going on. This is a device which he uses very successfully in some respects, as the finished product is definitely tinged with madness. Stop motion illustration, rapid fire edits, strange angles, bursts of very loud and disorientating music. All of this and more combine to create a film that is certainly unsettling and memorable. But is it any good? In my opinion it is strangely average. There is no real narrative thread and not much in common between the films. His success in making them look and feel “crazy” is inversely proportionate to his success in making a film that you actually enjoy.
I bought this mainly because I am an obsessive record nerd, and the score by Spruance was the hook that got me. It features some unreleased material, but only in snatches throughout and there is an abundance of familiar Secret Chiefs stuff on there too. Mostly the music and images work well together but there is occasional incongruity too and I can’t help feeling that the film would have been more successful if it had utilised other music in addition to Secret Chiefs. In short, this is for uber-Spruance fans only.