After a deservedly long festival run, British filmmaker Joseph Pierce’s The Pub has recently been made available online, giving a wider audience the opportunity to discover the last instalment of the rotoscope trilogy Pierce began in 2008 with his debut short Stand Up and continued in 2009 with A Family Portrait (both also available online at the filmmaker’s homepage).
Through a laborious process that involves drawing over printouts of live-action footage, Pierce surreally and playfully exaggerates his characters’ traits to reveal their often repressed undertones. After his shift to colour with Family Portrait to dissect the bottled-up emotions and underlying tensions of a family unit during an awkward photo session, The Pub returns to the stark monochrome of Stand Up to provide another insight into British culture over the course of a day at a London local, as seen through the eyes of Kemi, a foreign barmaid.
As a wild carousel of customers incessantly drifts in and out of her sight, they and the pub begin to transform in Kemi’s eyes into a nightmarish zoo populated by intrusive and hostile creatures: trunks growing out of eyes and ears, faces morphing into animals’ heads, a drunken customer’s tongue stretching across the counter like a predator’s. This time, Pierce’s distinctive, dreamlike, nearly magical animation is imbued with a sombre quality as it unmasks an aggressive, often undignified array of human specimens whilst revealing Kemi’s increasing state of alienation and vulnerability.
Combining a real-life observational eye – the idea came from the time Pierce spent living above the very pub where the short was shot – with the imaginative, liberating flair of the animator, The Pub is a beautifully crafted, acute and entertaining observation of a slice of British culture, and pushes Pierce’s signature style into expressive and technical maturity.