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Eyeworks: David O’Reilly

This is the third installation of an ongoing series of articles by Alexander Stewart and Lilli Carré, founders of the Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation.

When we were planning the first Eyeworks festival in 2010, we had both recently been fascinated by the work of Irish animator David O’Reilly, and we thought he would be really interesting to have at the festival in person. O’Reilly visited Chicago for the weekend and presented an evening of his work to close out the 2010 Eyeworks Festival. He screened all of his films, interspersed with an assortment of odd film clips and old cartoons he liked. His witty, charming presence and intense energy made him a fantastic festival guest.

The film that initially drew us to his work was his 2009 piece Please Say Something, which we found online. Using a purposefully limited set of rules inspired by something like a vintage Modernist ethos or by art-film movements like Dogme 95, O’Reilly developed an aesthetic that engaged the tools of 3D animation in their rawest and most direct form. At the same time, he presented a story that was just as emotionally direct; a story that seemed to sneak up on you every time you re-watched the film. The combination of the aesthetic and the narrative was a one-two punch that made it clear to us that he was a really clever and impatient artist asking very interesting questions about the medium of 3D animation.

Please Say Something was originally serialized as one-minute chapters, posted on O’Reilly’s website as he completed them. The collected ten chapters tell the story of a cat and mouse enacting an emotionally abusive relationship in a near-future urban environment. If you look carefully at this piece, you can see influence from cartoonist Chris Ware, early American studio animation, and Michael Haneke, among many other artists and filmmakers. It’s a wonderful film, a near-perfect balancing act of form and content.

David O’Reilly. Please Say Something, 2009. 10:00

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