906. Wisdom Teeth – Don Hertzfeldt

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SUMMARY: A man who has just had his wisdom teeth removed asks a friend to help him remove the stitches.

WHY IT’S HERE: By the time he made ‘Wisdom Teeth’, Don Hertzfeldt had established himself as one of the most important animators working today. Still in the midst of working on his classic Bill trilogy, Hertzfeldt put together this 5 minute short as a surprise for his appearance at the Ottawa Animation Festival. Returning to the unexpected, surreal and sadistic style of early shorts like ‘Billy’s Balloon’ and ‘Rejected’, ‘Wisdom Teeth’ was clearly the director having a bit of a laugh and enjoying a chance to make something purely ridiculous rather than the more philosophically dense scripts he’d been working on in recent years. Nevertheless, ‘Wisdom Teeth’ met with mixed reactions, with fans of Hertzfeldt’s recent work seeing it as a backwards step and fans of his older films seeing it as too bizarre even for them. Of course, there were also many who got ‘Wisdom Teeth’ and enjoyed it for the small treat it is. I, for one, find it utterly hilarious and it’s good to know that Hertzfeldt can revert back to simpler ideas even as he continues to push the boundaries of possibility with his more substantial work. ‘Wisdom Teeth’ is presented in a hilariously mangled, fictional language which allows Hertzfeldt to present a series of subtitles that look like they have suffered from awkward translation. The simple concept, in which a man complains the removal of his wisdom teeth has made his face puffy and asks his friend to help remove the stitches, plays with elements of tedium which become more hysterically funny as they are stretched further. The conclusion, which no-one could predict, is satisfyingly dark, weird and horrific but very, very funny.

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