Friday, April 26, 2024

Santa Fe ’24: Slide

Sourdough Creek is a town without slow music. By and large, it is also a town without pity. Mayor Jeb Carver is mostly to blame on both scores. Much to his consternation, a traveling slide guitarist challenges Carvey’s authority in director-animator-producer Bill Plympton’s Slide, which screens today during the 2024 Santa Fe Film Festival.

He is only known as “Slide,” because that is what he plays. Slide is the sort of journeyman guitar slinger who illustrates the Americana-roots music fraternity between the blues and old school country. It is the 1940s, but the former lumber town of Sourdough Creek still looks and feels like the old frontier. However, the modern world comes calling, when a Hollywood producer decides to shoot his next epic on-location in and around Sourdough Creek.

Slide’s arrival is much less heralded. His visit nearly ends prematurely, when Mayor Carver threatens to shoot him for playing slow tempos in his sin-soaked saloon. Fortunately, Carver’s twin brother Zeke intercedes, because he notices Slide’s sad songs sell more booze. They need the money for the ridiculously grandiose casino they are building, to cater to the Hollywood jet-set.

They still don’t like Slide—and he recognizes them for what they are. As a result, he befriends their sworn enemy, the human-sized insectoid avenger known as “Hell Bug,” and one of their victims, Deliliah, a sensitive vocal stylist, forced to work as a bargirl and, you know, other stuff.

Slide is a Western, but in a gothic Americana kind of way. There are also a lot of weird fantastical elements that are perfectly suited to Plympton’s style of animation. Frankly, he is probably one of the few animators whose work is instantly recognizable. Slide is him through and through, which is cool.

is also a great marriage of sounds and images. The tunes, mostly written and/or performed by Maureen McElheron and Hank Bones, both together and separately, have the perfect Western melancholy. Frankly, “People Say I’m Lonely” (composed by McElhorn and Virigil Young) ought to be nominated for best original song, but it won’t be, because the music wing of the Academy is so terminally unhip.

The textured vibe of Plympton’s animation perfectly represents the dirt and grit of the Old[ish] West. He also has a clear affinity for Western archetypes. As a result, this is probably one of the best animated “musicals” of the last two or three years. Highly recommended,
Slide screens this afternoon (4/26) as part of this year’s Santa Fe Film Festival.