Before the advent of sound motion picture film, audiences were treated to silent films from around the world, often with live musical accompaniment. Sometimes it was an orchestra in a pit, other times just a piano player keeping the audience aurally involved in the narrative on screen. Thanks to soundtracks, live musical accompaniment has become a novelty, a rare event worth seeking out if you can find it. And find it I did.
Last week at Public Assembly in Brooklyn, White Widow, both the band’s name and the pseudonym of its leader, Carla Patullo, took the stage to debut their new album and film, A Psychological Thriller. The silent animation by Jamie Dwyer and Justin Ulloa of Electric Wonder Creative runs about thirty minutes in length. It follows a hapless loner and the femme fatale who will be his undoing. Or will she?!
The on-the-nose title of the film gives a decent indication as to the simplicity of the work. There is a spareness to almost every aspect of Ulloa and Dwyer’s animation, and not always to the audience’s benefit. The characters look plasticky, almost like computer renderings of barbie dolls, or perhaps paper dolls, barely come to life. It’s a stylistic choice, sure, but it feels half-baked, as if we’re looking at slick storyboards for a film that hasn’t yet been produced.
And then there are the psychological thrills of the thing. Someone, some power beyond our understanding, is messing with the head of our loner protagonist. He keeps running into, so to speak, the future, the past, and his imminent doom (or is it redemption?). The filmmakers enjoy playing around with psychological space, but in the end it is haphazard. It’s not so much that the narrative is hard to follow, but rather that it’s hard to want to follow it.
And that’s where White Widow’s soundtrack comes in. The moody atmospherics help smooth over any inconsistencies in the film, and also help push the audience through its more boring stretches. I suppose this is what one calls a “concept album,” especially considering the cinematic tie-in. Even without the visuals, from head to tail there is definitely a story being told musically. Most songs feel pulled from a 1980s fantasy flick. The penultimate track, “Something About Paradise” seems like it could easily be placed in Labyrinth without anyone noticing. I gather that’s the point. All in all, the music is the focus of A Psychological Thriller, and if you can stomach a slightly cheesy visual, it does plenty to complement the vibe that White Widow is putting forth.