October 2, 2007
Back from a whirlwind trip to New York City, Notwithabang… encountered two works that he feels require further elaboration, namely Wes Anderson’s short film “Hotel Chevalier,” and Mr. Buckéthead’s “Happy Ducky Adventure.”
Both serve as indirect preludes to longer works, namely “The Darjeeling Limited,” for the former, and “À la recherche du temps perdu,” for the latter. “Chevalier” fleshes out the background of Jack, one of the three protagonists from the feature film, ably played by a pensive Jason Schwartzmann, as he hesitatingly lounges around a hotel room at the eponymous hotel, appearing like a character out of a J.D. Salinger short story, albeit more nervous. His tentative reverie is interrupted by the sudden arrival of his abrasive (ex?) girlfriend, played by Natalie Portman, and they share a tense and heated exchange. While Portman’s character is blunt about her intention to leave the next day, the two soon transition from clipped jabs to passionate kisses, and she becomes by turns worried and conciliatory. By contrast, Jack remains physically engaged but his replies become cold; while it is clear that he has been the wounded party, he intends to make his grief mutual. Although the piece ends on a more subdued and less hostile note, as the two stare off into the city vista around them (the colors in the scene are quite amazing), even after multiple viewings (it is free on iTunes, after all) and seeing the whole of “Darjeeling,” “Hotel Chevalier” feels as if it hides more than it reveals.
“Happy Ducky Adventure” is similarly rich, but just as unsatisfying. As a window the tortured relationship of Happy Duck and Brown Duck, who communicate in dialogue clipped similar to that of “Chevalier,” the game follows Happy Duck’s investigation of a “neat pirate cave” that has enthralled Brown Duck. Happy Duck is hesitant to step out of his decadent and dissolute lifestyle, much less to engage Brown Duck. Yet, with a palpable air of past estrangement between them, he manages to follow, despite Brown Duck’s occasionally callous and seemingly bombastic attitude. Owing to his personality, it is clear that Brown Duck has been the past aggressor. Predictably, Brown Duck surges ahead, despite the obstacles in Happy Duck’s path, mirroring the incongruent appearance of a nude Portman on top of a still-suited Schwartzmann in the previously-mentioned film. By the time that Happy Duck reaches the cave, he realizes that his expectations had been overblown (again, corresponding to Jack’s seeming realization that his relationship is over at the end of the film), and simply tries to make the best of the moment. The audience, however, remains at a loss, and like Portman’s character, crying against the dresser, we are both saddened and discomfited at the fact that we cannot understand the greater meaning at hand. •