When I watched Torrey Pines for the first time all by myself on a private Vimeo link, I actually felt loved. Clyde Petersen's debut feature film, clocking in at a rich hour, is about being a trans kid with a schizophrenic mom, but it's also about being able to survive by making connections. Connections with birds and waves—if that's easier than with teachers or parents—or cats, Star Trek characters, VCRs that play Crocodile Dundee, more cats, rocking the casbah, stuffed bunnies, the pornography of the American landscape (garish roadside memorials next to "Huge Savings" next to Texan pumping oil derricks next to fields as jam-packed with cows as Pollock paintings next to Angel's Food/Gas/Porn/Truck Stop), Tetris, and Whitney Houston.
Sometimes your mother might open her mouth and a slinky fat ghost might slip out. Sometimes you might sit next to a boy in class and he might not know you're trans and the silent sequence of facial expressions between you will be bewildering to both of you and hilarious to your later self, although the kissy-answering-machine messages that result will resonate with the feeling of being stalked.
There is so much in Torrey Pines. I would really like you to go and see it,
tonight at the opening of on October 22 at AMC Pacific Place as part of TWIST, the queer film festival. I also cannot do the film more justice in writing than Sarah Galvin already did in City Arts, so go and read that piece.
What I can tell you is that Torrey Pines holds up far beyond the initial oh-it's-a-film-about-X tag. Petersen and his collaborators in animation and in music
—and tonight's screening includes a live score with musicians from Kimya Dawson to Lori Goldston— created something visually and filmically varied in terms of form. (UPDATE: The opening was LAST night. Now you need to go see it, without the live score but with the prerecorded one, which is still completely tremendous and performed and created by those same musicians, on October 22.) The whole piece moves in terms of sequences. The road trip sequence. The slide show sequence. (The extended American landscapes sequence is one of my favorites in all of animated film.)
But most of all, Torrey Pines is a masterful use of incredibly simple and friendly materials (which is politically important), paper cutouts and Post-Its, symbols and icons, a visual shorthand that becomes open but never, never loses its distinctive self.
When Petersen makes art, it becomes believable that the tools of artmaking are not alienated from the experiences of life itself. That's what makes me feel good, I think. That, and Petersen's honesty. His hard-won and still-risky honesty.