Revelations galore greeted happy Don Hertzfeldt fans who battled downed power lines and Thunderdome traffic jams to catch It’s such a beautiful day, chapter three of the UCSB-grad and cult fave animator’s Bill Trilogy (henceforth, the Billogy) last Wednesday night at the Pollock Theater. The film was shown in its entirety alongside one classic and two newer Hertzfeldt shorts. During a post-screening Q&A, Hertzfeldt, proclaiming the film’s warm reception in Austin (where the former Goletan now holes up), described a huge Texan biker who approached him post-film whispering, “It was good. I cried like a little bitch.”
“This is one of the best compliments I’ve gotten so far,” Hertzfeldt noted.
Perhaps still best known for short, poisonously funny films like Ah, L’Amour and Billy’s Balloon (made while attending UCSB’s film studies department), Hertzfeldt began the Billogy post-graduation with the darkly ironic Everything will be OK, after finishing the triumphantly beautiful 2005 film The Meaning of Life. Back then, Hertzfeldt told audiences that he was quite taken with the character and might spend time with him, including a cable cartoon series that never was. Bill’s stick-figure angst continued in 2008’s I am so proud of you. But all gets unexpectedly redeemed in the new film, which also benefits from Hertzfeldt’s increasingly complex mix of cartooning, live action, and surprisingly sophisticated sound design. There might not have been tears, but It’s such a beautiful day earned heartfelt ovations at the Pollock.
Hertzfeldt dished cautionary inspiration to students attending — though repeatedly noting that hard work more than genius explains his success. He concluded the evening citing the influence of masters (Hitchcock and Monty Python) and the role of the mind in creativity: “I catch ideas rather than come up with them,” he said. “I think the subconscious is a party in our minds to which we are not invited.” But in the best surprise of all, Hertzfeldt, who shies from admitting or succumbing to collaboration, announced his plans to raise money and produce a feature film, probably overseas. “I can’t really talk about it,” he said, “but it will be a period piece set 100 years ago” — giving big guys in Austin, no doubt, more occasion for tears.