Invention in C Major is a remarkable stop-motion animation feat by filmmaker Richard D. Lopez. At four minutes long, this short film tells a deeply complex story that keeps the viewer watching with bated breath. The film will be available for streaming worldwide and also screens live on Sunday, September 19 at the Fall 2021 New Jersey Film Festival.
This film - which started as a thesis project for Lopez’s last year at Parsons - very clearly turned into a passion project for this filmmaker. Lopez has an eye for detail, dedication to the characters, and commitment to the meticulous effort of creating a stop-motion piece, all of which shine through in this short film. Invention in C Major is a love letter to filmmaking in one of its most difficult yet gratifying forms.
Invention starts with a slow pan up the body of the character affectionately called Gramophone Lady, and the viewer is instantly struck by how unsettling she is; her limbs are stitched up and attached to metal rods and gears, and there is a gramophone horn where her head should be. The film’s title appears on screen as Gramophone Lady stands in a dark, somber room that sets the tone for the occurrences in the film. She gazes at a portrait of a woman on her vanity, which transitions to her gazing at her own odd reflection in the mirror. With a ripple, the mirror’s reflection is now showing the woman in the photo, and the viewer gets the sense that the two characters are one and the same.
Suddenly, the woman is snatched by a pair of phantom hands, leaving the Gramophone Lady face-to-face with her new mechanical reality. The hand then reaches out of the mirror to grab at Gramophone Lady, who falls and is sent into what one can only presume to be a flashback of her final moments before transitioning into a musical humanoid. This scene in particular resonated really strongly with me as a viewer; I was so impressed by the lighting choices, the decision to change the lens focus from the woman to the mechanical parts of the Gramophone Lady laid out just behind her, and the realistic way fear is portrayed on the face of this puppet.
The process of creating and mastering these puppets was certainly a labor of love, one that began in an effort to provide the film with a mechanical, visceral feel. The puppets were made out of clay, given hand-made armature wire, and cast in foam latex before becoming the products we see on screen. In my opinion, each one of these characteristics came together to create ideal subjects for this piece. In fact, Lopez’s puppetry is so consistent in its attention to detail and accurate portrayal of emotions that I found myself forgetting the film wasn’t technologically animated. Although Gramophone Lady lacked facial features, Lopez manages to use her body language and the context of his carefully manicured shots to ensure the viewer understands how she’s feeling.
Music is also used to portray emotion, and is the thread that ties Invention in C Major together. The film ends with a look inside of Gramophone Lady, where her human self can be seen playing piano within what one can presume to be her soul. The woman plays a haunting number as she sits shrouded in a shadowy light, and before cutting to black she looks directly at the camera, staring the viewer in the eye. The score by Alfi Alvarez throughout the film compliments it perfectly, and the final shot is so striking because of the expert combination of Alvarez’s music and Lopez’s puppetry. The music of the film plays to the emotions of the characters perfectly, and climaxes and retreats back into itself as the plot demands. The overall sound design is brilliant, and the combination of squeaks and creaks from Gramophone Lady’s mechanical body fit into the music and the story very naturally.
Invention in C Major is a testament to the possibilities of stop-motion animation and a pleasure to behold. Don’t miss your chance to watch Invention in C Major, Parenthesis, ...Lucid Dreams, and The New Blockheads as a private case at the Fall 2021 New Jersey Film Festival on Sunday, September 19 where they screen live at 7PM and all day via Video On Demand. A purchased ticket gives you access to both the live and online screenings.
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Go here for more info on the New Jersey Film Festival: https://newjerseyfilmfestivalfall2021.eventive.org/welcome