Monday, October 28, 2019


Remember the dioramas in the Museum of Natural History, where nature and in particular Mesozoic era creatures come alive. That’s a starting point for understanding Erin Derham’s Stuffed. Currently playing through Tuesday at Film Forum, the movie deals with the art of taxidermy, something between lepidoptery of the kind that Nabokov practiced and serial murder. As portrayed in the movie taxidermy is everything from a commercial practice to an art, but it involves an odd congeries of aspirations since there are down home taxidermy conventions in which talent is judged and practitioners who exist in a higher of realm of endeavor. “Once it dies,” one practitioner remarks about the process, “you have a relatively short window of opportunity to do anything to it.” This can be a relatively complex matter since it involves rendering the personality of the animal. Lonesome George was the last of a line of Pinta Island tortoises. Capturing certain quirks which apparently included the passive aggressive quality of his character was an essential element in immortalizing his form. Most of the taxidermists interviewed in the film are animal lovers though one  makes the show stopping comment that “hunters are the greatest conservationists.” Food for thought? For instance, the one anecdote used to describe Carl Akeley, who fathered the discipline, relates to his strangling a leopard with his bare hands. As depicted in Stuffed, taxidermy is a subculture filled with enthusiasts united by what at times seems like a perverse obsession. There are by the way specialties like "cryptozoological taxidermy", which involves the creation of quasi-chimeras, and "Victorian taxidermy." In its heyday, the latter made fashion statements that resulted in the eradication of certain species.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.