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Lifelike (2005)

by on 2013/09/06

Lifelike (2005)

“Something has to die before I have something to do.”

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Set against the backdrop of Orillia, Ontario, and the looming Canadian Taxidermy Championship, Lifelike introduces us to four sets of characters. They’re not fictional, but they’re characters all the same.

Jeff Brain and his protege, Calvin King, work on freshwater fish and a deer. Dave Gibson is mentored by Ray Robinson, spread across several projects. Chris Kemp spends several months restoring Jamie Rumm’s deceased pet dog, Wonder. And Benoit Brossard, an elder big game hunter, is content to show off his basement full of trophies.

Despite their shared sphere of interest, each brings something unique to the show. The deer King restores is sixteen years old, a souvenir from his first hunt. Gibson is new and over-eager, putting confidence ahead of care. Kemp has a unique challenge in preserving a familiar part of Rumm’s family, not a generic animal seen moments before the end of a hunt.

Many of them are open and thoughtful, frankly discussing their hunting and taxidermy. For some, it’s purely financial, for others it connects them to the outdoors. Some acknowledge its dwindling popularity, and even admit regret. Others describe it as a kind of immortality not practiced since Ancient Egypt, or hold forth in artistic terms, with negative space, lines of flow, and realism.

While I found the latter comments interesting, they also made me aware of my own mixed reactions to the craft of the production itself. In terms of visual impact, Lifelike’s a bit of a mixed affair. There are nice touches – a brief animation of a model blinking, clever cross-fading, lots of wipes – but just as often I felt jarred from my immersion. Some of the framings are odd, quite high, nearly cutting off heads at the neck. Throughout there’s a softness at the edge of the frames which is frequently distracting. And, again, if you hate them, there are those wipes I mentioned.

The sound is solid and functional, and the music is appropriately twangy, with a strummed electric guitar, drenched in tremolo and reverb. Highlight sequences are underscored by comparatively tongue-in-cheek songs, including Richard Myhill’s “Let Me Baby” and Chip Taylor’s “Wild Thing”.

At times the content comes across like a creature effects documentary, and its presentation reinforces the feeling of being an extra supporting a feature but, all in all, Lifelike is a compelling enough hour spent. It’s slightly entertaining, reasonably educational, and worth checking out if you can. It’s descriptive without being as “gross” as you may fear; it has nothing on an Aliens flick.

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Full movie available here:
http://hotdocslibrary.ca/en/detail.cfm?filmId=7100

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Not rated

53 minutes

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