yahn soon's peek into the lives of cartoonist Jesse Reklaw (“Slow Wave” strip, Dreamtoons collection) and his pirate radio king housemate, Fausto Caceres, is an intriguing pastiche of music (tuba as tunesmith a particular favourite), art (the in-house rope swing of Compound Eye a marvel of form and function) and words (the real-life family letters of Bill, a schizophrenic loner, provide both balance and a mirror to the pair of rebels as they draw and broadcast their versions of reality to a loyal or enraged public). Both men live Jello Biafra’s admonishment as to how to affect change in America: “Become the media!”
Reklaw’s source material is the freely contributed dreams of anyone who chooses to share their subconscious recollections. One of those rebirths sees the twin towers of the World Trade Center become an Afghani-staffed International House of Pancakes. Before you can say “Taliban cell” Reklaw is the subject of both protesters (Jonathan Kaplan as the evangelical bible thumper lacks enough fire and brimstone to convince, but the dialogue bubble for the redneck’s animated diatribe is one of many brilliant touches) and protectors (Josh Millican as Reklaw’s weed-toking, drum-beating devotee is energizing and fun). Caceres (who also crafted the very-excellent soundscape—a marvelous mix of vintage family-values clips, real brass and digital colourizations) takes to reading Bill’s familial-secrets letters on the air even as he attempts to come to terms with his own self-imposed isolation when the mic’s turned off.
Without a formal script, the film’s challenge is to find some sort of cohesion to glue the themes and the scenes together. One-ended phone calls to various moms and dads serve to establish character and subliminally put the “living” cast on the same plane as the long-dead Bill.
The female point of view is left to Caceres’ American-Iranian-Jewish girl friend Atosa (presented with knowing ease, if perhaps a touch light in the anger department, by Atosa Babaoff) and investigative reporter Jill Hartwell (Jill Pixley). The TV journalist seems to go through her own metamorphosis from passive questioner to snow-dream-demon visionary to mind-already-made-up-as-to-your-guilt interviewer (er, hello there Michael Moore). Strangely, that all works when the notion that Hartwell representing Middle America’s public opinion is taken into account.
soon’s considerable gifts come in handily—not least of which are his editing skills. The film snaps along smartly. Through a calculated mixture of split screen, nature shots and compelling array of “baby” stills (the later flooding the screen with innocence while their older—hardly mature—versions cajole silent parents for cash, comfort and love), viewers are drawn in and become part of the production’s extended family.
Rather than the domicile of two “militant vegans,” this Compound Eye speaks more to the ability to see what’s all around us: not just society’s—too often—narrow view. JWR