Rotterdam 2024 Review: SLIDE, A Musical Western Satire By Bill Plympton
Bill Plympton's latest is very typical of the man's style, so that's good news if you're a fan.
In it we see a mysterious guitar player arrive in Sourdough Creek, a small town with lumberjacks, fishermen, and a local saloon-slash-whorehouse where the town's mayor resides. This mayor, Jeb, is corrupt and rotten to the core. Together with his brother Zeke he tyrannically abuses his authority and kills anyone who stands in his way, including guitar players who play 'slow music'. This does mean the mysterious guitar player immediately gets a job upon arrival, and in the business heart of the town, no less.
Jeb's latest plan is to get rid of the fishing area, build a lake with a dam and a resort, rent the place out to a large movie studio, and rake in the money. Construction of the resort is slow though, with revolts by the fishermen and a monster in the forests nearby. Also, there suddenly is a mysterious masked hero called Slide, who with his guitar music can bend bullets out of his way, and he's on the side of the fishermen.
In that short write-up you can see the western tropes piling up already, and Bill Plympton is clearly having fun here. The opening sequence is fantastic, and there are flourishes of genius sparkle throughout. There is an extended scene of a drunk man falling of his bar stool in extreme slow-motion, complete with music and hallucinations, and it is an almost epic short in itself. But for the remainder, the big question is: how big a fan are you of Bill Plympton's work? The man is obviously doing what he likes here, but while his sketchy style is fun to watch for ten minutes, for a full feature it starts to grate for some people. Some friends of mine got restless and were fed up with it after an hour.
Looking at the film's poster, you know what you're in for and storywise you can connect all dots probably from the start. The fun is in how Bill Plympton shows that, and how crazy his mind works sometimes. That approach is a boon for some, exhausting for others. Me, I liked it a lot, and while the film is not the biggest of crowdpleasers, on average the Rotterdam audiences liked it a lot too, giving it a 3.6 rating out of 5.