Remember the nineties by getting to know Clyde Peterson.
Portland’s screening of Torrey Pines will be special for you if you choose to go. And why not? It’s a Monday night! Presented by Northwest Film Center at the cozy and acoustically ideal Whitsell Auditorium, it features a live band with Zach Burba, Jacob Jaffe, and Clyde Petersen, performed over a bright, psychedelic stop-motion animated film.
I watched the HD stream in the new THRU screening room and it was an immersive experience, but the band wasn’t performing live for me. Rather, I got the studio-produced version by Seattle recording studio owner and Death Cab for Cutie songwriter Chris Walla.
The three-piece band will play over a partial soundtrack because foley effects would be a huge live production. In fact, the whole soundtrack crew involved 17 folks, including songwriter Kimya Dawson. Sound design was one of my favorite aspects of the film, the way musical instruments replaced non-musical objects. That, plus obscured speech, often illustrated rather than spoken, put me inside an impressionistic artwork and out of my rational mind a little bit.
The film is also challenging. It depicts the filmmaker himself, Clyde Peterson, as a teenage girl in a narrative based on his life. Torrey Pines is actually a California State beach. You are introduced to the protagonist in high school classes where she cannot be at ease, and at home where she is lost in Star Trek, MTV, and pure imagination. She is taken onto a road trip — basically kidnapped by her schizophrenic mother. The film is self-described as a “queer, punk coming-of-age tale.”
Peterson grew up in Seattle, in the nineties, and Torrey Pines was perfectly informed by that experience. It brought me back, although I am a few years younger than Peterson. It was enjoyable to hear music without synthesizers and electro beats — real drummers! It was a reminder of when it was possible to not be tracked by GPS and thus get lost on the road, kidnapping aside.
Peterson’s work is aggressively pretty, diverse, and visionary. It acts like a soothing balm for a story that forces you to confront some demons and to understand someone who has probably been misunderstood for most of his life.
Torrey Pines screens one night only this Monday, December 12, at Whitsell Auditorium. Peterson will be present as the film director, in addition to performing in the band. The experience will not be easily forgotten, or you could say, it is a must-see.