The Pub

Joseph Pierce completes his rotoscope trilogy in masterful, macabre style, writes Gaia Meucci.

Gaia Meucci

Web exclusive

After a deservedly long festival run, British filmmaker Joseph Pierce’s The Pub has recently been made available online, giving a wider audience the opportunity to discover the last instalment of the rotoscope trilogy Pierce began in 2008 with his debut short Stand Up and continued in 2009 with A Family Portrait (both also available online at the filmmaker’s homepage).

Through a laborious process that involves drawing over printouts of live-action footage, Pierce surreally and playfully exaggerates his characters’ traits to reveal their often repressed undertones. After his shift to colour with Family Portrait to dissect the bottled-up emotions and underlying tensions of a family unit during an awkward photo session, The Pub returns to the stark monochrome of Stand Up to provide another insight into British culture over the course of a day at a London local, as seen through the eyes of Kemi, a foreign barmaid.

As a wild carousel of customers incessantly drifts in and out of her sight, they and the pub begin to transform in Kemi’s eyes into a nightmarish zoo populated by intrusive and hostile creatures: trunks growing out of eyes and ears, faces morphing into animals’ heads, a drunken customer’s tongue stretching across the counter like a predator’s. This time, Pierce’s distinctive, dreamlike, nearly magical animation is imbued with a sombre quality as it unmasks an aggressive, often undignified array of human specimens whilst revealing Kemi’s increasing state of alienation and vulnerability.

Combining a real-life observational eye – the idea came from the time Pierce spent living above the very pub where the short was shot – with the imaginative, liberating flair of the animator, The Pub is a beautifully crafted, acute and entertaining observation of a slice of British culture, and pushes Pierce’s signature style into expressive and technical maturity.

Back to the top

See something different

Subscribe now for exclusive offers and the best of cinema.