Pulling the strings

On Friday night, your cultural palette will have a few options. As always, there will be bars and pubs swimming with smoke, alcohol and the elusive possibility of sex. You’ll also be bombarded by at least five choices of action/romance/comedy summer schlock, which will likely drive you back home to the television. But on Friday night, you’ll also have the chance to see puppets on 16mm film, and the change might just do you some good.

Premiering at the Stride Gallery and featuring live music by tokyosexwhale-a name that begs more questions than it answers-Red Smarteez’ tangly wood finally offers that shot of puppetry and artistic angst you didn’t even realize you were craving.

Make no mistake, tangly wood will not revive memories of the foam characters that taught you how to read and instilled in you the value of alphabetic sponsorship. Instead it is a largely serious film that follows the life of a dumpster-ridden puppet named Loupé whose artwork is a reflection of her past frustrations with a stifling mother.

In fact, Friday’s exhibition at the Stride Gallery is a direct tie-in that links the fictitious world of a two-foot-tall artist attached to strings to the real world in which nearly all children have felt, at one time, two feet tall and defiant. Alongside the 13-minute film that chronicles her life, LoupĂ©’s work is on display, large as life.

Red Smarteez-Alberta College of Art and Design alumnus Pete Stinson and Brenda Whiteman-are a team familiar with the art of puppetry. Having been involved with marionettes since 1992, following a call in Prague to "follow the way of the marionette," they have since taken to the road, most recently presenting their shows "Story of Goat Mountain" and "Taxi Troubles" at the Canmore Children’s Festival. Despite their experience with puppetry however, tangly wood is their most ambitious project.

"This was the first big thing that we’ve done," says Stinson, director and co-writer/puppeteer. "We’ve done a lot of things on Super-8 but this is the first time, for instance, that we’ve actually had synched-up sound."

While the idea for tangly wood had been "kicking around" for years, it was only through organizations such as the Canadian Foundation for the Arts that the 16mm marionette was able to appear at all.

"It’s all about art," says Stinson. "And I suppose we’ll just have to wait to see what happens."

Knock on wood.

tangly wood premieres on Fri., May 23 at the Stride Gallery. The film screens both at 7:30 and 9:00.

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