Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Lesley Chronicles – A Re-Post

Don't watch this if you're easily alarmed...
Lesley the Pony Has an A+ Day!
Lesley the Pony goes on a fun-filled adventure through the town of Merryville while making lasting memories with his friend, The Duke.

Winner of Best Undergraduate Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival
Film Festival Screenings (2014):
Milano Film Festival
Brno16 Film Festival
New Chitose Airport International Animation Festival
KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival
Cucalorus Film Festival

Watch it
HERE if you dare...

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Lesley in his trademark Ray-Ban shades

The village of Merryville was rocked by recent horrific events as Lesley S. L. Pony, a well-known and liked diminutive equine attacked and killed the Duke of Merryville, set fire to the Duke’s personal chambers and then threw himself into the flames.

A local elf told reporters, “I can’t believe it!  Lesley seemed like such a happy pony.  How could anyone prance like that and then do, you know, what he did?”

The unidentified elf went on to say, “He used to tickle us.  He was good with little babies.  He even gave the tulips, special, individual attention.”  Breaking into sobs, the elf said, “It was all that Duke’s fault!  Leslie was a good pony!"

On the day previous to the tragedy, Lesley was known to have visited the Duke at his castle.  A guard, who asked not to be identified, said, “Yeah, I saw ‘im.  He came mincing up the stairs on his way to meet the Duke.  But ‘e didn’t stay long.  He looked like ‘eed been cryin’ when ee left.  An all the prance was gone out of ‘im too.  Ee shuffled right past the comely maids and strapping lads.  Ee never even looked at ‘em.”

The Duke of Merryville

One comely maid was said to have told her friends.  “He didn’t eat any of his macaroons that day.  We made some ‘specially nice ones and he just went on by without so much as tasting one.  I always liked Lesley.  He was so, entertaining, you know.  He would tickle the elves.  They loved that.”  She paused, obviously deeply affected by the tragedy.  “But he didn’t have much color sense.  Well, he was a pony.  I don’t think they can even see colors.” 

The spokesman for a host of happy monkeys at the castle gave this statement to the press:
“Yeah, I wasn’t surprised that he lost it. He’d been having haunting dreams for years.  Sometimes he’d mutter bits about a Dark Lord.  He was a cutter, Lesley was.  Not many knew that, what with all the prancing and the wet, chubby babies, and the turquoise trappings.  I always knew something was wrong.  But who listens to a monkey, eh?”

The castle of Merryville is a silent place these days.  The once beautiful tulips along the approach to the castle are naked stems, their heads bitten off.  And there are rumors of a missing elf.  Damage to the castle was estimated in the millions.  The Duchess declined to see the press, but a hint of a forthcoming divorce was offered by a strapping lad.

All in all, Merryville is nowadays anything but.  And Lesley, the silly little pony from Merryville, flounces down the road, forelock tossing, no more.

This is GG Banner, from Banner News.

As any regular reader of this blog will know, I have for some time been fascinated by a short film called Lesley the Pony Has an A+ Day!
Though I typically refer to “Lesley” as weird, (and to be sure, it is weird), there is more to Lesley than what a cursory glance would reveal.  The pony has hidden depths. 

When we first see Lesley he appears as we would expect.  We have been given to believe that he is a creation of “Mr. Matuk’s 4th grade Film Studies class.”  The jaunty pink pony bounces along to a cheerful electronic ditty which has him “flouncing down the highway Merryville…on his way to meet the Duke.” 

Lesley is pink with a purple mane and tail.  He wears turquoise trappings “a la carousel,” and tosses his mane and forelock back and forth with each step.  He wears no bridle, but instead sports a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer shades.*  We know from this that Lesley, for all his frou-frou trappings and candy-colored coat, is a rebel.

Not, most emphatically not Lesley.  Pony by aikarin.

Leslie continues strutting toward the castle Merryville, accompanied by “a band of strapping lads and a flock of comely maids,” and greeting waving tulips.  But when Lesley reaches the Duke’s door, things take a turn for the strange.

“You’re late,” are the first words rapped out by the Duke, and things go downhill from there.  We might, from the tone of the first part of the film, have expected the Duke to be a beefy-faced and genial fellow, quaffing a flagon of strawberry soda.  Nope.

At one point Lesley begins to weep, which the Duke has scant patience for.  In a speech worthy of my dear and sainted (not!) mother, “I hold you to a higher standard… you have so much potential… you’re so much more advanced than the others.”  An ominous sound grows in volume as the interview concludes – something between a 60-cycle hum and an evil dial-tone.

After the meeting with the Duke, a dark mood begins to infuse Lesley’s merry little tune, we see him playing video games, singing onstage with a Gibson Flying V and opening presents – all with a troupe of happy monkeys.  But a sinister line creeps in from time to time.  Lesley is characterized as not only as a nibbler of macaroons, but as someone who is “dying on the inside.” 

And it just.  Keeps.  Getting. Worse.

Lesley may still amuse himself  by tickling elves and chasing chubby babies in the rain, but he also suffers from unwilled violent thoughts and "haunting dreams of bathing in royal blood."  And Lesley is a cutter.  He sacrifices to “The Dark Lord.”  His inner turmoil is suddenly and ear-shatteringly exposed as a weltering, twitching mass of something resembling oatmeal and ketchup boiling up at the viewer, scored by black scribbles, and with an assault of screaming heavy-metal, blasting and howling.  Uh-oh…

Lesley, o-oh, Lesley.

The jaunty tune returns after this outburst, but Lesley slowly fades from view, and we see disturbing hints of his further doings.  A tree, from behind which a smiling elf once peeked is now flanked by blood spots and a discarded elf hat.  The once rhythmically bobbing tulips have been bitten down to naked stems, and blood seeps from under a door.


Yes, weird.  And very funny, in a sick sort of way.  But the film haunts me, much as Lesley’s Peckinpah-esque dreams haunted him.  I know people who are like Lesley.  Maybe not as fluffy-bunny cute on the outside and chain-saw massacre on the inside, but edging in that direction.  I’ve had days like that myself. 
Another pastel suburbia with a dark secret - from Edward Scissorhands.

Steven Spielberg understands the juxtaposition between benign, even goofy reality and the horror it sometimes masks.  Poltergeist shows it to us in spades.  Even the film ET has a dark edge to it.  Spielberg has talked about the dark fear and violence that is sometimes hidden by the scrubbed and tidy face of suburbia.  Steven King, too.  The Shining, It and Cujo all show us characters that have two sides, one of which you don’t want to know.

I can’t help but compare The Picture of Dorian Gray  by Oscar Wilde, to Lesley the Pony Has an A+ Day! The two have much in common.  As WIKIPEDIA says…  
“Dorian Gray is the subject of a full-length portrait in oil by Basil Hallward, an artist who is impressed and infatuated by Dorian's beauty; he believes that Dorian’s beauty is responsible for the new mode in his art as a painter. Through Basil, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, and he soon is enthralled by the aristocrat's hedonistic worldview: that beauty and sensual fulfilment are the only things worth pursuing in life.
Understanding that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses the desire to sell his soul, to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade. The wish is granted, and Dorian pursues a libertine life of varied and amoral experiences; all the while his portrait ages and records every soul-corrupting sin. 

The Painting from "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Oscar Wilde said that, in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), three of the characters were reflections of himself: “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry is what the world thinks me: Dorian is what I would like to be — in other ages, perhaps. 

Oscar Wilde

The greatest theme in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) is Aestheticism and its conceptual relation to living a double life. Throughout the story, the narrative presents aestheticism as an absurd abstraction, which disillusions more than it dignifies the concept of Beauty.”
Lesley is a pink pony, a figure every little girl would be delighted with.  He prances.  He tosses his mane.  But what is going on behind those Ray-Bans?  Christian Larrave shows us.  And there are days when it’s more than we bargained for. 

Lesley, Oh, Lesley

 * Wayfarer’s 1952 design was a radically new shape, "a mid-century classic to rival Eames chairs and Cadillac tail fins." According to design critic Stephen Bayley, the "distinctive trapezoidal frame spoke a non-verbal language that hinted at unstable dangerousness, but one nicely tempered by the sturdy arms which, according to the advertising, gave the frames a 'masculine look.'"

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