I can’t tell you what’s weirder, this film or the fact that Michael Cera sat next to me as I watched it. There are about 8.5 million people living in New York City and Michael Cera just happens to go to the same showing I went to, yet somehow, albeit surreal, that makes more sense than the spontaneity of Dash Shaw’s brilliantly wild metaphorical vision of what it takes to go through High School. Maybe we didn’t have to battle sharks or jellyfish in order to graduate, but dealing with bullies and seniors sure felt like it at times.
In a stroke of genius or pure insanity, Dash Shaw throws every high school archetype together and throws them in psychedelic melting pot, resulting in what feels like the outcome of a collision between John Hughes and Stan Brakhage. Never had I ever put those two directors together in my mind, but I guess I’m still under the bewildering effect of Dash Shaw’s My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. I want to describe Shaw’s project as best I can but simply cannot, the film’s originality is beyond a brief description, surely I can summarize the plot except its not really relevant to the film, its almost as if the plot itself is a McGuffin for Shaw’s greater intentions. Its got a metaphorical veil to it, but Shaw is so blunt about it that I really wouldn’t call it a metaphor and because of Shaw’s decision to do so he avoids all the trappings of a film mining symbolism, allowing him to be all the more silly. But even that sounds wrong, the film is silly at times such as when a lacrosse jockey uses q-tips as a drug, put its also underlined with a cleverness only Dash Shaw could inject into something as ludicrous as this. I’ve got it!, it’s as if Wes Anderson directed Rushmore on acid, just how awesome does that sound.
When talking about the film, Dash Shaw has been quoted complaining about how the vast amount of animated films that are released yearly all look alike and how his film serves as an antidote to that dilemma. Well, I can say he succeeded with flying colors because I’ve never seen anything like this movie. The colors are constantly shifting, the film will bounce back between telling a story and meandering on a DMT trip, videos of water act as the background to watercolored collages and among all the madness, the lines of black markers seem to be the only thing that act in conformity with logic. I simply could not take my eyes off the screen neon greens shifted into bright reds that were swept away by watercolors, Dash Shaw’s visual style is transfixing. His ever-changing visuals give the film the sense that it’s ever-evolving which in itself ties together perfectly with the fact that our protagonists are moving towards change.
As far as animation is concerned, I now champion Dash Shaw as the man who will help transform this form of filmmaking into something unexpectedly marvelous (which is saying a lot considering we’re living in a world where Anomalisa, The Tale of Princess Kaguya and Rick & Morty all coexist). My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is beautiful dream transferred onto film, equally parts hilarious as it is smart, High School soars in its originality whilst disregarding logic altogether, just like seeing a pig fly, its a marvelous thing of dreams.