Herman By Trade
Herman’s humdrum, solitary life as a bigcity street-cleaner includes one secret: he has the ability to completely transform his appearance and, as “Bruce,” he strides out into the city streets at night. What for is unclear, but people shrink from him and dogs bark at him as he passes. He also keeps up a running narration on what he is doing, reinforcing the artificiality. One night Bruce is there when enigmatic film auteur Mio issues a casting call for performers for her new film.
The queues are endless and the auditions go on for days; Herman’s job, the rest of his life and the city’s activities (seen as passing tableaus) all fall by the wayside. He eventually wins a part in the film but the outcome is not what anyone expected.
Chris W. Kim’s elusive, thought-provoking story offers no easy answers, or even clearcut questions. His ethereal, scritchy-scratchy art leaves characters ambiguous. Herman’s ability is unsettling, as is his eagerness to sacrifice all to his ambition, but is he to blame or is he a victim of a hollow film industry that supplants talent with “illusions” and squanders the most magical of abilities? As art clashes with reality, identity with illusion, creative expression with creative control, we’re left to make the moral choices that no-one in the story is willing to face. Alex Summersby
A kind of art meets a kind of life, head-on.