directed by Brett Ingram
by Walter Chaw Monster Road details the life and process of underground claymation hero Bruce Bickford, best known for a pair of collaborations with underground music hero Frank Zappa. Knowing that the work itself is the best entrée into the mind of the artist, director Brett Ingram uses a great deal of invaluable footage from Bickford's archives to lend balance to his subject's obsessive, somewhat dismal existence in his cramped basement studios. The tragic fate of Bickford's brother and the failing capacities of his father (who lives in an even more obsessive-compulsive environment than Bruce's, if such a thing is possible), whom Bruce visits often throughout the piece, find subtle life in the animator's miniature epics of consummation and cleavage. His is a process of desiring absorption and requiring separation--instincts at odds with one another, creating in the art this sense of tense, anxious, constantly-redistributed energy. Ingram's picture doesn't break any new ground in the documentary field, but it does what it does with clear, workmanlike precision. Monster Road shines a light into a corner unexamined with no little poignancy besides, and if by the end we're a little edified if essentially unchanged, there must be a place for that, too. Originally published: October 17, 2004.