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Monday, 12 June 2017

Sydney Film Festival (15) - MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA (Dash Shaw, USA). Reviewed by Barrie Pattison

Probably the most rewarding thing about My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is that it never lets you work out how to relate to it - touching, grotesque, funny or dreadful. Is it sending itself up or does it want you to reconsider your own
relationship history?

There’s kind of one of those my years in (American) high school plots about the nerdy kids who write these autobiographies. They are at the bottom of the pyramid where the Jocks lord it at the summit. But that’s got conflagrated with The Poseidon Adventure and laid out in ‘Scope animation that is simultaneously naive and sophisticated - bold colours, 3D free textures that seem independent of outline, abstract sequences, of which one showing drowning is particularly challenging.

Comic strip artist-director Dash Shaw can be equated to the character voiced by Jason Schwartzman. He has just moved up to sophomore and cured his eczema only to find he’s still a bottom feeder. He expresses his concerns by trashing his friend (voiced by James Corden’s band leader) in the Tides High School giveaway paper that they edit with the girl (Maya Rudolph) who has become an item with his friend.

Dash is called in by the Principal and given a damning comment on his permanent record. He attempts to retrieve the report from the school archive, finding calisthenics team star Mary (Lena Dunham) in there looking for her confiscated cell ‘phone. They turn up a document saying that the school is built on a fault line and sure enough the ocean invades it, meaning the new alliance kids have to clamber up through its levels to the roof which also represents graduation, despite killer sharks, tribal seniors, fire and explosion. Only Lunch Lady Loraine (Susan Sarandon) supports their race for life.

Mary finds she is violating the caste rules of her cool friends as the social order changes. Dash is limited by his lack of fitness. You could add in his immature writing style (“I like turgid prose”) constructing a novel out of their near death experiences as they go. One Cool Girl facing death pleads “I’ll invite you to my next party!” The junkie students covet the contents of the infirmary and the water level rises in the library. There's a lift well full of dead kids. A piece of the most attractive imagery shows the cross section of the characters’ lungs draining of oxygen as the water closes over them.


After watching this, multiplex movies come across as unchallenging.

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