New York Film Festival: A Leaf is the Sea is a Theater

A still from “A Leaf is the Sea is a Theater.”
A still from “A Leaf is the Sea is a Theater.”

Dir. Jonathan Schwartz. 17 minutes.

Jonathan Schwartz’s experimental short combines microscopic leaf-textures with jerkily animated images as from a children’s flipbook. His technique is ostentatiously analog, shooting on grainy, light-leaking film with audio awash in snaps and crackles. You can almost reach out and touch the celluloid.

Twee? Certainly. But “A Leaf is the Sea is a Theater” is still mesmerizing, evoking the sweetly claustrophobic ambience of childhood memory. Audio clips of a naive, ultra-earnest monologue sound the short’s only real false note, introducing an element of unearned seriousness into an otherwise kind of whimsical experience. This is a cruise through the nostalgia for pre-electronic times.