In The Bathtub, filmmaker Dylan Mars Greenberg has placed Bob Bert, the drummer for Sonic Youth (among many other bands), inside a quirky, funny, animated filmscape as he takes a mental tour of life in the big city. Greenberg explained the process of making the film and Bert talks about working on it with Amy Haben. The film will be premiered March 27 at WFMU’s Monty Hall in Jersey City
Get ready for an acid-soaked delight as Bob Bert goes on a psychedelic journey inside his bathtub. Yes, that’s right. This short film by Dylan Mars Greenburg, titled The Bathtub, reminds me a bit of those old Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. The ones where two aliens and one man would insert their own humorous dialogue over a B movie from the 1950’s or 60’s featuring spaceships made out of pots on a string. The good old days when CGI wasn’t even a glimmer in some nerd’s eye. Expensive special effects are somehow less believable than puppets and props to me. Bob and the cast live inside a drawing in some moments, paper mache and animation in other scenes.
Dylan Mars Greenberg described the filmmaking process to me as: “It’s Psychorama! We green screened the actors into real miniature backgrounds and then animated them into action!”
What’s brilliant is, Dylan’s mind is tuned into John Waters—with a dash of Andy Warhol on crack, naturally. This cool weirdo has been creating music videos and short films since she was in high school as well as acting and playing in bands. I first met Dylan on a TV shoot where we were both extras for a goth club scene. Standing outdoors at night waiting for them to film a million takes…which was exhausting. Dylan made me laugh by making hilarious faces and crazy voices. Personally, I’d never met anyone this deliciously quirky and exciting before.
I asked Bob what it was like working with Dylan and he said, “Dylan is wonderful to work with and extremely talented at such a young age! She basically asked me if I would be in her film. I was familiar with her work from the Bunny X, Death Valley Girls, and James Chance videos. I basically showed up and followed direction in front of a big, green screen with a few props, like the bathtub and other actors. It took maybe four hours and then I went to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at Kings Theatre. Then, a few years later, I saw the finished film and was completely mind blown.”
The Bathtub reminds me a bit of a 90’s music video, with its green screen projections and shaky camera angles and zoomed-in lens on some scenes. Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing,” imagery was instantly recalled. Maybe it was just the make-up. A better comparison would be Joe’s Apartment meets Pee Wee’s Playhouse. The wacky adventure sees skunk-mopped Bob walking up to greet his living portraits hanging on the wall, a la Haunted Mansion. Kooky, damaged New Yorkers try to bother him in his building: some to profess their love, some angrily yell at him that he is unwelcome. All the while, Bob casually reads his paper, never looking up, unbothered and de-sensitized to the messy folks around him. To me, it’s very apropos of what is going on in my head most days, a nod to a city dweller’s everyday hullabaloo walking around town.
Eventually, Bob slips out his window on a waterslide via his bathtub in a roller coaster ride through the city’s bridges and streets. Bob’s Charlie Chaplin-esque performance made me smile. A favorite scene is when he is falling dramatically with his arms raised up and flailing, even though he is obviously just standing in place. Two thumbs up to Bob’s first acting gig, as documentaries and music videos don’t count!
An accompanying original song features Bob singing with the band Bewitched. It’s titled, “Neon Angel,” which also happens to be the name of Cheri Currie’s memoir. It’s a groovy tune which is incredibly danceable. Bob’s slick lyrics mention the band the Runaways, “Lena and Joan can be so much fun, but Cheri baby, you’re the one.” Ain’t that the truth.
The accompanying music video was also made by Dylan, which is pretty obvious with its day-glo colors, floating telephone and ascending spaceship ending. My hope is that more intentionally ironic, funny, rule breaking young filmmaker’s viewpoints are brewing and that they have the chutzpah to make themselves seen.
You should check out Bob Bert’s solo work, as well as his work with his other bands: The Wolfmanhattan Project (with Kid Congo Powers and Mick Collins), Sonic Youth and Retrovirus, among others.
*The Bathtub premieres on March 27 at WFMU Monty Hall (43 Montgomery St., Jersey City, 201-521-1416) at 7pm. Bob Bert will be there in person to read from his book, I’m Just The Drummer, which you should buy since this man has not only been in a bunch of great bands but is a true rock n’ roll fan himself having had his own zine once called BBGun, where he interviewed every cool cat around.
*Be sure to also catch Dylan’s feature film: Spirit Riser, featuring Cherie Currie and Michael Madson, which will be coming out soon.