American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Chris Sullivan's “Consuming Spirits” is a slice-of-life film like you have not seen. It is the story of people in a small ordinary town, knowing nothing but their ordinary affairs, revealing their sins and crimes with an ordinary negligence. More than that, it is an animated film loaded with faded, despairing colors. Filmed over ten years, it features multiple techniques, including drawings, collages, models, and stop-motion.
At times, the images are flat, invoking vivid curiosity. At times, they take us through haunting three-dimensional scenes filled with wrinkles and crevices where youth once sprang. It's all part of the evocative, depressing portrayal of a decaying village whose prime resides only in the faint memories of its fading elders.
This is Magguson. It is the opposite of television's Mayberry. In Mayberry, they whistle; in Magguson, they groan. The town is built around a factory of large diagonal pipes belching out caustic smoke. The American landscape is peppered with such factory centers, manufacturing the household wares for the world. Once, such towns were the symbols of growth and optimism. Now they are clanking rust centers, waiting to for abandonment.
The voice of Magguson's conscience is the radio host Earl Grey (voiced by Robert Levy). He runs a call-in talk show, answering questions about almost anything, from life to planting, though he tends to shift conversations toward pornography. His grandfatherly voice provides a comfort for the town's inhabitants. That is, until he confesses to a horrible crime of depravity. His revelation does not provide a sense of relief, as though he had been holding this secret within him, waiting to free himself from the burden of guilt. Rather, he confesses almost as a way of seeking attention. This is a town of listeners disconnected from each other, burdened not by memories of vile misconduct as much by the distance of loneliness.