I found myself at the Lyons Arcade in Colorado in the company of Robb Sherwin and Dayna Rich, two people I’d met in person just earlier that day. Robb had been interviewed for Get Lamp, and the two of them had impulsively come along with me on my next stop, to interview the owner of Lyons about his project of love that has borne some amazing fruit.Â That whole day, which ended up in a French restaurant with my third interviewee of the day, Paul O’Brian, is one of the highlights of the whole production.
In the arcade, the owner had a number of items for sale and I always make an effort to buy what I can when faced with neat stuff, especially stuff that I find particularly hand-made or low-run. And what he had was a stack ofÂ DVDs called “PinPin”.
I bought a couple of these DVDs (I believe PinPin #3 and PinPin #4) and went off to the other interview and the excellent dining experience and eventually back home.
This has turned out to be one of those impulsive purchases of mine that has paid off a hundred-fold.
Some people have the Marx Brothers, or Mel Brooks, or recordings of comedians that, no matter how many times they watch or listen to them, still get joy and laughter out of them. That’s how it is for me and PinPin.
Here’s the setup: PinPin is a set of completely non-sequitur documentaries showing snowboarding, Jackass-like stunts, music videos, trailer parks, Rubik’s cubes, and pinball.
And, well… that’s pretty much it. There’s no overarching plot or theme or lesson – it’s just shot after shot of people from a Colorado-based community (although some of the shooting has taken place in New York City, California Extreme events, and Chicago) and all mixed together in an insane washing machine.
I was reminded of my relationship with these documentaries (there’s 8 of them in the series, although only 4 of them are on DVD) when I had a friend over at the hacker space I hang out in. We have a nice big projection screen and can run off a PC, and while waiting for other people to show up, I popped in PinPin. My friend was horrified/amused, but I was just laughing away, clapping for joy at shot after shot.
It’s hard even to describe why I find these so hilarious, so let’s save some time and send you right along to the site. It immediately blasts music at you, by the way.
Imagine someone, like myself, says “you have to check this place out”. You know I’ve got my own place, and so you think “well, it’s going to be more like that” and as soon as you walk into the place, someone hits you with a giant inflatable chicken. Then they set themselves on fire. Then they announce the water-slide is open and everyone, carrying full buckets of gin and vodka, start jumping headfirst down a slide that goes into a kiddy-pool. Well, it’s kind of like that.
There’s a review on the back of the videotape for The Wizard of Speed and Time (my all-time favorite film) that says, roughly, “There is more joy in one minute of The Wizard of Speed and Time than all of the Star Wars films put together.” I will paraphrase this and say There is more documentary feel and wonder in one minute of the PinPin films than in most major documentaries. Here’s why.
The free-form feel is incredible. There’s almost no sense of meaning behind what gets shown, other than fleeting themes of a single person’s exploits happening for a few minutes. Occasionally a stunt or event will be split up into multiple chunks across other shots of the same person, like when one fellow snowboards down the multiple rooftops of a condo development. You aren’t sure he’s going to do it, and then he fails, and then you see him try again, and then he succeeds. You might see someone eating food strangely, then see them fall headfirst into a trash can. Maybe you’ll see someone driving like an idiot in the middle of summer, then a shot of them falling over in snow. Add in cases where the footage is grabbed off TV, grabbed from local news stations, grabbed from all manner of video equipment, locations, quality.. and it just never gets slow for me. While the meaning of the overarching movie might be vague, the way they cut to the chase, and have a hell of a lot of chase to cut to, always blows me away when I watch it.
It’s so easy to get hung up on the quality of the footage when you’re making a film. You obsess over every angle, every placement of lights, how the focus racks from the eyes of your hero to the background of someone walking in. You time everything as best you can, take multiple shots of the exact same setup, wrench the life out of a scene to get it technically perfect. This does not happen in PinPin. Shots are fuzzy, hand-held, shot at night or out of trucks or into the sun and I just don’t care. I have such a great time watching these lives, these trailer-living, pinball-playing, play-acting and fucked up wonders, I just go off the deep end watching it. It keeps me sane about the whole thing. I choose to do the films the way I do. I don’t have to. It cuts a lot of pressure off, believe me.
Now, maybe you’re going to mosey over there, and maybe you’re not. Maybe you’ll see these films and wonder what the fuck I see in them that’s so great, or maybe you’ll be laughing right there with me. Either way, I bet you have some film, some wondrous thing that transports you to another place when you’re watching it, every single time. Take a shot at enjoying mine.
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