Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Discover the everlasting in Tim Grabham & Jasper Sharp's doc, THE CREEPING GARDEN

One of the most information-packed documentaries imaginable -- on a subject about which most of us know next to nothing -- THE CREEPING GARDEN will introduce you to a substance/life form/entity that may indeed give you the creeps. Except that it is fascinating enough to easily outweigh that creepiness. TrustMovies has long heard that at the end of civilization as we've known it, only the cockroaches will still be alive and kicking. After seeing this particular documentary, I'll place my bet on slime mold.

The product of two born documentarians, Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp (pictured above, with Mr. Sharp on the left), the movie -- which begins and ends with a newscast from the 1970s featuring what looks like a "Blob" alert -- quickly turns into a fascinating study of both slime molds and the folk who study them.

These would include a handful of scientists, both professional and amateur. But, as one of them points out, the word amateur derives from the Latin word to love, and it's more than clear how much these scientists, whatever their rank, love the molds. Not too long into this fungus-fest, you may wonder how it is that slime molds have not taken over the world by now. Rest easy, blob-fearers, for on the basis of what we learn here, they're not particularly pro-active in that regard. 

In fact, as one scientist notes, it is not clear whether the molds are actually smart or simply "appear" that way. In any case, they can solve maze puzzles faster than most people I know, and slime mold networks actually mimic transportation patterns and road networks in Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

As scientifically smart and interesting as the documentary is, it's also a treat visually, offering some splendidly creepy time-lapse photography. (The musical score by Jim O'Rourke is pretty special, too, befitting its subject quite well.)

One of the most telling segments involves an experiment in which scientists track how humans compare to slime molds in terms of their navigation and cooperation skills. We also learn about sonification -- the sound production of slime mods, that offer up differing audios when they're happy or panicked (the latter occurs when food source and humidity level drastically lessen.)

Robotics and slime molds, mushroom spores as survivors, and the hibernation process -- all this and more wend their way through this funny, informative, delightful film. And music? Well, let's just say that it may indeed have charms to soothe the (not too) savage slime.

Still, as one scientist points out toward the conclusion of the documentary, slime mold behavior is not really behavior. It consists of "mechanistic responses to environmental stimuli." In fact "If slime molds were eliminated from the planet, we might not even notice."

You can catch this wonderful little 81-minute movie -- from Cinema Iloobia and Ryan Bruce Levey Film Distribution -- at New York City's Film Forum (where else?!), beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, September 30, for a one-week run. 

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