‘Maenad’ mtvU pick of the week

Ben Raymond

Nearly 100 films have been submitted to mtvU’s “Best Film on Campus” Web site. Some are good. Some are bad. All provide a glimpse into the filmmaker’s future.

Many show promise. Others need to get their heads out of the clouds or out of their butts-or both. And then there are those who are truly gifted, who stand head and shoulders above the rest. One such talent is NYU junior Pamela Liou, director of “Maenad,” my inaugural selection for the “Best Film on Campus” Film of the Week.

Here’s my review:

Too many student films are too much like too many others. Young filmmakers often have a fear of newness and instead try to make a movie that feels or looks like one of their personal favorites. They often put more energy into making a film they think their peers will like than into creating a work they themselves will be proud of.

The foil to this phenomenon is the daring, no-excuses student auteur, the young filmmaker who is as intrepid as he or she is creative.

Few student directors fit this profile better than Liou.

Liou’s film is so fresh and inventive, so beautifully photographed, that it is difficult to look away. Half stop-motion animation, half live action-part romance, part comedy- part progressive, part pensive; and 100 percent outstanding, “Maenad” is an exemplar of great and courageous student cinema.

“Maenad” has little in the way of plot. And this is one of its strengths. Instead of relying solely on a been-there-done-that storyline, it draws the viewer’s attention to unadulterated imagination and artistry.

The film’s animation is absolutely stunning. Interlaced between and among the live-action story, the animation serves not as an appendage of the film but rather as its core. Shadowy cinematography, dynamic lensing and artful modeling contribute to the film’s masterful penchant for the imaginative.

Written, directed, animated, photographed and built by Liou (who also stars), “Maenad” is obviously an intensely personal project. She even scores the film with a beautiful, wildly idiosyncratic original song written by her friend Julie Sokolow – who should be celebrated in and of herself. Beginning to end, top to bottom, “Maenad” is a showcase of Pamela’s burgeoning cinematic talent.

Young filmmakers can learn a lot from her movie. Creativity and no-holds-barred daring trump all other filmic philosophies: Make a movie no one has seen before. If it reminds you of another film, it isn’t wholly yours.

“Maenad” belongs entirely to Liou. Any resemblance to other works is limited to a similarity in quality, not in vision.

Be entertained. Be inspired. Watch “Maenad.”

To see Liou’s film, go to www.bestfilmoncampus.com.