Whether Liz Blazer’s short documentary “Backseat Bingo” (2004) became animated by choice or accident is a matter of trivial pursuit, but what is important and certain is that it lends a refreshing lens to the genre of recording the life stories of real people. Running a mere five minutes and five seconds in length, “Backseat Bingo” includes interview snippets of elderly members of Blazer’s community. With frankness, pep, and—yes—the wisdom of old age, cartoon versions of Sunga Greisman-Reuben, David Bialobroda, Evelyn Swardlow, William Enenstein, Lou Bernoff, and Ruth Cooper talk about sex, romance, comfort, companionship, and mortality.
The first image we see is of David and Evelyn sitting on a couch. He’s wearing a short-sleeved, blue button-down shirt, a white t-shirt underneath, and suspenders. He has no hair on his head but he has a moustache. His wife is seated to his left. She wears a 60s styled sleeveless, lime-green dress patterned with flowers. Her hair has a lavender hue. The first words from Mr. Bialobroda’s mouth consist of a couple of chuckles and “The most romantic thing is the moment when I ask her, ‘do you want to go to bed with me?’.” She declined his initial invitation. If spoken by the live-action forms of David and Evelyn, you wouldn’t necessarily feel unsettled but the cartoon versions somehow make the statement cuter—infinitely more “aw”-inducing. A few words from Sunga bring “Backseat Bingo” to a close. Radiating ebullient insouciance, she argues that if it’s okay for men to have one-night stands then women should have the same pleasure.
Perhaps the idea and the actual watching of people old enough to be your grandparents fondly talking about sex is disconcerting, but animated likenesses discussing the connection between sex and staying young is humorous and even endearing. These caricatures have a limited range of motion and are very two-dimensional, yet they have a spark. Their facial expressions are not very varied, but you can still decipher the meaning in the subtleness of a shrug, a smirk, and a slow wink. Photographs of what the interviewed subjects look like in real life roll during the ending credits. They may not be identical to their animated counterparts, but “Backseat Bingo” captures their spirit. The subject of sex is easier to take and the articulation of outliving one’s own friends resounds profoundly.