In a straightforward parody, one can usually identify the films, directorial style, or narrative scenarios receiving the good-spirited ridicule. Kasia Kowalczyk’s short film “The Bread Squeezer,” however, is not so easy to ‘deconstruct.’ Shot on 16 mm Kodak film stock, Kowalczyk’s quirky comedy is arguably as much a self-conscious parody as it is a mélange of pop-cultural and folkloric imagery.
“The Bread Squeezer” wastes no time in establishing the premise: Andrew loves his mommy (Sara Falkenburg) a lot and probably thinks his dad (Nathan Mobley) is equally swell. Yuletide festivities are cut tragically short as an accident with a Christmas tree sends mommy, and subsequently daddy, to a much happier place. Andrew is taken in by anal retentive Aunt Gertrude (Mary Lynn Owen), and he grows up to be what any parent-less child would become: either a criminal or an eccentric recluse.
The remainder of the nineteen minute-long film deals with how and why Andrew develops a fetish for Yummy Tummy Bread—clearly referencing Freudian elements that could be taken seriously (or not)—that turns him into a quasi-wanted man by the general store owner. Along with the main character’s relationship with a certain brand of bread, the pseudo-Dr. Seuss narration adds to the film’s overall atmospheric peculiarity. The words don’t exactly rhyme, though you keep thinking they do (or will), which creates a subtle tension between believing and not believing you know what will happen next.
As “The Bread Squeezer” comes to a close, the question of aesthetic and narrative influences returns and whether or not these inspirations are celebrated, mocked, or both. Kowalczyk’s short incorporates a visual touch of Target commercials, a smidgen of Herschell Gordon-Lewis minus the gouts of blood, and a bite of “Big Fish” (Tim Burton, 2003). If American tall-tale icons do not object, “The Bread Squeezer” could comfortably sit amongst Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyon, John Henry, and Pecos Bill, figures of an American oral and literary tradition that desperately need revitalization.