Lifelike (Canada, 2005, Director: Tally Abecassis, 52 minutes): This may very well be the first film ever made about taxidermists. Lifelike takes a whimsical look at the people who make their living stuffing and mounting dead things. It turns out that these are people who take their jobs seriously, but not themselves. Dave can laugh at how he decided to become a taxidermist one day while shopping with his fiancèe at Home Depot. We follow him along with a few other taxidermists as they prepare for the annual Canadian championships in Orillia, giving the film a sort of “Best in Show” feeling.
We also get to meet a few of the customers, including Janie, who is having her beloved Jack Russell terrier freeze-dried, and Benoit, a former big-game hunter with an entire house full of trophies, including a giraffe, a tiger and a lion.
While it’s vaguely interesting to muse on the reasons people want trophies like these, it was more interesting to me to see how taxidermy involves elements of both craftsmanship and artistry, and the film is most compelling when letting us watch these guys work. While the tone is by no means serious, it also doesn’t condescend, and I think the filmmaker hits just the right balance between amusement and respect.