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Tom Waits for No One (1979)

Waits sings on the streets.


John Lamb


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Cast overview:
Tom Waits ... Self (voice)


Waits sings on the streets.

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Did You Know?


This short was created by rotoscope - a process that traces back the live action frame by frame and turns it into animation. The original live action was shot with 5 cameras - 2 high, 2 low and one hand held. The music from "The One That Got Away" blared in the background as Tom Waits sang karaoke style different lyrics on each take. Two strippers, 6 takes and 13 hours of video footage were edited to make a 5 1/2 minute live action short which we turned into animation. A total of 5,500 frames were caricatured and then re-drawn, inked and painted by hand onto celluloid acetate to produce this film. See more »


Tom Waits: You lose some... You win some...
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The One That Got Away
Written and Performed by Tom Waits
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User Reviews

absolutely sublime time capsule- now available online!
17 September 2007 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

While the song that Tom Waits performs in this little animated short- done in a style somewhat reminiscent of Bakshi's rotoscoping ala American Pop (however far more cool and, unlike what Bakshi offered, a jazz tune)- may not be as outstanding as the stuff he presented on albums like Rain Dogs and Mule Variations, for his Nighthawks/Heart of Saturday Night period it's one of his very best. You can feel the sense of poetry and the sweet, cool and slightly sullen side to the 70s Waits in the song, and the animation brings it out tenfold, opening with a lonely saxophone and Waits out in on a street at night in his inimitable style of movement.

The song that plays is "The One That Got Away", which is more of a riffing song lyrically, as if one could imagine him having recorded the song in-between the best drinks in the world, next to the hottest woman in the dive. In actuality (as the you-tube page which now plays the short states), it was performed live and then animated over in 1978, as a kind of burlesque (or as erotic Waits can get) tale of lust was played out with a dancer in a long silk dress and great black hair, soon stripping down. It ends in a freeze frame of Waits under a streetlight, abandoned by the temptress, and in a state that could be comparable to many a song Waits performed at the time: tales of the night, of booze-laden encounters, love or lust lost, and yet always done in a mood that's so cool you'd swear the old jazz gods like Davis and Coltrane were shaking their fists in envy.

As any kind of Tom Waits fan, even if not as heavily into the jazz stuff as his more 'what-in-the-hell-was-that-it-was-awesome' period of the past twenty-five years, it's a must-see.

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Release Date:

1979 (USA) See more »

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