Saturday, May 23, 2009

Courts Métrages en Compétition

With my final night of Cannes coming to a close, here are my thoughts on the nine short films presented this afternoon at the Bruñel, as promised.

Each short was fifteen minutes or less, screened one after another, with anywhere from 10-30 seconds between each one in which the house lights were briefly raised. For ease, I will place them here in the order of my most favorite to my least favorite.

But before I do, some overall thoughts. The nine shorts came from all around the world, presenting a combination of genres, techniques, and personalities. However, what I did notice is that many of the films dealt with loss. In three instances, the loss of a parent, whether through divorce or death. Maybe I'm just a sucker, but I was hoping for a few more optimistic pieces, with maybe a love story or just some laughter. There were comedic parts here and there, but honestly, only one out of the bunch really made me joyfully laugh and at the end, smile. And that was my favorite:

1) The Six Dollar Fifty Man - Out of New Zealand comes the story of eight-year old Andy and his belief that he is a superhero. Real life bullies attempt to scare him out of his make-believe world, but in the end, the viewer is treated to nourishment rather than punishment as sometimes the world isn't nearly as dark as it seems. A real joy that covers a wide range of emotions and fantastic acting from young Oscar Vandy-Connor.

2) L'Homme À La Gordini (The Man in the Blue Gordini) - The only animation in the shorts festival, this piece from France really showcases just where animation can take us when sometimes live action cannot. In this case, an imaginary suburb in which the norm is for everyone to wear only the color orange, and get this, only wear shirts (no pants.) So the animation is more than happy to show off the lower half of all subjects in an attempt to make it seem even more absurd when a masked hero appears to start giving out BLUE PANTS, bringing about rebellion and revolution!

3) Rumbo A Peor (Worstward Ho) - From Barcelona comes this short film without any dialogue. Would it have benefitted with some? No, I don't think so. The story is simple enough. Two men outfitted in football-tricot travel awkwardly together through what seems like a swamp. They act like two nervous animals, who then come upon a beautiful woman at a crossroads. At first, they are shy, but soon, they warm up to her and insist that she join them. It's simple, sweet, and although I admit that I don't entirely understand it, I think it's worth seeing. It feels like the setup to a really good joke, but without the punchline. Maybe LIFE is the punchline. Huh.

4) Missen (Missing) - Out of the Netherlands comes the story of a mother and her 7-year old daugther. From the opening shot, we can see that the daughter is the true caretaker in this relationship, although on this day, her mother insists that she take her to school. What follows is a heartwarming look at a single parent relationship, strongly expressed through the intimacy of the camera work. What I liked about this film is that it didn't try to be more than what it was, and I can appreciate that.

5) After Tomorrow - The only psychological suspense piece of the festival builds the tension well, starting off with the main character seemingly trapped, screaming "Help me!" Although most will mention the "twist" ending, I thought it was touching and worked well whether or not you can see it coming (which I did not.) Produced by Wilder Films in London, the film is the story of James, a man who has returned to the village to see his estranged wife, but finds himself locked in by the sinister owner of the house he's staying at.

6) Klussums (Silence) - From Latvia comes the most experimental film of the bunch, loosely telling the story of why there should be silence in a museum. The opening shot is incredible, featuring a woman as she walks away from the camera up a suburban street, somehow setting off car alarm after car alarm as she continues to do nothing more than step one foot in front of the other. The continuous one shot cranes up, capturing the whole mess as people exit from their homes and apartments to see what is what. The rest of the film doesn't quite live up to this image for me, but does have some fine sound design.

7) Arena - A moment in the life of Mauro, a man under house arrest who tattooes from his apartment for money. When he is confronted by a group of kids who look to rob him, he is forced to either find retribution by becoming that which is he trying to escape, or rather, by putting himself above it all. Paced strangely, the point of this film isn't so much the details, but the choices we all make. Didn't really do it for me.

8) Lars og Peter (Lars and Peter) - There wasn't a whole lot of subtley to this film from Denmark, really looking to establish and then break down the innocent 9-year-old Lars. He looks to bring his family together, but the loss of his mother drives his father to drinking and violence, while his brother, Peter, shows no real signs of life. Both boys begin imitating their father, and in the end, no one is happy. Especially me.

9) Ciao Mama - As much as I'd like to say that I find something redeeming in this Croation film about a daughter who attempts everything she can think of to keep her mother from abandoning her, I really can't. Again, this feels like a short that wanted to be so much more, and thus the action and dialogue seem forced. I don't like any of the characters, and the cinema verité camera work that is meant to illicit a more lifelike response from the audience only drives you mad when you can't see what's actually going on in the frame.

And that about does it! I don't know if anyone here will ever actually see any of these shorts, but the first two are definitely worth your time, with the next few worth seeing if you find them to be somewhat up your alley.

Although I'm leaving first thing in the morning, I wish I could somehow see the reprise of "Inglorious Bastards" at 9AM, but it looks like I may have to wait until August like everyone else. Thanks for reading.

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