Talking Pictures

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Archive for the ‘Short films’ Category

Notes from another India.

Posted by keith1942 on August 27, 2017

A Kolkata shanty town – Alamy file.

This was another screening presented by the Pavilion together with the Hyde Park Picture House. In fact, we can look forward to a number of films about the sub-continent and the states created seventy years ago, in 1947, India and Pakistan. As one would expect from the Pavilion these are unconventional film which offer a distinctive take on the sub-continent and its cultures

The programme offered

“three perspectives on Kolkata, a city whose name was anglicised to Calcutta during the British Imperial period, then officially changed to it’s Bengali pronunciation in 2001.”

Tales From Planet Kolkata (UK, 1993, 38 min)

Rochir Joshi is an Indian writer and filmmaker and also authors a columns in ‘The Telegraph’, ‘India Today’ and other publications. He was born in Kolkata and now is an artist in the Diaspora, commuting between London and Delhi.

“In 1993, Ruchir Joshi decided to spoof the Western cinematic notions of the city that he loves.

“My documentary Tales From Planet Kolkata was made to mock the popular perception of the city. I was fed up of everyone telling me about the progression of Mumbai and Delhi while Kolkata, apparently, languished in the backwaters,” says Joshi.” (From ‘Indian Express’: the film was commissioned by Channel 4.

The film is in colour and in the academy ratio. It was projected from a digital source.

The film offers a series of shots and sequences from the city. Some of these offer comments on the history, notably two singers who display traditional scrolls with paintings about events, including the British presence in the city. The soundtrack is quite diverse, some of it is actual sound with voices of the inhabitants. There is a reflective strand in the film as people refer to the earlier western filmmakers who have filmed in the city: notably Louis Malle and Pier Paulo Pasolini. A recurring strand is film of the making of ‘City of Joy’ (1991) which starred Patrick Swayze. These cinematic references are completed with the final imagery of acetate film floating and then sinking in the river.

The cinematography in the film is very well done and it is visually pleasing. The sound, images and metaphors do not completely translate for English viewers [though there are sub-titles] but I suspect that it deliberate.

There were then two films made by Mark LaPore, a USA-based experimental filmmaker and teacher: he died in 2005. The ‘Boston Glove’ obituary included the comment on Lapore’s films as :

”unique, a form of visual anthropology but equally about the mystery of being and film as consciousness. These uncompromising films have enormous integrity and deserve a very important place within the entire history of film.’”

Will Rose in introducing the films pointed out that LaPore’s work was ethnographic but also personal and offered a strong sense of place. I certainly got this sense from the films.

The Glass System (USA, 2000, 20 min)

The film was in black and white, academy ratio and was projected on 16mm. It was a series of shots of the city and its people. There is a thread running through the film but rather tenuous; there is definitely the sense of the personal in the selection of images and sounds. LaPore has a tendency for long takes. The film is mostly in long shot with the camera moving to mid-shots and close-ups, most frequently on people. The camera is most often in “plan américain”, a straight-on shot at mid-height. The sound appears to be predominantly actual including the music.

Mark LaPore on an improvised dolly.

Kolkata (USA, 2005, 35 min – his final film)

This was my favourite of the three titles. It was also filmed in black and white and academy on 16mm. Like The Glass System the film is composed of a series of shots of the city and its people. In this film the emphasis is on the streets, their vendors and shoppers and a street market. At the centre of the film are two remarkably parallel tracks, one reversing the other. Both seem to run for about five minutes as LaPore [and we with him] observe the life of the street. Both tracks are plan américain. The accompanying sound seems mainly actual, though the complex mix of sounds produces an aural tapestry.

And finally there was an excerpt from

Dreams and Apparitions of Mark Lapore (Saul Levine, 2006/7, 12 min)

This film, made after LaPore’s death [by suicide], offers friends and colleagues talking about him and his work.

Here a colleague recounts a minor but telling incident. She was preparing for a film class and checked her bag for her materials, including two cans of Kodak Tri-Pax. After the class she realised that one can was used film. it turned out to be film shot be LaPore before he died. It was filmed in India and focussed on elephants, a particular interest of the filmmaker. So she screened the film for us, [whilst the original was in colour this extract was on black and white video].

You gained a real sense of both a working relationship and a friendship from the film.

This was a really worthwhile set of screenings. It is always pleasure, [rare now] to watch 16mm film prints. The texture and contrast of the films, especially in black and white, is distinct from digital formats. And the films were, to differing degrees, fascinating.

The Pavilion have two more events planned at the Hyde Park Picture House in this series.

And the Independent Cinema Office have a number of titles, really fine films produced in India, circulating over the months of the anniversary.

Advertisements

Posted in Avant-garde film, Documentary, Short films | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Four films by Larry Gottheim

Posted by keith1942 on June 6, 2017

A US presentation on Larry Gottheim

Larry Gottheim is part of the USA avant-garde film movement. His approach is experimental but also fairly subjective. He started on 16mm films in the late 1960s and most of his work has been in this format. His work has been predominantly carried out in New York State. Apart from his film making Larry is also important in US film as the co-founder of the Cinema Department at Binghamton University situated near Ithaca in up-state New York, a pioneer in developing cinema as a form of personal art.

The programme of four films organised by the Pavilion together with the Hyde Park Picture House offered two early films and two films from his later career. Larry himself was there: part of an extended tour in Britain and continental Europe. In his introduction Larry suggested that the tour was providing an opportunity for reflection on his whole body of work which he now saw as an ongoing project.

“not ghosts of the past but very present ..”

He referred to his most recent film, Chants and Dances for Hands (1991 – 2016) produced on digital rather than his usual 16mm, which he felt had given him a fresh perspective on the earlier work,. He expressed a strong interest in time and duration and increasingly on the relationship between image and sound. The Cinema Department at Binghamton University was the first regular undergraduate program in the USA that dealt with cinema as a personal art. Larry maintained his professorship for a time there, teaching film making and aesthetics.

The first film was Corn (1970)in colour and running for eleven minutes and silent. [The projectionist ran the whir of the camera through the sound system].

“Bright green leaves stripped from ears of corn, and later, the vibrant yellow ears placed steaming in the waiting bowl. Each of these actions inaugurates a period in which one contemplates an image whose steady transformation is barely perceptible – the delicate slow movement of light and shadow, the evolution of subtle steam into the film grain.”

This was a static camera shot with the hues and shadows changing as the sunlight imperceptibly diminished. Larry commented about the viewpoint,

“Then the unforeseen reality of lenses and other physical elements entered. Each film resulted from a fusion of what was taking place in front of the camera and the camera’s own contribution. When everything was right I just looked through the viewfinder to see moving images unfold “by themselves,”

There followed Doorway in black and white and running for seven and a half minutes [again with projector whir on the sound system].l

This was a single camera shot, but a pan over a winter landscape. The title seemed to be a metaphor as the shot looked like it was taken through a large window. The bleak landscape was still apart from slight movements by two cows. The image was full of vertical lines, uprights like fences and gnarled like trees and branches. Larry felt this film included several viewpoints, including the landscape and cows who were

“wanting us to see it [and them].”

Larry also referred to the technical aspects, shooting this on a floating-head tripod with decisions about lens and focal length.

The final two films were from later in Larry’s career and exhibited a distinct change in the form and style of his work. In fact they were screened out of sequence, with the earlier film last, presumably because it was the longest. Their dominant features were the preoccupation with sound and vision and the use of montage techniques.

Mnemosyne Mother Of Muses

1986, colour and black and white , 16 minutes.

“A mirrored form in counter-movement, dense with emotion-charged memory – a rapidly sparking dynamism of image and afterimage, swirling resonant words/music, juxtaposing loss, my father’s stroke, Toscanini, Siodmak’s The Killers, the Red Robin Diner… I seem to be quickening.”

The film combines found footage with sequences filmed by Larry. The soundtrack is mainly found audio, though there is possibly some actual audio recordings as well. This is a fairly subjective mix and at times it is tricky to assign meaning. However, overall, apart from the themes identified by Larry, the film seems pre-occupied with experiences of Afro-Americans; their voices appear in the sound footage and their figures can be glimpsed in the very fast montage.

The final film was the final part of a series ‘Elective Affinities’ that Larry started in the 1970s but finished in the 1980s. This was a long film, with forms of montage techniques but at a slower pace than in Mnemosyne. There was a clear preoccupation with the relationship between sound and image. And part of the focus was

“the conflict between the intellectual and the experiential …”

Tree of Knowledge (Elective Affinities, Part IV)

1980, colour and black and white, 16mm, 60 minutes.

“It started with filming the tree. Something was released in that manner of filming seemingly farthest removed from the procedure of the early films. I first thought a simple ordering of this rich material might be enough, something related to Barn Rushes. … But the film only came into its form-life with the idea of linking this deep-rooted and far-outreaching tree material with that film on paranoia that had fascinated me for many years.”

The film opened with a colour sequence filmed in a bar, followed by a very slow dissolve of a black and white image of a tree; the films ended with the reversal of these sequences. In between the film consisted of found footage; a 1950s US documentary for school students and a 1940s documentary about the treatment of paranoiac patients; these were intercut with footage filmed by Larry of scenes of nature but with a hand-held camera using very jerky camera movements. The film at times accompanied the moving images with soundtracks from other sequences.

I liked the opening and closure, and some of the counterpoint between sound and image was interesting. However, Larry constantly replayed sequences from the two documentaries which I thought became tiresome. And the actual footage in the film was difficult to watch as the jerky camera movements were rather like watching a strobe effect. At sixty minutes in length this became something of an ordeal.

It also subverted the presentation as by the end the film we had overrun the timed schedule. So Larry was only able to say thank you and suggest we could follow up informally. There was no time for questions. Given the running time of the combined films was 95 minutes I think that the presentation should have been longer: at least two and half hours. Apart from my different responses to the four films I felt that the selection and order limited our chance to take an overview of Larry’ film work. There is clearly a significant change in his approach to film and in the preoccupations therein at some point in the 1970s. And I am still unclear how this developed.

There are comments by Larry online and notes on interviews he has given. And there are commentaries about his films, though the one’s that I looked at did not address questions of form and style in sufficient depth.

It is important to note that\t Larry Gottheim considers that his recent digital film, still to be seen, proposes a new perspective on his work overall. The Pavilion are hoping to make this available in some form. The aspects of his films that I most enjoyed are precisely those that are best served by the silver halides in actual film. For example, the operation of light in Corn and Doorway, and also to some degree in Mnemosyne. But I should be interested to see how Larry Gottheim works with digital formats.

NB The films are listed as 1.33:1, but I am pretty sure they were all shot on sound stock and on this occasion were masked to 1.371. The 16mm projection was fine. The projectors were actually sited in the cinema balcony and the sound run through a separate sound system and out from the central loudspeaker behind the screen.

All quotations by Larry Gottheim in the presentation or online.

Posted in Avant-garde film, Non-narrative film, Short films, US films | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Where I End & You Begin, UK 2014

Posted by keith1942 on May 31, 2015

 

Lyall's film

This film is in the form of a Cine-Roman: the most famous example being Chris Marker’s La Jetee (1962). The impression is given of a series of stills, thus exposing the basic form of what we call moving pictures. I love this form, both because of its subversive function but also because, when well done, it is poetic, atmospheric and can be immensely stimulating. In some ways it seems to me the cinematic equivalent of the Japanese Haiku, a form of brief poem with a highly conventionalised form.

So this particular example is by a friend of mine, Lyall. It does include a couple of sequences with traditional ‘moving’ images: something that occurs just for a few frames in the Marker film. This film also has a very effective voice-over and sparse but potent music. Lyall is studying music and sound on film.

Definitely worth a visit. If you type the term ‘Cine-riman’ into a search engine, once you get pass the advertising, you can find other examples. One of my other favourites is Despondent Divorcee.

Posted in Short films | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Hands Across the City / Le mani sulla città , Italy 1963

Posted by keith1942 on February 6, 2015

Nottola and cronies.

Nottola and cronies.

Leeds International Film Festival retrospective of his work in 2005. We saw a 35mm print of this film, made in black and white and in the 1.85:1 ratio. As usual the Italian soundtrack was accompanied by onscreen subtitles in English.

Rosi had worked as an assistant with Luchino Visconti and one can see a strong influence by this director and by the Neo-realist movement more generally on Rosi’s films. At the same time there is a strong individual development in the form and style of his films in this period. The preceding film, Salvatore Giuliano (1961), a study of politics, the mafia and corruption in Sicily in the years at the end of World War II, was an amazing experience back in the early 1960s. It combined a documentary style, with dramatic plotting and labyrinthine plot full of ambiguities. This approach was to be mirrored in later films like The Mattei Affair / Il caso Matei (1972) and Illustrious Corpses / Cadaveri eccellenti (1975). Hands Over the City offers a rather different approach: the ending of the film presents something approaching closure and the resolution of the conflicts chartered through the film are quite apparent.

A study edited by Carlo Testa (1996) proffers the term  ‘critical realism’ for Rosi’s films. The approach developed in neo-realism can still clearly be identified, but the use of drama is modified. Rosi’s films have a critical [Marxist] approach in which the distancing [reminiscent of some of the ideas of Brecht] gives a greater emphasis to the political dynamic.

Rosi comes from the city of Naples. And the screenplay was written by Rosi together with his friend and fellow Neapolitan Rafael La Capria together with Enzo Provenzale and Enzo Forcella. The city has provided the focus for several of Rosi’s films and the South is a central issue in his entire output. The South / North divide is a central contradiction in Italian history and has pre-occupied writers and artists, including the in the formidable output of Antonio Gramsci.

The story presented in the film revolves around the political elite in Naples and the question of land. The key character is Eduardo Nottola This was Francesco’s Rosi’s third feature film and one of the films screened in the (Rod Steiger), a property developer but also a council member of the city. The film opens and closes on a development site which Nottola and his associates buy from the city for lucrative developments – ‘today’s gold’ in Nottola’s words. The corruption involved in land dealings becomes a major public issue when construction work in the poor quarter of the city causes the collapse of a Jerry-built block, with injuries and deaths.

Mani collapse

Much of the film is taken up with the manipulations and trafficking on the City Council. Here three groups jostle for power – right, centre and left. Apart from Nottola another key character is a leading left councillor De Vita (Carlo Fermariello), presented fairly sympathetically in the film. The other sympathetic councillor is Balsamo (Angelo D’Allessandro), the head of a hospital and member of the centre grouping. Less sympathetic and clearly prepared to endorse corruption and profiteering is Maglione (Guido Alberti), the leader of the right grouping and Professor De Angeli (Salvo Randone) the leader of the centre grouping.

These members of the city’s ruling class dominate the film. The ordinary working people, objects of the exploitation and oppression appear only occasionally. However the film’s treatment of these episodes is powerful. Right near the beginning of the film we see the collapse of the block of flats – the local people both run for cover and then run to attempt to rescue the injured and bring out the dead. We return to this area later when the council announces a plan to clear the area for development under the disguise of health and safety. The narrow street is filed with banners and the jeering populace. A little later the armed carabinieri back up council officials as the working class residents are forcibly moved. And then at the end of the film, in one of the bravura set pieces often found in Rosi’s film, we survey the city streets on the eve of an election. The camera moves around squares and arcades as the different political factions address, even harangue, crowds at hustings.

Working class opposition

Working class opposition

What is noticeable about the scenes in the working class area is the prominence of women. In the sequence where opposition is voiced to the council plans women dominate the mise en scène. It is they who are in the forefront of agitation whilst the men are much more muted. Rosi’s films tend to focus on worlds dominated by men: in parts a reflection of the social reality of Italy. Strong and central women characters are uncommon, though they do appear, as in his version of Carmen (1984). But they do play a prominent part in the presentation of the working class: notable also in Salvatore Giuliano. Only one woman among the elite receives much attention, Maglione’s lover (Dany Paris). However she is treated rather like a pet and expected to follow him round, and be heard only when he wishes.

The mise en scène in the film is rich in motifs. A recurring scene takes place in Nottola’s high rise offices. One wall is covered in a large-scale map of the city, reflecting his relationship to Naples. One of the later scenes takes place at night and the wide span windows present the darkened city as Nottola paces the room.

The council sequences emphasise the nature of the political traffic in the city. The council chamber is frequently the site of hurly burly argument. But such occasions are constant interrupted as the different groups move to smaller, less public rooms where deals take place. As you might expect from the title ‘hands’ are also a recurring motif.

The Council Chamber

The Council Chamber

Rosi’s film relies on a dynamic camera. The cinematographer is Gianni Di Venanzo, who worked on Rosi’s first five films. The film is full of sequence shots and at times the camera dashes towards events, at other times [as in Nottola’s office at night] it prowls round a character. The collapse of the block of flats is a bravura moment in the film. Rosi and Venanzo filmed an actual demolition, using a number of cameras to record the event. The sequence shots in the night of hustings late in the film has a similarly impressive quality.

The music by Piero Piccione is interesting. For much of the time the rhythm and tonal quality is reminiscent of films dealing with criminality. One sequence that accompanied the machinations of the councillors reminded me strongly of the compositions of Bernard Hermann.

The cast presents this world of machinations and cover-ups very effectively. Rosi himself recruited Steiger for the main part. His rather different style make shim stand out in the councillors world. He is a maverick, yet dangerously effective. Other characters like Maglione and De Angeli seem as if taken from the writings of Machiavelli. Carlo Fermariello, playing Da De Vita, was actually a real-life councillor now playing his fictional counterpart. This mixing of the professional and non-professional performers is a recurring constant in Rosi’s films. And he and his production team are able to effectively weave these styles together. So several times we switch from the murky world of the council, predominantly professional performers, to the more dynamic world of the street, predominantly non-professional performers.

Thematically the film deals with the corruption of the political class. One assumes that whilst the film is fictional Italian audiences would easily draw parallels with the actual political events in Naples and in the wider Italy. The film uses the non-de plumes of ‘right’, centre’ and ‘left’, though some reviews identify actual: parties such as the Christian Democrats. This may be clearer in the original Italian than in the English sub-titles. What is clear is that when the film depicts the church it is the dominant Catholic institution in  Italy. Religious leaders are not that prominent in the film, but they are always noticeable at points of public endorsement. Thus an opening ceremony for a development includes the blessing by a bishop or archbishop. Interestingly at one point De Angeli proudly shows off his art collection to Balsamo: these include not only two religious paintings but also an actual altarpiece installed in a side-room.

The film was successful in Italy, though reviews often took contrary positions. The article by Manuela Gieri (Hands Over the City: cinema as political indictment and social commitment: also 1996) quotes two examples:

Gian Luigi Rondi in the daily Il Tempo:

No, no no. Don’t come and tell me this is how one should make movies. This is neither cinema nor healthy polemic; it is a political speech, an electoral harangue ….

Whilst Ugo Casiraghi in L`Unita:

A wonderful film, Rosi has authored his most mature work. … It is a film essay with the clarity of a limpid and documented social study.

Of course, the responses are more to do with the political; values of the reviewers than their review of filmic qualities. But in a way that speaks to the effectiveness of the film: its project is clearly delivered. The film won The Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival that year. Like all of Rosi’s films it successfully straddles the popular and the art film – It is engrossing and at times exciting whilst also providing the viewer with stimulation and challenges.

Poet of Civic Courage The Films of Francisco Rosi, edited by Carlo Testa, Flicks Books 1996.

Posted in Italian Film, Short films | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Early short films by Sally Potter

Posted by keith1942 on April 3, 2014

Thriller

Thriller

This was the opening event in a full retrospective of this filmmaker at the Bradford International Film Festival. The films varied in length between 2 minutes and 32 minutes and were filmed on various formats, including 8mm and 16mm. The Festival included a quote by Potter in a 1998 interview:

“Sally outlined the questions she implicitly considered in these early films: ‘what is film space and film time? What is the frame?” However watching the films I was also struck by a focus on bodies and movement – a preoccupation that explains why, though she says she always wanted to become a filmmaker, she also studied dance and ballet.

The programme consisted of five films. The three shortest are clearly early experiments in the medium of film. The other two are more substantial explorations of narrative worlds. The London Story (1986, colour 15 minutes) seemed to me to be a nicely produced but essentially lightweight spy story. In fact, it was the only one of the film funded by a public body, the BFI. I rather thought that said something about film funding in them UK.

Thriller (1979, black and white, 32 minutes) was a much more substantial work and really impressive in its linking of themes and style. There are two major strands in the film: the first is a series of still photographs of a performance of Puccini’s opera La Bohème in Italy in the 1930s. This accompanied by a recording of an opera performance in London in the 1950s. The second strand combined a drama and dance rendering of the opera’s plot. The setting is some sort of attic room. The performers are in contemporary dress. And the lead performer, re-enacting Mimi, is a young Afro-Caribbean woman. In the course of this we hear Bernard Herrmann’s accompaniment to the shower sequence in Psycho (1960) several times on the soundtrack. Towards the end we also hear a commentative voice that asks questions about the drama.

One question poses what would be the effect if Musidora rather than Mimi was the protagonist in the drama? This pursued only briefly. The main question suggests that Mimi’s death could be murder – hence the use of Herrmann’s score. This raises a much larger question given the predilection of modern melodrama to present the woman as victim, and therefore as an object rather than a subject.

Like much of Potter’s work the film is full of what seem to be deliberate references to cinema and to other arts. She appears to have a taste for references to Surrealism. I discerned hints of Luis Buñuel, Marcel Duchamp and Rene Magritte. I found the film both enthralling and stimulating. It also seems to illuminate preoccupations that recur in Potter’s later work. There is certainly a recurring address of issues found in Feminist theory and practice. And there is a continuing interest in what is called intertexuality – the way that cinema, and other arts, intertwine their meanings and motifs.

 

Posted in auteurs, Festivals, Short films | Leave a Comment »

Callum

Posted by keith1942 on May 2, 2012

UK 2011. Director: Michael van der Put. Colour, 14 minutes

This was another film featured in the Bradford Film Festival New Shorts. Callum is a teenage school student whose girlfriend Joanna has been killed at a local train station, Honor Oak Park. The setting is London though I think the station name is fictitious. The film shows up Callum’s grief over the incident, using a fairly intricate set of cuts between the present and flashbacks to the night of the incident. However, Callum is also caught in a moral bind and subject to violent pressure from a group of young men who were involved. So the film charts his grief but also his struggle to face up to responsibility.

The film clearly aims to deal with the topical issue of London teen gangs. It draws a fairly stark contrast between the uniform clothed school students and the far more informally dressed gang members. Both school and gang are multi-racial; this is about the teen world and its separation from the world of adults. The contrast is emphasised by the brief cameo of Callum’s father, depicted as authoritarian and unsympathetic. The local woman police constable is a far more empathetic character.

The camera work and editing is well done and maintains a definite rhythm. However, the narrative does become rather predictable. The gang in particular is rather stereotypical and the resolution is fairly obvious before we reach it.

Posted in British films, Short films | Leave a Comment »

663114

Posted by keith1942 on May 2, 2012

Director: Isamu Hirabayashi, 2011. 7 minutes.

This is a delightful Japanese animation: a format in which this film industry excels. It is very simple, both in its draftmanship and its story. A voice-over explains the events. The English titles are centre screen and I wondered if the original version had the beautiful Japanese script here.

It tells of the cicada which every 60 years climbs up a tree, sheds its shell, lays an offspring and dies. This particular year floods and eruptions threaten the cicada. Will it survive and reproduce. Then the end credits roll?

The film reopens as at the beginning, but now a cicada intent on climbing higher and higher has heard that when it was born there was a great tsunami and earthquake. The voice-over now includes multiple voices. It would seem the cicadas have survived and multiplied. We are told ‘I love this country’. Enigmatic but clearly a metaphor for the year of its production, 2011. 

Screened in the New Short section at Bradford International Film Festival.

Posted in Animation, Short films | Leave a Comment »

Le Passage

Posted by keith1942 on May 1, 2012

 

France 2011 1.66:1 in colour and Panavision.

Director Fabien Montagner.

This is a ghost story, beautifully filmed. It is set on October 29th 1989, [I rather suspect the date is significant]. An elderly man sets the table in an old-fashioned dining room. He calls upstairs where young woman reclines reading and listening to her MP3 player. It is only the barking of the family collie that makes her aware of mealtime.

The first course is soup. The grandfather remembers that it was a favourite of the girl’s grandmother, and remarks that she is very like her. It becomes clear that there is an absent father and that the young woman resents the situation.

Abruptly she volunteers to take the dog, Max, for a walk. He soon runs off and she chases him in to a disused rail siding. An old man [possibly Jewish] appears and points to a disused carriage where Max is presumably chasing rabbits. The carriage is full of cobwebs and detritus. The girl emerges on the far side in a parallel to the way that opens Lewes Carroll’s classic Alice. She enters a wood where the past and the present intertwine. The past is set during the war time occupation and one other character that she meets in the past is [inevitably] her grandmother.

After this ghostly adventure the girl returns home with Max to find an open photo album and a photograph of the dead grandmother. The film ends with an embrace between grandfather and granddaughter.

The closure of the film is not really a surprise but the evocation of the past is beautifully done. The wood changes from dappled sunshine to a more threatening misty and damp territory. The wide screen camera catches the changing hues and colours in the contrasting settings. The music varies from low cellos and vibraphone too much higher violin and a piano. And the bird songs change from chirppy twitters to more threatening squawks. The whole 18 minutes is absorbing and remarkably effective. The cast, including Totem as Max, performs very well.

One totally separate pleasure was the opening credits of the production Datasat, which is a brief but delightful pastiche of Spielberg’s Close Encounters.

Posted in Festivals, French film, Short films | 1 Comment »

Shrapnel

Posted by keith1942 on April 27, 2012

The young woman on the train.

UK 2010, colour, 12 minutes.

Written and directed by Robert March.

This was a very effective entry in the Bradford International Film Festival New Shorts, one of the pleasures of Festivals rarely enjoyed in regular cinema. My Collins English Dictionary defines the title word as ‘a projectile containing a number of small pellets or bullets exploded before impact’. My colloquial sense of its common usage is that we refer to the fragments left in the body of a victim of such a projectile. This seems to be the sense in which the filmmakers are using the word. The main protagonist is a veteran of the 1991 Gulf war and is clearly psychologically scarred by that experience. Essentially we see him in two situations, first at his work on the railways, either in a dim and dank cabin or on the tracks and sidings where he labours. The second is on an electric train [in West Yorkshire] where he strikes up a conversation with a young woman.

Their conversation opens up memories and traumas and also raises an intriguingly powerful question. In keeping with contemporary narratives this remains unresolved, though we do learn in a voice-over of the traumas and their effects on the man and his lost family.

There is a stark contrast between the atmospheric camera work in the dark and eerie rail sidings and the brash daylight of the rail carriage. This produces a slightly noir effect suitable to the downbeat situation. The daytime shots are in shallow focus, mainly due, I think, to digital photography. But this enables the intended close focus on the older man and the younger woman.

The Festival Catalogue suggested that the ending of the film forces the protagonist to ‘face the biggest decision of his life.’ My reading of the film was that his situation has already pre-empted any such decision: a sense reinforced by a very specific last action and shot. It was this sense that made the film such a suitable companion to the feature that afternoon, Alan Clarke’s Scum (1979).

 

 

Posted in Festivals, Short films | Leave a Comment »

The Secret Friend

Posted by keith1942 on April 1, 2011

Screened in the short film programme at the Bradford Interntional Film Festival, 2011.

USA 2010, colour, 15 minutes.

Director: Flavio Alves Brazil.

 

This is one of the short films that are screened throughout the Festival. And it managed to be original and delightful viewing. It was filmed in New York and shot on 35mm, so it looks good.

The central character is Anna Marshall, adjusting to life after the death of her husband. The film opens with a visit from a sympathetic neighbour, who is, however, taken up with other things than a grieving widow. So, alone at home, Anna receives a mysterious phone call, the only audible sound is breathing at the other end of the line. The call occurs at 3.30 p.m. And, sure enough, more calls follow, nearly always at 3.30 p.m. At first irritated, Anna becomes increasingly intrigued by the wordless caller and start herself to fill the silence. The development of this unusual premise is delightful and the film is both funny and positive about Anna’s situation. It would be a shame to disclose the climax but it reveals unexpected resilience from Anna.

 

Posted in Festivals, Short films | Leave a Comment »