Monday, 16 June 2008

Worldwide Short Film Festival - Love & Sex

Imagine sifting through thousands of short films...

They're from different countries, of different languages, styles, genres, tone and length. You manage to trim the field down to a couple of hundred after finding the nuggets and the personal favourites you want to share. Now you need to figure out how to present them - how do you package them up into digestable 90 minute screenings for the public?

Considering all that, I can pretty much forgive the programmers at the Worldwide Short Film Festival if perhaps not all the entries in two of Wednesday nights themed programs quite fit exactly - the screenings I've attended have felt more like a random sampling of short films touching every type. Nothing wrong with that though.

Wednesday night's two groupings were called Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me (termed "valentines to the mad things we do for love") and Slap and Tickle (called a "naughty line up of sexy shorts"). With less time to introduce characters, build a story and get your point across, a short film director must make certain decisions within that limitation. Should you sharpen the focus of your film? Use certain filmic conventions as short hand? Use stereotypes where necessary? A decidedly mixed bag (yet overall an entertaining one) saw a wide variety of approaches to answering those questions. Here's a random sampling across those two screenings:

  • Closer - An artistic black and white exploration of two naked human bodies wrapped together in rather personal activities. I say 'artistic' because occasionally you weren't really sure what you were looking at...Though complete with a soundtrack of moans and other noises as well as interesting angles and tight shots, it was all very...dull. It never felt sexy, erotic or tantalizing. Perhaps it was those extreme close-ups of those nostrils.
  • Teenage Girl - Perhaps a little long at 17 minutes, but this story of a man obsessed with a teenage girl and how it overcomes him is quite effective. It's a fine example of how film can stage and get across the feelings of someone in certain circumstances or frames of mind.
  • Cursing Hanley - A welcome comedic break from the drama, Hanley has real rough day after being cursed by his ex when he breaks off their wedding plans. Some gags work better than others, but it was consistently amusing. As one of the later shorts proved (in the "Slap and Tickle" group), comedy is difficult to do and can be downright awful when done poorly. The filmmakers in this case seem to have built their comedic skills well.
  • Sigh - My favourite of the group. A great Fats Waller song is the backdrop for some dancing in the aisles of the supermarket between a lonely stock clerk and a lovely young shopper. Some fun choreography and lots of energy by the two leads.
  • Chainsaw - How do a tree cutter, a rodeo bull, a Spanish bullfighter, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner all tie together in a single 20 minute story? I'm not sure they completely do, but there's a number of layers at work in this rotoscope animation tale of a man, his chainsaw and a broken heart. Kinda disturbing too...
  • A Day In The Life Of Richard - What would your life be like if you were a 6 foot penis? Likely not much different than Richard's. A straight arrow of a guy who walks tall and keeps his head up, Richard is used to being treated a bit differently, but still likes to hang with the boys. But will he ever find the perfect mate? This animated tale attempts to find out.
  • Size Matters - Horrible. Just horrible. Taking the premise of a young woman with the world's largest female sex organ, the film makers seem to be desperate to show that they could write for Sex And The City or some other clever adult style comedy. Well they can't. The script is filled with unfunny lines, the acting is weak, the timing is terrible and the editing makes it worse (by dragging scenes out and missing opportunities). Raunchy can certainly be funny and the idea has potential, but if it goes wrong it comes across as juvenile.

  • T-Sex and Daddy, Where Does Chocolate Milk Come From? - Two separate shorts by filmmaker Wade Vroom - both essentially pencil drawings - that are "in and out" and waste no time in grabbing you and delivering the joke. T-Sex has a stick figure couple showing their love to each other (in many different creative manners) while a large Dinosaur tries to get their attention. The second one is exactly what you think it is - a short 30 second demonstration of why a cow may produce chocolate milk.
  • Souvenir - Films that hold their single joke until an end payoff are also tricky business. But when you have great production values, strong performances and good characters you've set the stage for yourself quite nicely. And that's what this film about a young woman's successful quest for sex does. Even the tiny 10 second roles are well cast and done. So by the time the title of the film comes into play, you've been enjoying the story and the delivered payoff is timed perfectly.
  • Bill - Though helped by some good performances (particularly by co-lead Janey Varney and a supporting turn by SNL's Rachel Dratch), this story of a young couple obsessed with the relationship with their friend Bill is a bit overlong (the longest film of the fest that I saw - 32 minutes) and uneven in its comedy. There's some great moments mixed with a few awkward stretched out scenes.

    Note: I had initially mistakenly stated that the terrific Jane Lynch was also in "Bill". Fortunately Producer Neil Evans of "Bill" corrected me - Lynch was in another of the night's films "Love Is Love". I don't know what the hell I was thinking. Apologies.


Vroom said...

I really enjoyed your reviews. I would say that you hit the nail on the head for the entire slap n tickle program. Thanks for mentioning my short flicks.


Wade Vroom

Bob Turnbull said...

Hi Wade. Thanks so much for the comment and kind words...

I happened to catch "$4 Haircut" at Hot Docs and thought that was pretty terrific as well.

I can't wait for your film about Tripod the Cat! B-)

Neil Evans said...

Thanks for the quick correction and for the review.

I agree, can't wait for the Tripod the Cat was good meeting you last week!