The Worldwide Short Film Festival opened last night and runs until Sunday, and staffers Ken Hunt and Jonathan Goldsbie have taken a look at some of this year’s offerings. Jonathan gives his take on Official Selection 9: Fashion Victims and Ken gives his on Slap N’ Tickle and the Midnight Mania programme after the jump.
Slap ‘N’ Tickle
BY KEN HUNT
Despite the title of this series, there’s nothing too naughty about any of the films in Slap ‘N’ Tickle and the very best ones don’t even try too hard to be funny. All of these short films have their charms, but a real standout is Ken Wardrop’s three-minute documentary Scoring, which explores the sex life of a quadriplegic man. It is an amazing exploration of the erotic potential of doing nothing more than kissing.
Hombre Kabuki, from American Leo Age, has a surprising amount of honesty and believability to it, especially considering that it involves a man getting his lover to wear a Mexican wrestling mask. Christopher Johnson’s The Game has a group of four friends and lovers playing a board game and is a great set piece.
Canada is represented by three films, including Guy Maddin’s Nude Caboose. David Alpay stars in Anniversary Present, which looks great and has very slick production values, but we don’t quite buy the set-up or the payoff. The last Canadian entry, Strip Show, pits an internet stripper against an insurance telemarketer and is perhaps the weakest film of the series.
Incomplete, a UK short, explores every man’s secret fear: waking up to find that your penis has disappeared. The best scenes here are in the support group for those living without a penis. The character actors in Mebollix, an Irish film dealing with a man’s fear of his impending vasectomy, are something to behold. You want comedy? Put three guys in a pub and have them talk about the old snip-snip. Gold, Jerry, GOLD! But the funniest film is Duncan Beedie’s animated short, The Making of Gladiator, which will undoubtedly have a long and happy life on YouTube, if the censors don’t keep it off.
Rowlandson Rides Again takes the erotic art of 18th century caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson and brings it to life with animation and rhyme. 41 Seconds has two German guys making out for, well, we assume, 41 seconds. We didn’t time it.
It’s disappointing that in this series of short films on the subject of sex there is only one entry from a female director. Nina Bradley’s Sucking is a Fine Quality in Women and Vacuum Cleaners a slick and funny film about a love triangle plus a vacuum cleaner. The only complaint we have is that the ending comes too quickly and unexpectedly. Of course, in a number of ways, that makes perfect sense.
(Slap ‘N’ Tickle plays the Innis Town Hall, Friday June 15, 11:59 pm and Saturday June 16, 11:59 pm.)
Official Selection 9: Fashion Victims
BY JONATHAN GOLDSBIE
Official Selection 9: Fashion Victims features nine Canadian and International shorts vaguely connected bythe broadest definition of “fashion.”
Handmade is a technically dazzling Brazilian/Spanish experimental film that may or may not be about a sweater. It’s confusing, to be sure, but also beautiful and strangely compelling. Bomb is a Columbia grad project that’s alternately subtle and bursting with quirkiness, it’s like the filmic equivalent of a short story with densely-layered symbolism. Dada Dum is the avant garde, postfeminist version of Spider-Man 3, with a creeping black ooze overtaking and possessing a woman who proceeds to writhe her way through an art gallery.
Mondo Condo, made by Torontoist co-founding editor Sarah Lazarovic, is easily the highlight of this bunch. An animated documentary about the condo boom in Toronto, it’s NFB-ish in every way (except that it isn’t actually an NFB film), paying homage to Norman McLaren, Ryan Larkin, and countless others in that tradition. With its incorporation of Active 18 and the struggle over the Queen West Triangle, expect to see this excellent film shown at fundraisers for decades to come.
Kaden is the third short doc on FTM transsexuals that Torontoist has seen in as many months, but it’s insightful enough to remain consistently fascinating. See You At Home spends 22 minutes telling us what we already know: Germans are kinky. One Or Two Things, also German, is a touching reminiscence of a woman’s childhood relationship with her mother.
The Dance Lesson is a very funny single-take affair that manages to evoke both Bob Wiseman and Claire Denis. To explain this French gem any further would be to give away the jokes. The Mallorys Go Black Market is an inventively-directed yet utterly baffling story of three New York girls who have a scheme to sell vintage 80s clothing on the Russian black market by presenting them as the hottest new items.
(Official Selection 9: Fashion Victims plays at the Cumberland on Thursday June 14th, 4:00 p.m. and Saturday June 16th, 7:15 p.m.)
BY KEN HUNT
Audiences are not shocked or creeped out as easily as they once were, but that hasn’t stopped the filmmakers featured in Midnight Mania from trying. This year’s Midnight Mania program is divided into two evenings, Creepy and Freaky. Creepy has more traditionally filmed approaches to scary cinema, while the Freaky program strays into weirder territory.
The two best films on this evening both come from Spain. Gabe Ibánez’s film Máquina is a tribute to Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man, but with a feminist turn. A young woman is attacked and when she wakes up she finds that her vagina has become a carburetor. The visuals in this short are amazing. David Alcade’s Happy Birthday 2 You stars Laura Dominguez as a social worker obsessed with a troubled young boy. This film really takes its time to build tension and pays off very well.
Canada’s contribution to the evening, Demonology of Desire, is from Rodrigo Gudino and it’s a very good short film that brings to mind Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures. This film is darker and weirder than Jackson’s film, though. While we didn’t quite buy into the premise 100 per cent, we were certainly impressed by the acting and directing. Angel, from Belguim, looks like it was lit by a single, and very dirty, 60 watt light bulb. It’s certainly creepy, but it is also a little predictable. On the other hand, Far Out, from American Phil Mucci, is a fun depiction of a 70’s swinger’s party. When the blood starts to gush, it’s very unexpected.
Nouvel Ordre, from Switzerland, depicts six different vignettes of hopeless people as the world is coming to an end, slowly. The cinematography is good, but the whole “this is a series of creepy unconnected images” thing has been done to death (har-har). Beasts, an animated short from the Netherlands, feels like it belongs more with the program on the Freaky evening. It’s fun. Well, at least as much fun as watching the heads pop off of various kinds of animals can be.
The most satisfying film in this program is Death to the Tinman, written and directed by Ray Tintori, who presents himself here as a cross between Wes Anderson and Tim Burton, with a little Sam Raimi thrown in.
The fully animated films are terrific. Rabbit, from the UK, turns a children’s wordbook into a crazy nightmare. Dog Days from France’s Geoffroy de Crécy is a stunning bit of animation, though it probably runs a little too long and Darren Price’s Potapych: The Bear Who Loved Vodka is sad, funny and visually stunning. Bows and Arrows, from the UK’s Stephen Irwin, is the darkest of the fully animated tales.
Silence is Golden from Chris Shephard does a fabulous job of combining fantasy and reality as a young boy both torments and dreams about his noisy, crazy neighbour.
Spain provides us with two of the evening’s weirdest films. The Intergalactic Adventures of Jaime de Funes and Arancha, poses one of nature’s most interesting questions (“If men and women are so complimentary, why don’t men have two holes in their chest?”) while it’s heroes battle space monsters and evil henchmen. Avant Pétalos Grillados is the strangest film in an evening of strange films, a surrealist fantasy involving hypnotized actors, aliens, and a blind theatre group. Close on the weirdness scale is a little number from Germany called Homework. In two brief minutes, a couple reverse engineers a chicken. That’s the closest we can come to describing it.
There are also two short anti-smoking PSAs during the program: Park and Rec Room. These feature creepy articulated dolls putting things in their mouths that they really should not be putting in there. Not sure how effective these are as anti-smoking messages, but it certainly makes the case for not eating hairballs.
(Midnight Mania: Creepy plays at the Cumberland, Friday June 15, 11:59 pm; Midnight Mania: Freaky freaky plays at the Cumberland, Saturday June 16, 11:59 pm.)