Thursday, October 20, 2005

Montreal New Cinema Festival short film report

The FCMM is going great, selling out screenings and generally making me wish I had more free time to attend. I guess sometimes the good guys win don’t they? Now if only the government would give these competent, successful organizers the money they gave to Simmard’s incompetent and mismanaged team of corporate suck ups (hint! Hint!). Last night, I saw Thomas Vinterberg’s wonderful film Dear Wendy, which I’ll review in detail tomorrow or whenever I have a little extra time on my hands, as well as a series of three short films of varying styles and quality. While these are unlikely to be seen outside the Festival Circuit or compilation DVDs, let’s look at them nonetheless.

Laurie Anderson Hidden Inside Mountains

New York videographer/visual artist/filmmaker Laurie Anderson’s Hidden Inside Mountains felt like it belonged as an exhibit in a museum rather than screened in whole in a theater setting. The project essentially consists of filming various “pretty” installations involving twins and overlapping cliché “zen” poetry over it in English and Japanese. Interesting for a few minutes, the film ultimately goes nowhere and the whole thing felt like something a filmschool student would put out before realizing that this kind of thing really doesn’t have that much of a point. This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate non-narrative art, but this particular work was rather shallow and lacking in innovation reducing it to the level of tiresome narcissism by the artist.

Guy Madden – My dad is 100 years old

Commissioned by Isabella Rossellini for what would have been her father’s 100th birthday, My Dad is 100 years old is a curious blend of Isabella speaking to camera about her father and theatrical representation of her father discussing the state of cinema with some of his contemporaries. My friend noted that the whole thing felt like a cinephile in joke but in director Guy Maddin’s defence, who else in the world is going to go see a short film tribute to Rossellini? Undoubtedly the film’s best moment is the debate between American capitalist producer David O Selsnick, the giant belly of Rossellini, Frederico Felini and the silhouette of Alfred Hitchcock (all played by Isabella). While somewhat insulting towards Hitchchock and content in making Rossellini look as stubborn as a mule, the whole thing’s fun tongue-in-cheek approach had the audience laughing and reflecting which was essentially the film’s point. Also, we learn a very important lesson: everyone likes Charlie Chaplin.

Shinya Tsukamoto - Haze

And now, human pain in C minor. Shinya Tsukamoto’s Haze can only be described as painful. Painful to the protagonist, the spectator and probably painful to many involved. I have never seen as much physical pain represented onscreen in so short a time as I have in Haze. The plot is simple: a man wakes up bleeding and clawing at his grave with no memory of why he’s there. Eventually he realizes that he’s in a tiny tunnel, not a grave and he begins his journey to escape. On his way he’ll face barbed why, spikes, shards, a LOT of blood and hammers to the head. In fact, he’ll face about 40 minutes worth. The film is quite simply exhausting and while recommended for fans of Tsukamoto, anyone and everyone else should abstain as there’s no real reason to see anything this fucked up when you think about it. The film left me with one real question however: What the fuck is wrong with Shinya Tsukamoto?

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