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last update 8.Jun.18
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
|R E V I E W S B Y R I C H C L I N E
The fine folk at TLA have assembled three short films about threesomes here. Although it's a little out of balance, as the title film is basically a brief feature, and it has a depth and complexity that are missing from the other two, much shorter shorts. Still, at least all of them are looking at an issue that's becoming increasingly important, especially for gay men who are already living outside what is considered traditional. It's always good to talk.
release UK 23.Apr.18 • 18/UK TLA 1h12 15 themes, language, sexuality • 1/9.Apr.18
dir Joris van den Berg
scr Bastiaan Tichler
with Wieger Windhorst, Kevin Hassing, Felix Meyer, Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing, Job Raaijmakers, Bruno Prent
Almost a short feature, this bright, relaxed Dutch film explores the repercussions from a houseguest who overstays his welcome. It's sharply written with an attention to detail that sharply brings out the characters. And it's directed with a sunny visual approach that makes the most of the handsome young cast. It's set in Amsterdam, where Pepijn and Sjors (Windhorst and Hassing) are a cheerful couple talking about places they've always wanted to visit on a long-planned round-the-world trip. Then Sjors invites his friend Cas (Meyer) to stay on their sofa for a few days, which extends as he looks for a place to live. Since Pepijn works at home, he begins to befriend Cas, although feelings of jealousy and attraction distract him from his upcoming deadlines. Meanwhile, their trip is delayed again, and Pepijn is waiting for the right time to ask his friend Mia (Wong-Loi-Sing) to be a surrogate mother for them. The film is produced to a high standard with an excellent cast, creating warm and natural chemistry between them even when the plot drifts toward melodrama. So when the main storyline takes the expected turn it doesn't feel forced. Along the way, the film touches on some deeper relationship issues between these two men. And where it goes is surprisingly thoughtful and moving.
1.Apr.18 • BFI FLARE
dir-scr Reid Waterer
with Enzo Nova, Daniel Lipshutz, Dylan Wayne Lawrence, Colin Van Wye
Shot in black and white, this offbeat comedy begins with a frankly ludicrous opening sequence before settling into a heavily scripted discussion. Thankfully, the characters and topic are intriguing enough to hold the interest. It opens on the morning after, as best pals Danny and Brent (Nova and Lipshutz) wake up in bed together with blurry memories of the night before. Indeed, there's a third man in the bed with them, their friend Jared (Lawrence). What follows is an agonised discussion about what this means, although the conversation feels overwritten and contrived ("I bet this has totally ruined our friendship" or "I need you two as friends, not exes who hate me"). Colour flashbacks reveal a leather guy (Van Wye) egging them on, but it's unclear why they wouldn't remember everything clearly, as they're not that drunk. In other words, the whole thing feels rather contrived. And the discussion of whether they should be friends or lovers goes around in silly circles that only get genuinely meaningful when they move on to issues like the importance of social acceptance. But the script never digs beneath the surface. At least the good-looking actors have some fun playing these guys who simply make things a lot more difficult than they need to.
dir-scr Matt Guerin
with Trevor Ketcheson, Rob Salerno, Michael Went
There's a loose, likeable tone to this short, although it also feels generic as it spins in circles over its short running time. It's basically just a set-up, as Nate (Ketcheson) arrives home from work to his boyfriend Alan (Salerno) cooking dinner. They've arranged for Malik (Went) to come around later for their first threesome, but Nate is feeling nervous about it. Alan tries to get him to relax, but nothing seems to be working. Oddly, the film itself feels as nervous as Nate. Because writer-director Guerin refuses to grapple with the feelings that are swirling around, this becomes merely a series of scenes in which Nate whinges and Alan cajoles, while Malik waits unseen. Some depth and honesty would have made it much more involving. Still, it's cute and funny, even as it remains superficial right to the end.
|R E V I E W S B Y R I C H C L I N E
Sundance Short Film Tour 2018
The organisers brought seven films from the main festival in January to Sundance London in June, combining a variety of genres and three award winners. This programme also travels around cinemas in North America. Seen on the big screen at Picturehouse Central, 1.Jun.18
dir-scr Anna Margaret Hollyman
with Anna Margaret Hollyman, Megan Ferguson, Nico Evers-Swindell, Nathalie Holmes, Heather Kafka, Paul Soileau
|There's a brittle comical tone to this short that adds to a darker undercurrent of emotion, and perhaps a little menace. It's a very clever concoction that keeps us smiling even as it depicts something rather transgressive. Writer-director Hollyman stars as Teeny, a young woman who meets up with old friend Priscilla (Ferguson), whom she doesn't know very well, to babysit her infant daughter. Teeny can't help but see that Priscilla has a much better life than she has, with a beautiful house and handsome husband (Evers-Swindell). Although she can't bring herself to call the baby by its name, Celery. So as the day progresses, Teeny takes the baby out for a walk, letting people think they are mother and child. And she gets a little too caught up in this fantasy. The film sharply captures that sense of someone who wants to be a parent, and then gets the chance to see how nice it feels. Details are skilfully shot and observed with a wry sense of humour that's sometimes broad and camp and at other times darkly edgy. The sting in the tale is a little obvious, but very funny.
dir-scr Kamau Bilal
with Ismaeel Bilal, Wahdeedah Bilal, Saleem Bilal
|This documentary short is rather on the nose, and perhaps too close to the filmmaker to properly grapple with the themes it raises. But it has a warm, earthy tone and is very well shot and edited. Filmmaker Bilal points the camera at his 23-year-old brother Ismaeel, the youngest of four siblings, who has just left the city and moved back in with their parents in Missouri. He's a bit of a dork, loafing around the house, breaking glasses, crashing the car and falling off the roof (he tries to jump off again to boost his confidence and breaks his foot). All three older brothers are settled with busy lives. And his parents just sigh at his irresponsible behaviour; dad also gets very angry, while mom thinks he should give him a break. The obvious thing Ismaeel hasn't yet realised is that he can't be a teenager forever. The director shapes this material into a careful narrative that nicely catches Ishmaeel's carefree personality as he begins to understand the need to grow up. A more uneven texture might have given it a stronger kick.
|The Burden Min Börda
dir-scr Niki Lindroth von Bahr
voices Sven Bjorklund, Carl Englen, Mattias Fransson, Olof Wretling
|Using stop-motion animation, filmmaker von Bahr creates startlingly imaginative imagery and sound to recount a moving tale about the pressures of modern life. At a road junction in suburban Sweden, a fish receptionist welcomes fish guests to a hotel, and they all sing a song about how lonely they are. In a nearby fast-food joint after closing, the mice who are cleaning up start a similar song and dance about the pain of their aimless lives, as do monkeys in an all-night call centre and dogs stocking shelves in a hyper-market. The theme of their atonal, rather screechy songs is that life is drifting away: "I have my own dreams, and I'm not asking for much. When this burden is lifted, I will have no troubles, aches, sickness, worries...." The deranged visual approach adds an unsettlingly hilarious counterpoint to the grim honesty of the film's themes. And the animation is almost unnervingly detailed, down to the tiniest elements in each set and costume. But it's the way we can identify with these hapless creatures that provides an unexpected emotional kick. Simply brilliant.
dir-scr Miriama Diallo
with Kara Young, Taliah Webster, Madeline Weinstein, Trae Harris, Jermaine Crawford
In the style of a 1950s B-movie horror crossed with 1970s blaxploitation, this comedy is both fiercely clever and utterly ridiculous. It's set in a beauty salon in a black neighbourhood, where the hairdressers and customers are engaged in a sassy conversation when a white woman bangs on the door asking for braids. When they let her in, things get even crazier, as this interloper's zombie-like condition affects them in insidious ways. But more white people are coming. And they're clearly contagious. The pastiche is somewhat obvious, but filmmaker Diallo plays it out in riotously original ways, with a colour-drenched production design and a continual stream of hilarious sight gags, many of which involve elaborate hairdos. The cast is also up for it, providing just the right amount of camp silliness to keep the audience laughing while making the point that all hoes matter.
Sundance Short Film Jury Award: US Fiction
dir-scr Kangmin Kim
|Short and sweet, this Korean animation uses a fiendishly inventive premise and an original visual style to catch the imagination. The story is surreal and odd, which only stirs the audience even further to think about the deeper themes swirling in the premise. It's about a young man who has a large birthmark on his bum, matching the one his dad has. He sees it as his inheritance, and he hates it. So he tries to sand it off, scrubbing and scrubbing until things take a very odd turn. The film is a simple exploration of the idea of legacy and the way one generation is connected to another, whether we like it or not. The animation looks like it was made using textured paper cutouts, with strikingly colourful touches in the character design and the clever way the story plays out. It's thoroughly offbeat, but also endearing and provocative.
dir-scr Jeremy Comte
with Felix Grenier, Alexandre Perreault, Louise Bombardier
Shot and edited with real skill, this mini-epic hinges on an event that's both thrilling and terrifying, pushing the main character into a profoundly emotional place. It opens as two young teens are playing around on an abandoned train. Tyler (Grenier) is shirtless and prickly, Benjamin (Perreault) is more sensitive and curious. In their roughhousing, they tease and challenge each other, competing for the upper hand even as their banter reveals the closeness of their friendship. As they talk about random issues, their adventure moves to an abandoned strip-mine and a bit of horseplay in a mud pit that turns suddenly dangerous. Where the film goes from here is both involving and unnerving, touching on some very big issues like naive youthful immortality and cruelly thoughtless machismo. Writer-director Comte shoots this in a grainy home-movie style that adds a hint of nostalgia, as if this is some sort of chilling coming-of-age memory. And with astonishing performances from each actor, the film carries a powerful emotional wallop.
Sundance Short Film Special Jury Award
dir-scr Alvaro Gago
with Francisca Iglesias Bouzon, Eulogia Chaves, Sara Dios, Pilar Fragua, Ramon Martinez, Marta Resille, Janet Romero, Veronica Teira
A provocative slice of life, it's no wonder that this Spanish short won Sundance's Grand Jury Prize. It's a typically frantic day in the life of Ramona (the terrific Iglesias), a woman who is required to hold her family together whatever it takes. Early in the morning, she heads to work in a mussel-canning factory, where her harsh boss shouts insults all day long. On her breaks she rushes out to order a birthday cake for her granddaughter (her daughter is too hopeless to do this), feed her chickens and cook dinner for her lay-about husband, eating her own sandwich as she rides her bicycle between stops. Her phone is continually ringing, which she must hide from her boss. The day is such a rush that she has had to carefully plan every moment of it, and it's taking a lot out of her. With the quality of a feature film, writer-director Gago keeps the camera close to Ramona, capturing telling details and revealing more about her as the story continues. It's both exhausting and emotionally wrenching to watch her go through this kind of ordeal, which is clearly just a typical day for her. But a brief smile lets us know that she thinks it's worth the effort. Impeccably performed, the film is both haunting and important.
Sundance Short Film Grand Jury Prize
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall