Today saw the second part of the short film competition and a screening of She-Monkeys. though the real stand out for the evening was Las Acacias, a slow-burning road movie that's more about the characters than anything else. As usual, reviews are below.
International Short Film Competition: Part 2
Beach Boy (Dir. Hannes Hirsch) - An overly long sexual awakening story which has little beyond its looks to carry it. Dimi is this film's flaxon haired model and the perved on girl is his brother's girlfriend. He discovers his sexuality in the bland old way cinema purports is standard: sniffing knickers, sneaking into the showers to stare at her, and the somewhat more caring act of buying her an ice cream.
The Builder (Dir. Colin Hickey) - Brought down by the ambitious scope of the story this eight minute film quickly becomes confusing. However, it's interesting to watch and has a few stand out moments. An early shot sees the main character's hair being braided by his mother, later to convey her death, he sits alone with his hair loose. Similar moments of understatement dot the film, hinting that a long form feature would be in safe hands with this director.
The Choice (Dir. Yasin Erik Bagnar) - Using strong colours and tight close shots Bagnar manages to convey a father's growing acceptance of his Daughter's rapidly declining health. Although confusing at times it was an entertaining and intriguing short.
Cold (Dir. Lisa Marie Gamlem) - Snow, rejection, and close ups do not a meaningful film make. Gamlem's film strings scenes of standing in the snow with children talking about a recent party all to little effect. A dull and unimaginative short.
Until Summer Comes (Dir. Pasquale Marino) - Three boys try to convince their teacher to pass their friend, allowing him to enter the next school year with them. The film quickly descends into horror and at times in its brief running time it's genuinely chilling.
The slow ramp up of tension marks this film out from the others on show. Perfectly controlled, Marino manages to turn a warm Italian beach into the scene of a gut chilling drama by gradually cooling the colours of the film.
The Visit (Dir. Mina Mazzini) - This darkly comic short is bold in its cruel story, a disenfranchised son abuses his senile father by repeatedly telling him his other son is dead. The main reason it stands out amongst its company is that it's the only short film on offer today to be humorous.
Dir. Pablo Giorgelli, Argentina/Spain, 2011, 85mins
Truck driver Ruben has been asked by his boss to take Jacinta and her five month-old child to Buenos Aires. Not much of a talker, Ruben spends the first leg of the journey avoiding chat. As the journey continues their silence begins to break down and a friendship forms.
The focus on character is stated early in the film as our introduction to Ruben is an unbroken single shot from the passenger seat within the truck's cabin. We sit and watch him drive for a minute or so before the camera eventually cuts. This is a film about people, not landscapes or the journey.
This focus is enforced by two major absences, exterior shots of the truck driving and music. With most road movies there are the shots from another vehicle here though Giorgelli has put them aside in favour of keeping us locked into the cabin with the three characters. We're party to the silence, the dullness, and the relief when conversation begins.
I didn't spot the lack of music till I overheard people talking about it after the film, it had been entirely engrossing without needing music to lead your emotions. It was surprising how little needed to be actively happening on screen to pass the time. And I haven't even gotten to the baby yet.
Jacinta's baby, Anahi, is one of the most entertaining characters I've seen in a film this year. At first she stares at Ruben with wide eyed amazement, then as the trip continues, becomes comfortable around him, eventually sleeping in his arms. You could tell that the rest of the audience felt the same way.
Although slow, the pacing is spot on and makes for a strong and moving film. It reeks of confidence, with none of the decisions only half-stuck to: the lack exterior shots and music are brave breaks from convention and both play into making this excellent film.
Dir. Lisa Aschen, Sweden, 2011, 83mins
This story of sexual awakening is often cold but sometimes hilarious in its conveyance of the confusing transition between child and adult.
Opening with teenage Emma training her dog she's the picture of control. Coupled with her next scene, gymnast training, the visual two-step effectively sums up Emma, she's physically aware and not someone who acts out of line but without warmth - a fact reinforced throughout the film as she's told she needs to increase her presence whilst being complimented on her physical ability.
It's at gymnastics that she meets Cassandra, together they begin to explore their power over men and each other... They ask out a pair of policemen, rob them, and split the money. Though this is all under the command of Cassandra. This master/servant dynamic suffers change when Cassandra tries to push their relationship into different territory.
Her younger sister Sara is also going through changes. At the swimming pool she is told she'll need to get a bikini top, despite not yet growing breasts, as it's pool policy. When her dad takes her shopping she opts for a leopard skin print, though the 'adult' choice is immediately undermined as she draws whiskers on herself in the changing room. Though this emulation of adults escalates through the film, ending with her trying to experiment with her older cousin. It's difficult to watch, but at the same time her naïve inquisitiveness is understandable and riveting.
The film's clean visuals and fixed camera style go with Emma's character but against the film's themes. Though this may have been done deliberately to try and create something of the girl's confusion it doesn't make for a visually interesting film. Similarly the pacing of this film makes its 90 minute running time drag at points.
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