Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Rushes: Soho Shorts Festival

To the Mall, and the ICA, for the Short Film Category of the Rushes: Soho Shorts Festival. There were fifteen shorts in all, and they were, mostly, very good indeed; a heartening sign for the British movie industry.

First up was Modern Times by Ben Craig, in which a slouchy astronaut projected a Charlie Chaplin film onto the moon for the amusement of a spaceshipful of people. Whilst the technicalities were excellent, and the theme (of continuity and agelessness) interesting, I felt this was more of a calling card, or a music video, original and clever though it was. Expecting the entire moon to be used for the projection, I was disappointed when it was only a small square of lunar landscape. Hard cheese. Paper Hearts by Rob Brown, about a son's relationship with his divorced father, I'd seen a hundred times before. The dialogue was plot-heavy: "Why didn't you tell me?" "I thought you'd disown me!", and the son seemed to fall down rather too conveniently to help the plot along for my liking. But good acting, though.

Still from Missing by Luke Rodgers
Missing by Luke Rodgers was a sharp slice of contemporary life, starring Tim McInerney and the shouty one from Misfits, playing, well, a shouty girl. Their brief encounter (sunlit, belying the savagery of what was happening) on a bus was convincing and touching, bringing into play the inanities and frustrations of modern life, as well as the possibility of connection, however fleeting, between two entirely disparate people, whose final parting on a bridge (very apt) you feel may not be a parting at all. There was more lunacy - well, lunar activity - with Dust, by Ben Lavington Martin, a film that was clever but incomprehensible; it followed an astronaut's last minutes on the moon, over stock footage of the landings. It had a certain harsh beauty but was ultimately unfullfilling.

Pride of Dover by Joseph F Fawcett was full of eerie shots, off-screen shouting and lingering looks; I couldn't work out what the relationship was between the man and woman and felt that the artiness (which was brilliantly executed) had got in the way of the plot. Colourbleed by Peter Szewyck was baffling too, seemingly about a girl's creativity crushed by the actions of a blackened bureaucrat, with an extremely unsettling scene in which said girl, having had said creativity crushed, pulls out her own nails with pliers. Nice.

Papa by Schuman Hoque had a more successful plot, in which a young girl goes to work at her father's factory, where he is mercilessly teased by a cocky young worker, played with cheeky and aggressive charm; the slight unbelievability of the storyline (which ends with the young girl knocking someone out) spoiled what was otherwise an interesting effort.

A far stranger beast was Hitler and Henry VIII by Jane Gull, which wasn't sure whether it was a comedy or a tragedy. It began well, with an exhausted and exasperated teacher shooting one of his obnoxious pupils. We all laughed. But soon it became clear that we were meant not to laugh. A strange one, as we had been led to be on the teacher's side - and he had an excellent point. It was entirely spoiled, for me, by one of the horrible teens saying "You're just the same as them now." Thanks for pointing that out, I hadn't noticed. (This seems to be a feature in shorts. Let us decide for ourselves!)

Initiation by Alex Hardy
Initiation by Alex Hardy was one of the best. A young gangster is to be initiated by his fellow gang members: he must kill someone he knows. Only the real initiation is something completely different; and the twist at the end left surging ripples in the audience. Filmed jerkily, it bore a cold authenticity that made it stand out.

Capturing Santa was an effort done for Sky by Chris O'Dowd (yes, he of The IT Crowd fame, and, more recently, Bridesmaids), so I won't give it much attention except to say that it was, of course, funny, but too long. Thinking Straight by Ric Forster was about a boy-girl who loves a girl who the boy-girl thinks likes boys but actually likes girls (this isn't a Blur song, don't worry), and it was funny and sensitively acted and directed.

The two films with the most money thrown at them were, inevitably, the most successful in terms of how they looked and felt: The Foundling by Barney Cokeliss, which had Ridley Scott's name attached to it, was set on a freak show in the early twentieth century. A mother abandons her son (who has a horn growing out of his forehead); he becomes a Unicorn Boy for the show. They meet again later: but their meeting, of course, is frustrated. It looked lovely, but it was a bit like having a slightly unsatisfactory bath. I do hope for more from Cokeliss though as there was much to be enjoyed.

The second big-budget short was Love at First Sight, by Michael Davies, which starred John Hurt. It was as Technicolour Cheese as a fluorescent Brie, but it did bring tears to my eyes with its simple tale of true love between two old people. There were some quirky touches (a new attendant at the nursing home mixing up everyone's dentures; a chorus of oldies egging Hurt's character on).

Finally, two short shorts: 0507 by the Blaine Brothers was a bitingly true to life sketch about a couple who are about to get married (the numbers refer to a date: the boyfriend's recognition of its significance had the cinema in positively Austerian quantities of laughter). Bistro by Sean Gray was a farce set in a restaurant in which a man with a pig's nose was fed with tiny pork chops and ended with him confronting the chef, who had a duck's nose. Yes, I didn't really understand it either, but there was a salutary comic turn from the waiter.

No comments:

Post a Comment