The Man Without a Head (2003)
By Juan Solanas, France, 18 Minutes
The Man Without a Head is a film about one fellow who is unlucky enough not to have a head (although he does have a nice tux). He lives in an ugly industrial landscape seen through dirty windows. We see him open an envelope with two tickets to the ball. He calls his date and then starts dancing for joy with even a little bit of tap-dancing thrown in. He seems to realize that he might need a head for this date to be successful and walks to the appropriate store. He tries on a couple of heads that don't quite work, but we don't see his final selection. He buys some flowers, and it off to his date. He sneaks into the bathroom to try the head on. It is quite the beautiful head, but the color of the head (black) does not match the rest of the (white) body so he goes to the date headless. The date ends up going well and the pair have a wonderful time.
The most striking aspect of the film the first time viewing it is the visuals. It apparently took four years to make and it is beautiful. The industrialized city the man lives in is suitably grimy. Many of the shot selections show off this setting, like a shot from the outside of the apartment looking in which highlights the years of buildup on the side of his apartment. The opening credits are a view from high above slowly coming closer to the ground, finishing with a cityscape view, which is also extremely well done. Everything has a tinge of yellow, adding to the effect.
However, the story is not quite as well done. The idea of people without heads is interesting but is a little confusing in the context of the story. Even though there is a store for heads, we see no other people in the movie lacking a head at any time. Some people even give the protagonist funny looks during the movie, even though it is clear that buying heads is something not uncommon.
One reason I chose this film is because of a quote from the director. "We're living is a period where cinema is a product; movies are becoming more and more commercialized. Short films are one of the last places for artistic freedom - they're important to celebrate just for that." While I disagree with the first half of the quote (cinema has always been a product and movies are essentially commercial), I will agree with the last half of the statement. Short films have certainly proved to be one of the best avenues for artistic adventure and film and hopefully they will continue to do so.