Saturday, November 19, 2011

MANON SURE LE BITUME











MANON SURE LE BITUME (Manon On the Asphalt)

Directed by Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont, France, 2007, 15 minutes, 20 seconds.

Source: Itunes

This short film is about a young French woman who is hit by a car while riding her bike. The film explores her last thoughts as she is about to die. She imagines how all of her friends will react, what they will be doing when they find out and what they will do to morn her death. She images her loved ones using her parceled up belongings and all the things she will never get to do, like have a child, be old or sing a duet with her favorite singer. She remembers the last time she felt rain, the last time she spoke to her mother, and the last time she had sex.

This film is one of my favorites. I believe it is perfectly bittersweet. The short explores death and loss while still leaving the audience feeling amazed about the little things and feeling refreshed.

Manon On the Asphalt was nominated for the Best Short Film Oscar in 2009. I believe the film's narrative is incredibly engaging. The concept is simple, but the film walks a number of lines- It is sentimental and thought provoking without being indulgent or sappy. It straddles happiness and sadness. While we may not all understand the reference to Julien Clerc, these emotions will not be lost on any viewer. This piece shows how the expression of human fears transcend cultures and languages.


"Girl Panic" by Duran Duran
Directed by Jonas Akerlund, 2011

There are several things that I'd like to say about this music video:

1. The fact that it is a Jonas Akerlund video sets a precedent. He's known as a music video auteur and for his rather unique styling. Most often his music videos are more like short films. They tell a story. The story here: supermodels (specifically of the 90's origin) pose as members of the band, Duran Duran, and proceed to tell the tale that is Duran Duran. They're done up in supermodel glitz. They don plenty of black. Akerlund shoots the film in documentary style. The models tell the story, as they see it, and Akerlund shows off his film style with plenty of seduction and style.

2. This might be a perfect time to introduce the term narcissistic personality disorder, which is to say--thank you Wikipedia--"individual is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige, and vanity." Need I say more? The film is an expose on self- centeredness. The term "first" is thrown around, "We're the first supermodels"; "We're the first band to put supermodels in our videos"; and why not "We're the first band"; and on top of that Akerlund is emphasizing that he's the first, the number one, the go to guy for music videos. The film was a nice tribute, but at times I was lost as to whether this was a Duran Duran video or not.

3. I'd also like to address the issue of excess in this video. Occupy what? Does anyone else see a problem with this kind of excess? I mean seriously, the amount of money they must have spent on resuscitating Duran Duran's music/video career. I don't even want to know. You'll notice plenty of product placement, products that you and I and the majority of the world (the 99%) would never purchase, aside from the newsstand issue of Harper's Bazaar (Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabanna, the clothes those women were wearing, the free- flow of champagne, the Savoy hotel, and lets not forget-- these women have a day rate that's well above the minimum- wage).

4. How old are these women? They're like wax figures at this point. Naomi Campbell looks the same as she did when I was 12. Cindy has always been the real one.

5. Where was the music? It was a backdrop to the all of the rest of this stuff. Duran Duran is great. I've been in love with them forever and I love that their sound stays the middle ground. However, it was almost as if the sound had been turned down on the actual song and the narrative was pushed to the forefront. When the video shows snippets of their older videos I longed for the day.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Zero"- Australia

Zero from Zealous Creative on Vimeo.






Zero
By: Christoper Kezelos
Australia
Source: ShortoftheWeek.com




This Australian film tells the setting is that of a fantasy world of yarn people. In this world, when a yarn person is born there is a number inscribed on their chest. The numbers range from 0 to 9 and the higher your number, the better your quality of life you will lead. Our particular story begins with the birth of a Zero. From the minute he enters the world, he is forced into a life of ridicule, embarrassment, and loneliness due to the way the 1-9's treat him and his Zero companions. Zero's are also not allowed to multiply and therefore any relationship for a Zero is illegal from the start, so when our Zero falls in love with a beautiful girl Zero the tables are turned upside down. This romantic, adorable story about fighting against what society believes is sure to bring a smile to your face.

I have to admit that this film captivated me from the minute I hit play. The initial realization that these people are entirely made up of yarn brings a cute factor to a normally serious topic of social class. The twist on how social class in this world is assigned from birth seems like it could have come from a children's book. Also, the narrator channels an almost Dr. Seuss feeling to the film without the rhyming. Throughout the film, Kezelos entices the audience with the beautiful use of stop-motion and narration to bring these voice-less little nothing's to life before our eyes.

One part I particularly liked was after our Zero had tried to save the girl Zero from being beat up by bigger numbers. After the larger numbered yarns turned off of her and started attacking our Zero, the screen goes dark to represent his unconsciousness. The screen slowly flickers back to an image of what appears to be a Yarn angel against the Moon lit sky. The screen flickers back to dark and back to the same image, but instead the audience realizes that this is the girl Zero that our Zero just saved. The simple shot was so beautiful and spoke volumes without any words actually being said. I think that Kezelos did an incredible job with this film and displaying a "grown-up" story in such a innocent way created the ability for many audience's to enjoy it from start to finish.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ladri di biciclette (The Bicycle Thief)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Directed by: Vittorio De Sica
Country of Origin: Italy
Year: 1948
93 Min

"The Bicycle Thief" is set in post-World War II Italy during the economic depression that followed the war. The main character is Antonio Ricci who at the beginning of the film is one of the fortunate few to be given a job by the city of Rome putting up posters around the city. However, he needs to own a bicycle to begin the job and his wife is forced to pawn their sheets in order to get a bike. On his first day on the job his bike is stolen by a thief. From that point on the plot follows Antonio and his son Bruno is their quest to find the thief and reclaim the bike. The story does not end well.

The thing that most impressed me about the film was the acting. Lamberto Maggiorani's, who plays Antonio, performance is simply fantastic, I truly felt sorry for him because his emotion was so real. There are very few films that I have watched that have the ability to affect me emotionally, and this was one of the precious few. The entire story seems so real and truly lives up to its neo-realist classification.

In my opinion, one the most significant thing about this film is the fact that none of the actors in the film are actual actors. Upon doing some research I found out that Lamberto Maggiorani was in fact a factory worker with no training of any kind. To be able to give such a performance with no training truly means that Lamberto was able to use his own emotions of the time period to portray his character. The critical acclaim this film received was also quite astounding after our conversation in class about the lack of quality films from many foreign countries. It won an Oscar, a BAFTA as well as Golden Globe. This film simply amazed me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Zippo


Zippo – ES GIBBT F
√úR EIN ERSTES MAL (Zippo – there is a first time for everything)

Directed by : Christiane Scheibe, Janett Bergner, and Dagmar Ammon. Germany, 2009, 1:16

Source: Vimeo

Simply put, this film is about a blue dragon, who I believe is called Zippo, and a Christmas tree. After they meet, the dragon and Christmas tree decide that the candles on the Christmas tree should be lit however, they run into a problem when the reach the final candle on top of the tree. The dragon decides to just puff fire as hard as he possibly can and accidentally burns up the entire tree.

What originally attracted me to this film was when I was searching through Vimeo’s german short films group (link) and noticed a claymation work that was posted there. While I have never been a major fan of claymation I decided to take a quick look at it to see what it was about and fell in love with it. With it’s simplistic story yet great punch line, it keeps the viewer interested and doesn’t drag it’s simplistic storyline on too long. However, if there was one suggestion that I would have for it is that I think it should have been a bit longer than it was. While I don’t know what I would have added personally, I think that it could have been another 30-45 seconds long. Anyways, overall this video was something that I really enjoyed accidentally bumping into.

Something that I do think I should point out with this film is the fact that it is a claymation and that it follows one of my personal rules of short films. That rule is K.I.S.S. or Keep It Simple Stupid and I think that most short films that attempt to do complicated things can sometimes fall flat on their face. However with shorts such as Zippo, the simplicity in them create a short and fun joke that almost anyone can enjoy because of its simplicity.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

GEOMETRIA



Geometria
Guillermo del Toro, Mexico, 1987, Approximately 8 minutes

Geometria is a Spanish-language short film in which a boy goes to desperate measures (i.e. he summons Satan) to ensure that he will not fail his geometry class. Along the way his father is resurrected as a zombie, his mother is killed by zombie dad, and the boy is eventually undone by his basic understanding of shapes (he attempts to protect himself from the devil by drawing a pentagon around his body, but accidentally draws a hexagon).

This is del Toro's second short and the final film he would make before his feature debut, Cronos. That movie has funny moments, but is otherwise an intense, gory horror film, whereas Geometria has scary moments though is mostly funny. It strongly reminded me of an early Sam Raimi movie; the voice is not really del Toro's, or is at least a totally different voice than the one he would develop over the next twenty years. It's silly, which isn't something you can say about any of del Toro's later efforts. Geometria does not feel connected to other Mexican films.

Geometria is clever. The "your wish is a nightmare when taken literally" trope has been around forever and was already used to death on a dozen episodes of The Twilight Zone, so the zombie father gag falls a little flat. The idea that the protagonist's pentagram is incorrectly sketched, however, is brilliant. The fact that the boy promises his mother that he will not fail geometry and then instantly begins drawing his own blood in order to summon Satan is also hilarious. This is del Toro using another auteur's voice, but he is a strong enough filmmaker that he still leaves a mark in a wonderful way.