Tuesday, January 9, 2024

short films

So as long as I was going out to Berkeley for a matinee concert anyway, I figured I might as well stop over in the City on the way back for a showing at the Roxie independent theater of this, er last, year's Sundance Film Festival Short Films. Short films are hard to find outside such anthology programs, and they're a good opportunity to try something you don't know if you'll like, because any given one will be over soon and on to the next one.

In this case there were seven films totaling about 90 minutes. Most were directed and written by a single person, and that's who I'm identifying as the author. The two I liked best were both amusing guyings of the corporate world. One (Pro Pool, by Alec Provonost) was a French-Canadian story about a young man who takes a soulless job in a store selling swimming pools (I guess: most of its offerings seemed portable) and eventually decides to take this job and shove it. Lots of snappy editing gets the viewer through his boring daily routines on the way. The other (Help Me Understand, by Aemilia Scott) was a slower-paced character study of six women sitting in a conference room acting as a customer panel evaluating detergents by their smell, going off on tangents and dealing with the fatuous word associations their (male) corporate mentor wants them to make.

I was also fairly struck by a more serious film (Take Me Home, by Liz Sargent) about a young developmentally disabled woman trying to live by herself but having trouble. (She learns the hard way not to open a can of soup and heat the metal can in the microwave.) She keeps phoning her sister at work, interrupting her job and exasperating her by not being able to describe what she wants. Oh yeah, Mom is apparently there but she's not moving; should I be worried? That sort of thing. There's a lot of clashing but eventually the sisters come to an accommodation.

There was one documentary film (Parker) about some family members who want to change their last name, it was not at first clear why. It emerges that an older couple had long ago had a baby when the woman was still legally married to someone else, so their son got the other man's last name. But the couple have been together ever since, and the son now ca. 40 wants to change his name to Parker to match his parents, and his two teenaged kids want to go along with it too. So they talk about what it means to have a new name, and at the end they all go to court and do it.

There was also a stop-motion animated film in which characters built out of light switches have a party, and two more live-action ones about family gatherings of some sort where I could not follow what was going on or make out all of the dialogue.

So a 4 out of 7 success rate, not tremendously high and nothing I really loved, though the 4 have kind of stuck with me at least for a few days. So it would not have been worth making a trip for, but it was worth stopping for on the way home from something else.

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