What better way to conclude a Saturday night than with a compilation of unusual short films? Each of these unusual short film in the Late Night Weird would be worthy of a cult following. With one exception, these deliciously weird short films either fit the category of a genre flick or an indie comedy.
BEAT AROUND THE BUSH
“I’m 75 years old and I’m going to give myself an orgasm.” says Una (Brenda Matthews), our elderly heroine.
All her long life, Una has never given herself an orgasm. With her friends Beatrice (Gina Stockdale) and Goldie (Mary Black), she’s determined to change that. She tries a series of techniques offered by plucky sex store clerk Molly (Kacey Rohl), from erotic narratives to lubes. It proves a challenge when you can’t masturbate without your arthritis acting up.
On the surface, this sounds like a lost episode of the Golden Girls. In terms of tone, it plays more like an elderly equivalent to the 40 Year Old Virgin. Like Judd Apatow, most of writer-director Brianne Nord-Stewart’s humour comes from the interactions between characters. It’s a joy listening to Una, Beatrice and Goldie discuss sex. Black in particular steals the show as the unfiltered Goldie, describing sexual terms (“Brushing the Beaver”, “Polishing the Pearl”) or teasing the WASP-y Beatrice.
With Una also going through Alzheimer’s, Nord-Stewart blurs the lines between humour and heartbreak. In an early scene, we see Una use a timer to remind her to unplug her coffee maker. With this in mind, her motivation becomes understandable. “I’m slowly losing everything else” says Una “so now is all I have.”
SWEET WATER OF MEMORY
One of the few art films in this series, Sweet Water of Memory examines how fickle memory can be.
“What is your earliest memory?”
Leon (Maximilian Allgeier) recalls often being asked this question by his aunt Lisa. She came off as a bit odd to him, often observing him. They’d meet every Tuesdays and Thursdays when he was a kid. Then 5 years later, the meetings stopped. Lisa turns out to be his psychologist. It also turns out Leon was the odd one. Now 30 years old, Leon begins to question his memories. How much of it is real?
This is probably the most experimental short film of the festival. While standing naked in a bathroom, Leon guides the audience throughout his memories as he tries to make sense of them. By connecting Leon’s narration with a combination of home movies, still images and recreated scenes, Writer/Director Carlos Vin Lopes captures a stream of consciousness feel. Scenes and images are connected not by narratives, but ideas. In one moment, Leon shows us a shelf of perfumes and discusses the meaning of each scene (Nail Polish + Beer = Love). Then one scene of defeat brings up a scene of him losing a Ping Pong game. When recalling a ping pong match with a stranger, the film cuts to Leon and a stranger playing ping pong in a white background. The next thing you know, they’re suddenly playing at a beach.
With a run time of a half hour, the film may drag for some audience members. The lack of a conventional narrative sure won’t help. It’s one of those films you have to lose yourself in.
DEATH AND THE MAIDEN
This one is the most beautiful short film on this program. With a simple premise, gorgeous cinematography and elegant dancing, Director Stefano Matthieu provides a Fantasia-esque musical number.
At the core of the film is the image of a ballet dance between a woman (Juliette Nicolotto) and a glowing orb. So many elements come together to make this so beautiful. First is Celia Picciocci’s score, who offers a classical score worthy of a ballet. Matching the music is Mathiew Bertholet’s cinematography, which shoots a European city with gorgeous black and white. And don’t forget Nicolotto, who not only dances with elegant grace but manages to deliver clear emotions without every saying one word. Matthieu brings all of these elements together into a layer cake of class.
The film takes on a kind of horror element when the orb starts to grow bigger and brighter. If feels kind of out of place with the earlier scenes, but not so much that it becomes distracting.
Set in a steampunk future, a soldier (Jeremy Holmes Berson) goes AWOL in the middle of a battle. While taking refuge in the woods, he encounters a mysterious woman in white (Wei Zhang) and Bob, her atomic bomb. Soon, the soldier decides to help the woman take “Bob” north.
In the first few minutes, the film plays more like a civil war film than a science fiction film. It’s only when the woman in white appears that we finally get some sci fi elements. For most of the film, the sci fi is kept to a minimum, putting a symbolic item here and there. For the most part, the film takes the form of an existential journey. This kind of film’s fitting for fans of Cormac McCarthy’s the Road.
With a true face of evils and a stare more piercing than a dagger, Mr. Dentonn (Ander Pardo) awaits in the darkness to steal the innocence of kids parents left alone. And tonight, he’s targeting the house of little David (Kaiet Rodriquez). The only one who can save him is his older sister Laura (Irene Aguilar).
I suspect writer/director Ivan Villamel Sanchez wants to expand Mr. Dentonn into a feature length film. The film starts off as a standalone film, but its abrupt ending feels like there was a lot left out. This is a common practice of beginner filmmakers making short films to promote the idea of their feature length film. You can’t really blame them. It’s a challenge to get funding for a film, especially when the filmmaker’s starting out. Plus, filmmakers need to prove they are capable of creating a vision. So, they will compress their full length screenplay into a short film and send it out to festivals or studios. This has led to success stories, from South Park to Whiplash.
From what I have seen, Mr. Dentonn has the potential of making an excellent horror movie. Sanchez demonstrates a masterful skill of building tension as Laura tries to protect her brother from the monster. Cinematographer Ignacier Aguilar has an excellent sense of environment, filling the world with strong emphasis on shadows and blue lighting. The image of Dentonn’s shadow flowing across a window sends a chill up the spine. But the creepiest scene is the burlap sack full of doll heads. Put all of these elements together and it makes me want to see this turn into a full length film.
FARM IS A FOUR LETTER WORD:
In this mockumentary from writer Kira Hall and director Ryan Couldrey, a film crew plans to shoot a story of a developing farm only to find a couple at their wits end. I was unable to see this film, so I won’t be able to review it.
BOGO THE CLOWN:
Did you know that Simpsons creator Matt Groening considered doing a live action spin off starring Krusty the Clown? It’s true. He even worked with Michael Weithorn (creator of King of Queens) on a pilot script. Well, this dark comedy is what the show would look like if it was directed by Martin Scorsese.
“Doesn’t make a lot of sense but I was born a clown and everybody knew it.” Bogo the Clown (Luke Marty) hits the big time as a self-deprecating standup comedian. But with the rise comes the self-destruction and his comes in the form of cocaine and affairs. Eventually, his behaviour takes its toll on his relationship Sarah (Lauren Toffan).
I admit, the plot sounds like nothing special, following the classic rise and fall celebrity storyline. Through the character Bogo, writer/director Greg Fox skewers this formula. The character’s red curly hair, white makeup and red nose contrast strongly with his Louis C.K. wardrobe and sardonic comedy style. Watching him to go through the classic celebrity excess of sex and drugs is not only hilarious, but also provides a refreshing twist to a tired formula. But the funniest character of the film is Mrs. Strauss (Marianne McIsaac), Bogo’s childhood teacher who torments him even today. You know you shouldn’t find it funny to watch a child being tormented by a student, but it’s so hilarious to see this cartoonish nasty old lady tell little Bogo “You’re as funny as a hemorrhoid on thanksgiving weekend, you little freak” has me in stitches.
Fox seems to draw some inspiration from Scorsese films like Goodfellas, Casino and Wolf of Wall Street. He picks up some of Scorsese’s post-modern traits including voiceover narration and fast paced editing. The most notable Scorsese trait Fox draws from is the pop soundtrack. Like Scorsese, Fox uses pop songs to emphasize the mood of a scene. The best example is Bogo’s dancing in a bowling alley to the tune of Edison Lighthouse’ “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes).”
Rarely do you see as an experimental film as playful as Honk. It’s great to see filmmakers experiment with the possibilities of sound, and imagery. The thing is most of them take themselves seriously, using this to for symbolism and political statement. Nothing wrong with that, but it can at times come off as pretentious. In contrast, Director Simon Paraire seems to be having a blast with his experimentations.
The film starts out like a music video with its jumpcuts of a guy (Adam Kang) strolling across town. For a brief few seconds, cinematographer Eduouard Le Grelle takes advantage of the neon lights for a few visually pleasing images. The music video motif keeps up with the guy walking across a train track.
But once he gets on a bridge, the film takes a turn into the comedic. I can’t say too much without giving away the punchline, but the way Paraire plays with sound and camera movement creates a surreal gag worthy of Monty Python.
You can watch the short on YouTube.
I HAD A BAD BACK THEN I GOT HIT BY A CAR:
And now we get to the last film in the program. Unfortunately, I was unable to see this film. I can’t even find the synopsis for the film.