Highly Literate Filmmakers, in Brief
Being a busy girl, after watching the WSFF Canadian Idle screening, I rushed over to watch Film Ink, the screening devoted to that magical place where the written word (novels, poems, short stories, etc) and film meet.
One of the best thing about this screening, incidentally, had nothing to do with the films themselves, but the interaction of audience members between films during those uncomfortable moments in the dark. You know when one person chuckles for no reason, then the people around them laugh at the disembodied laugh, then it spreads? There was some of that. There were also a series of owl calls exchanged in reference to one of the shorts. Brecht would be proud.
But on to the meat and potatoes -
First up, David Russo (USA) PAN WITH US a black and white stop motion/animation piece set to Robert Frost's Pan with Us. Visually intriguing and inventive, full of strong imagery edited to match the vocal rhythms of the poem.
An animated short GIVE UP YER AUL SINS from Cathal Gaffney (Ireland) is a highly amusing cartoon using old recordings of Dublin children telling Bible stories - specifically that of John the Baptist. The animation is in yellow tones, giving it a faux-sepia look, and the large-chinned and toothy characters provoke perpetual giggles as wee Mary tells their tale.
Anna Gronau (Canada) has three 1 minute pieces interspersed throughout the other films - ON GENUFLECTION, SOMETHING YOU'RE NOT FACING, and TOO MUCH TIME. The idea of a time-elapse video is funny and clever, but on the whole it just doesn't hang together. The film is based on Robert Priest poems, and perhaps I'd have a greater appreciation of the short(s) if I knew more of his work and sensibility. As it stands, I don't.
PATRICK WATSON: THIS HOUR HAS SEVEN DECADES is Irene Duma's (Canada) Bookshort based on Watson's book. (To read about other bookshorts, click here). Watson has a great screen presence (for obvious reasons) and the short captures his opinion about the current style of televised news.
LE HORLA from Philipe Gagnon (Canada) is based on the story by Guy de Maupassant. The film uses some cliched 'spooky shots' to communicate the anticipatory fear and madness suffered by the protagonist. The colours and sound editing are interesting, and it's nice to watch a narrative film without dialogue (one of my film profs was quite adamant about the over-reliance of visual media on auditory information), but there's nothing really special about this one.
Bruce McDonald (Canada) gives us FORT GOOF, a black and white piece showing actresses auditioning with a reading of a Lynn Crosbie poem. While watching the different interpretations of the same words is interesting, the babble caused by repeating various phrases and echoing past lines overwhelmed the meaning poem so any real narrative was undercut.
THE BATHER, by Cameron Esler (Canada) is classified as 'experimental' - the poetry of David Bateman on the experience of life through swimming pools and the enactments of the relationship are funny, sometimes touching and uncomfortable. It's strongly reminiscent of Dave Sedaris in tone; you want to laugh but the total vulnerability of the speaker (I mean total, there's an unexpected full frontal) forces an intimacy that precludes the disdain and/or derision necessary to really laugh at such a figure.
SOUP, by recently deceased director David Stein (Canada), to whom the screening was dedicated, is a quiet piece that takes place in the solitude of the TTC. The three characters circle each other, never interacting beyond shared glances, and we're never entirely sure of their relationship outside of the film time. It's shot in black and white, and Torontonians should recognize Dupont station as the locale.
THE MAN WITH THE BEAUTIFUL EYES by Jonathan Hodgson (UK) uses childlike watercolour animation to visually interpret Charles Bukowski's poem. The images and words match beautifully and eerily. The deep, melancholy voice over narrates the children's discovery of the mysterious wild man, and their life outside of that implicitly dangerous and exciting finding.
In EVERYDAY SOMETHING Carol Morley (UK) bases her film on true stories taken from news items in the British press. Some are funny, many disturbing. Her visual style is grainy and realistic, using human looking actors, (no one glamourous) unconscious of observation who meet their fate as narrated by a BBC-voiced narrator. The most interesting interpretation of exploring the written world in the screening.
THE OLD FOOLS
is another animation of poetry - this one from Ruth Lingford (UK) based on Philip Larkin's chilling look at aging. This film will haunt you. Sir Bob Geldof reads Larkin's poetry sonorously as the bright colours and simple symbols roll and turn. The use of colour and pattern reminded me of Matisse, when I wasn't busy contemplating my impending deterioration and death. Powerful stuff.
A lighter look at death and the last film of the evening was Jonathan Hayes (Canada) THE SCHOOL, based on the short story by David Barthelme. Our lead character, a school teacher, tells us in voice over about the series of flora and fauna that have met their untimely demise while in the care of his adorable, innocent, young class. This guy likes irony. The style is bright and broad, matching the fairy-tale tone.
There isn't another screening of these, but if you can, you should definitely hunt down The Old Fools, Everyday Something, and Give Up Yer Aul Sins. And watch them in that order so you don't end up depressed.
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