Worldwide Short Film Festival: Colour me Bad

I have never been so disappointed in WSFF as I was last night.

My sister chose the screening - we intended to check out Pretty Young Things, but alas, went to Innis instead of the Isabel Bader and instead suffered through Canadian 5 - Colour Your World - a selection of Canadian shorts with nothing much in common aside from sucking. Mostly. The ones that were good were tainted by the abrasive, mean, or careless badness of the others.

I don't like writing reviews like this. I know how hard all the filmmakers must have worked on their films. Technically speaking, all of the films were very good. Visually all very effective, the sound design was uniformly strong and emphasized the moods created. But in terms of story, character development, and all those things that separate film from "visual art" - not so much.

These are definitely the sorts of films you could write essays on - rife with theme and mood and (generally) grand intentions. But they aren't really the sort of thing you can enjoy.

If a film can be called successful if it provokes emotion, I can call all of these successful. Since it was a Canadian screening, and we're notorious for niceness, I'll try and at least address why, I assume, these films made it into the fest. Aside from that whole 'look, we get 'non-traditional' film, aren't we clever' thing. (Ahem C-note).

My Heart Belongs to Data - was essentially a video kaleidoscope. Black and white footage of a person of indeterminate gender reworking an old Monroe song was edited (well) in a kind of funhouse mirror sort of way. Intending to be an exploration of gender perception, sexuality, and, to be fair, was way more interesting than most of the videos on Much Music.

Balloon and the Beast - a reworked fable/fairy-tale, and one of the only films with an actual narrative. Some guy with hairy palms falls in love with a balloon - who is already the girlfriend of some other dude. Love is transformative, cheekily mocking traditional story conventions. Cute and entertaining, comparatively speaking.

The Last Dream - made me feel awful. Using animated puppets and eerie-as-hell music, the film traps you in a Jungian nightmare - oh the deeply symbolic storm! the ocean! the bird! The melodramatic music! It's all so dense with meaning - except they don't actually do anything with it. And these things that look like plucked uncooked chickens fall from the sky but they turn out to be vaguely human naked critters who run around like vermin. Freaky. Watch the Dreams of Akira Kurosawa instead.

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Patterns - actually kind of cool - and after the screening the director explained that he was working on parts 2 and 3, which I suspect will ameliorate the "what?" story issues. Or perhaps not. The film is a big love note to Hitchcock and Kubrick et al, and is full of (surprise) patterns, so very visually intense - in a 60s kind of way. So, were you to write an essay, you'd be listing the influences or comparing it to similar stories (like Twin Peaks).

Lavarius - a really short doc about some guy who had a mental breakdown and now deals with his issues with art - good, aggressive painting with rocks in. Mostly black and white with brief splashes of colour, which is nice because you can see how bright the guy's art is. (Yeah, b&w = depressed, colour = life - though this is not irritating as it could be, since it's a real dude, so has a right to compare life to colour).

Une Chapelle Blanche - a Quebecois film that recently won something. This film dragged torturously. The director had a lot of thematic issues in mind, which is nice for him, but the man refused to cut. And was totally in love with REALLY REALLY SLOW crane and dolly shots. So instead of being interested in the dichotomy between the characters' age and experience of religion, I spent the entire film wondering when either the shot would finally end or when it would stop entirely. Boring. And it's a damn shame, because it could have been good with a faster pace.

Mechanism, Organism was the most deliberately offensive to the senses - the score was not music, but 'noise', and was cranked so loud I'm going to have a headache all week. It was a dance piece, about the difference between mechanic and human motion - shot well, and very industrial looking, catching the big themes of how natural life is tied into ubiquitous machinery, but I couldn't get over the NOISE. It hurt my head. As an audience member, I really, really don't appreciate films that deliberately aim to injure to make a point. It's a bully of a film.

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Montrose Avenue - cute animated portrait of the titular street. But, again, no plot. Nice for Torontonians, in a kind of 'aw, aren't we cute and diverse' kind of way, and sweet of the animators to draw their environment, but it doesn't go anywhere.


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