Sins and Vice don't quite meet the billing at Worldwide Shorts

Last night's Official Selections programme from the Worldwide Short Film Festival was subtitled Sins, Vice, and Everything Nice, which sets up a false expectation for scuzzy fun. Fun? Nope: the better films among this lot tended to be spectacularly depressing, and the lesser entries were just plain drab. Frog Jesus lifted the spirits considerably, but it was only one minute long.

Saying that each of the films revolved around a) a sin, b) a vice, or c) something nice would be a bit of a stretch, although undercurrents of addiction and obsession certainly ran through the bulk of the entries. The best of the works were the ones that managed to present a complete picture even in their fraction of time, and usually did so by playing things decidedly matter-of-fact.

Quite Possible That I Can Fly (from Germany) and After All (from Montreal) were stylistically similar; both used loose, documentarian camera-work in and around scenes of middling domestic crisis to focus on some really solid performances from their lead actors, and relatively sophisticated takes on alcoholism (in the former) and obsessive love (in the latter). Quite Possible even attempts that most delicate and often frustrating of cinematic gags, by turning into a musical for 2 brief scenes. These jaunts into song don't provide the emotional closure that's needed after the film's (relatively) lengthy 27 minutes, but it's a refreshing experiment nevertheless.

The most successful film of the programme overall was probably Salt Kiss, where a fat lout of a man takes exception to his best friend having brought a new fiancee to a weekend retreat. Even in its spare running time, the character discovery in the film is surprisingly detailed, even if you sort of want to punch both of the leading men in the back of the head by the end of the film.

Farewell Packets of Ten is a brief and entertaining conversation with two old women who speak fondly (and less fondly) of their lifelong cigarette addictions. The Lost Bag is an occasionally-enchanting stop motion fable about theft that is just a hair too long to really maintain any sense of whimsical momentum. Tree, meanwhile, is an utterly inconsequential tone poem about our encroachment upon nature, shot in and around Toronto Dominion plaza, and featuring a woman who does, indeed, turn into a tree.

Sins, Vice was sorely in need of at least one or two short films playing a bigger, more memorable game; there was no real standout here for the audience to become attached to and champion as a favourite. No wonder the audience choice voting seemed so sluggish after the screening.

Sins, Vice screens again on Saturday afternoon at Innis Town Hall.

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