My Little Life

Mockumentary style film and TV has always had an audience, especially since the critical success of films such as Spinal Tap and TV shows like The Office. Here we see this style recreated within the world of miniature house/furniture making. On the surface it may not sound all that appealing, but the film is actually charming, funny and well produced.

The humour is subtle yet well formed, and enhanced by fantastic performances from both leads, but especially the female lead. The natural style and delivery adds to the documentary style of the film, creating something that is hard to turn away from. Aside from the dialogue, the physical and plot humour are exceptional.

Despite following a specific style of filmmaking, there is a definite sense of originality to this piece and it doesn’t feel like it is following the tropes of the genre. The production quality is high and direction is strong. Cinematography is simple, as you would expect in a documentary style, yet it is incredibly effective.

Overall a funny, cheering film that is well made and well executed.

Papercut

It’s a long road to finding and being your true self. It is even longer for those in front of whom the society throws repressive obstacles. Obstacles that sidetrack, manipulate, and prevent an individual from being true to oneself and to the ones they love.

The writer-director Damian Overton’s short film “Papercut” takes us to a brief Uber ride in which two actors are traveling to a high profile awards ceremony in a hope that it will boost their sparking carriers. But as we soon discover, their common journey is a lot more than just a shared commute.

By presenting a character study of two young and aspiring actors – Kane and Gabriel –, Damian Overton tackles the dynamics of a relationship that is constantly being manipulated by the social structures within which it exists. Overton’s tense, organic and utterly charming screenplay puts the conservative and reserved Kane and open and impulsive Gabriel in an enclosed environment – the back seat of a car – to confront their relationship, just before an event that could possibly change their life and their carrier. In that little space, where emotions are unable to escape and every word reaches the listener with full power, Kane and Gabriel need to make decisions about each other. About their feelings, expectations, and more importantly, about their relationship that has been hidden from the public thus far.

Overton crystallizes the emotional, psychological, and social aspects of this process beautifully and engagingly. The witty and honest dialogue both deepens the characters piece by piece and binds their relationship to a wider context without being too heavy or artificial. Kane’s and Gabriel’s motivations are drawn sensitively, while every little detail of the narrative builds their nature. The delicate and conscious direction sparks Josh Kieser and Kieton Beibly to give wonderfully sincere and nuanced performances as Kane and Gabriel. Their compelling chemistry displays the complexity of the relationship that is influenced by their expectations and the expectations they think that the social context has for them.

All of above collides within a closed space – i.e. the car – that both symbolize Kane’s and Gabriel’s closeted state and the relationship between them and the world. The emotionally unbiased and intimate camerawork displays the encounter with patience, giving the actors the power to enchant the audience. The camerawork is accompanied by the well-paced editing that highlights the undercurrents of the characters. Although the score is occasionally blandly sentimental, the beautiful work of the actors makes sure that you are not bothered by it.

By exploring the intimate and complex relationship between two closeted actors, “Papercut” deals with socially relevant issues in a relatable, understanding, and delicate way. Kane’s and Gabriel’s Uber ride makes us reflect on how social structures force individuals to act in ways that restrict them from being, who they really are. Restrict them from feeling and loving, i.e. from the fundamental rights that everyone should have. Therefore the message of “Papercut” is rather universal.

Thus, “Papercut” creates an intimate, wonderfully acted, and gently directed space for self-reflection, while being an honest and thematically polished character piece.

Silent Love Stories-II

From the beginning text alongside the credits that reads, “I am a woman who understands body language and can speak it too…I can read you man,” Amr Al-Hariri’s Silent Love Stories-II anchors its perspective and assures us that this will perhaps not be a conventional romance filled with clichéd dialogue, hokey pick-up lines, and forced misadventures, but rather one that intends to zero in on the nuances of our bodies and expressions when flirting with or showing interest in someone.

It further establishes these aims through a type of meta-textual manifesto as the opening credits continue, including a self-awareness in statements such as “No dialogue,” “It is not a music video,” and “It is not a silent movie, it is not a romance, it is all the above”—all while a multi-media montage rolls on, with footage of a woman’s interpretive movement on a beach, actor photos, colorful title designs, and even an intimate tracking shot that brings us close up to the musician who will provide the powerful narrative music for each scenario going forward. It is an eclectic and immediately intriguing experimentation with the medium.

The filmmaking proves just as eclectic and full of energy as the vignettes (which eventually interlock in a conclusion of…infidelity and revenge) ensue. A woman attempts to woo a man in a library, they go on subsequent dates, and we see that he is involved with two other women at the same time. While it might seem a rather straightforward love quadrangle on the surface, it is the visual approach that allows us to see the varying dynamics in each situation between each different person. Some movements are as slight as a flicker of the eyes, others as blatant as removing one’s vest to reveal some skin.

Furthermore, the camera is restless, as if ogling the people on screen, as if we as voyeurs are being directly seduced through their bodily gestures while our cinematic lens whips around them, allowing for a chance to linger on each and every detail of their behavior and motions. Thus, not only are the editing and camerawork reminiscent of, say, someone’s race of emotions in a romantic encounter, but the texture of the cinematography itself is also seemingly playful; it is so professionally shot that it appears as an ideal. It is as if we are envisioning the perfect day through the look of the film, for it comes off as sleek in its visuals as a car commercial. This proves to be that much more effective when the characters’ stories end in disillusion.

Ultimately, Silent Love Stories-II understands the framework of romance in which it operates, as well as the essential aspect of cinema—the image in motion. From the cabaret-like musical numbers that complement the action in the frame to the frantic movement of the camera and the free-flowing, unpredictable expressions of the actors, the film certainly manages to accomplish its noble artistic mission, which reads as follows: “Attraction does not come with a manual, and ‘Silent Love Stories’ is about capturing these moments.” It is in these smaller, interactive moments of physicality and observation that Al-Hariri’s film in fact creates its own manual for the “love story.”

Interruptus

“Interruptus” is a short film by the highly acclaimed photographer Duane Michals. With “Interruptus” Michals continues to explore the narrative possibilities of multiple exposure technique in film form. The technique that he has used in his mesmerizing and expressive photographs, varying from narrative photo-sequences to staged dreamlike multiple exposure pieces. As a master of form, Michals also has entwined text to his photos, creating multimodal experiences that are both visually stunning and semantically multidimensional.

Michals’ experience in photography crystallizes in “Interruptus”, which uses all of the techniques above to create a captivating narrative from a chamberlike story. Like the name suggests, “Interruptus” is all about interrupting or breaking apart. About agony of interruption and torment arising from the feeling that something was lost.

The short film starts with two men and a bed. The men start to get undress in a setting that quickly obtains a theatrical atmosphere that is underpinned by melodramatic acting. The young men are full of passion, filling the room with haze of lust, which the experiential colors and filters communicate. The men are quickly interrupted by a woman, who is startled by the coincidence. Her presence cuts through their act, killing all that could have been. Love, lust, everything. The protagonist, one of the men, is left alone and confused by the feeling he has and acts he has done seeking comfort in his desires.

The composition that is based on multiple exposures creates a dreamlike effect in which sense of time and reality dissolves. The form constructs a kind of Balthusian erotic dreaminess that is rarely accomplished effectively in cinema. But “Interruptus” succeeds by establishing a timeless and poetic tone carried by the divine Beethoven’s Three String Trios Op. 9 Trio Number 2 in D Major, which both fits the sexual connotations and psychological undercurrents of the characters. Michals’ experiential cinematic composition melts the narrative into the form creating a feeling of illusion, disorientation, and incompleteness. Although, the realistic color tones of the ending suggest possible interpretations, the dreamy feeling remains, rising above the rationale. In other words, the form provokes the senses to take over the thoughts.

As the previous indicates, “Interruptus” is not a short film for those who love narrative- or character-driven short films. It is a pure and deliberate manipulation and manifestation of a form that gives cinematic life to a narrative idea of a man interrupted from being who he really is. Therefore, the thin and conceptual dialogue free narrative as well as the singular style of the film might look uninviting for the ones accustomed to the familiar. For the ones who recognized themselves in the description, “Interruptus” might appear something artsy out of a modern art exhibition, where the piece loops quietly on an old CRT. But for those who are willing to look past the unconventional style, “Interruptus” has a lot to offer, despite its short runtime. Because all in all Michals “Interruptus” is a phantasmal exploration of form that lures with clarity of its narrative and innovativeness of its techniques.

People Eat People

Duane Michals’s People Eat People follows a couple’s increasingly frenetic argument over a romantic letter. However, within this contained, rather straightforward scenario, the director makes use of visual interplay, sound overlapping, and multiple exposure to display the inner states of each actor, thus transforming the film’s groundwork into a fully formed, emotionally resonating experience along the way.

The letter in question is addressed to a lover concerning an unforgettable stay in Paris. A woman (Whitney Harris) approaches her boyfriend (Derek Stratton) upon discovering it, shifting from confusion to worry to anger and so on from there. When somewhat of a reversal in their dynamic occurs by the final reveal, it becomes clear that we have immersed ourselves in the performances and direction more so than anything else.

With a stark, unembellished cinematography that only hints at an apartment beyond the actors’ close-ups—in addition to a plot that is fragmented through sometimes disembodied, non-linear, repeated dialogue so we catch fleeting bits of information—the setting becomes more of an emotional vacuum than a physical space; the characters are multiplied in different conditions at different points in time, all within the same claustrophobic frame.

As a result, the actors themselves (especially Harris) and the experimental direction command the screen. The entire centerpiece of People Eat People—the argument over the letter—is sandwiched between a beautiful shot of the protagonists embracing in bed and seemingly melding into one another’s bodies while the soft ticking of a clock accentuates, perhaps, their relationship’s “lifespan” outside of these intimate moments that we see throughout. This shot’s placement at the very beginning creates a sensuality, a tender longing before the storm. As it is intercut between the heated exchanges towards the end, however, it evokes a devastating nostalgia. The inner vacuum of the film is thereby brought into full perspective; for better or for worse, these memories will linger even as the “outside world” and the passage of time barrel forward.

If there were an ultimate “narrative impact” to be had from all the technical and performative flair on display, it would certainly be Harris’s journey. Despite her and Stratton’s assertion for the duration of the film, it is the former who we really experience everything with. Stratton is kept on the periphery while Harris’s emotional beats are front-and-center, as she is the one searching for answers and fighting to make sense of a difficult situation with high personal stakes. With the haunting final shot that brings us even closer to her (literally, as the camera’s close-ups tighten even further), we are left with a similar ferocity and deep-cutting loss after following her all the way into the rabbit hole of this emotional space.

From Michals’s kaleidoscopic directorial approach to the interplay and overplay of images and sounds, anchored all the while by a committed central performance, People Eat People explores its small moments to great potential and touches upon guttural truths of human intimacy.

The Crow’s Head

The Crow’s Head is something completely unique and original. That’s the first thing I can say about it. In it’s short running time it provides the audience with something all leave them thinking and trying to work it out, which is always a bonus. If you leave an audience thinking that means the film stays with them, they talk about it. It isn’t forgettable.

The film itself is simple in terms of production but deals with a complicated and internal themes which make this film so intriguing. It’s a film that appears to have no clear story or theme, but leaves it open for the audience to interpret and take from it what they choose, which is often one of the most rewarding parts of watching a film. It gets you thinking and talking.

The production quality is strong. The sets and cast are extremely minimal which works well for this project but what really sets it apart is the animation and artwork that is present on the wall. Although it isn’t used much, it is very well done and adds something different to the film.

Performances, although minimal, are admirable. In particular the lead female performs her role well with no dialogue and nobody to react against. Even with the man in a gorilla suit, which could quite easily have turned the film into farce, actually felt true to the narrative and to the film as a whole and I didn’t find myself questioning it.

Overall The Crow’s Head is an intriguing and thought provoking piece of film that will leave and viewers asking questions for days afterwards.

Personas Non Grata

Directed by Brooklyn-based Alvin Adadevoh and Amber Lee, the documentary short Personas Non Grata creates a prismatic portrait of an international performance art collective. With an introduction that briefly describes the fall of the Soviet Union and the “new societies [that] grew out of it,” the film establishes its social consciousness and anti-totalitarian principles before diving headfirst into a cinematic collage of conceptual performances.

This surreal aftermath to suffering, alluded to in the opening, is what the actors and directors seem to concern themselves with going forward. The camera never lingers on any one particular moment, remaining frenetic and up-close, traversing the staged action and tightly framing itself on the fine details of the group’s extravagant set pieces. Toy soldiers are torched until they become distorted clumps of their former plastic selves; an angel-winged figure is covered in confetti while clutching a golden brain under bubble-gum-pink lighting; animal skulls are arranged on a nude woman’s torso and spray-painted chrome; an anonymous musician with a paper-bagged face strums thunderous–sometimes startling–chords on an electric guitar in the background. All of this culminates in a final bombardment of the senses, where a man with a megaphone shouts diatribes in the actors’ faces while they smash their props with blunt objects and ready a branding stick to imprint a man’s skin with an X scar.

This showcase of ideas is able to capture the spirit of the collective’s art because it does not overtly politicize itself or lay bare the philosophy of their work, but rather fragments it all in a cinematic way—the interviews are understated and sparsely placed between the imagery to just slightly add whatever context is needed. A couple of actors will describe the unpredictability of their process, and the excitement that comes with it, someone else will touch upon the like-mindedness of the people involved and their setting out to “create a new school of art,” but these moments of dialogue never detract from the visceral, intimate footage of their performances whipping across the frame in appropriately disorienting ways. We get to see every last component of the piece, but never any single component for too long. The collective aspect of this group of artists, as well as their assault on conventionality on the stage (or rather in the “space” of a venue), are thus emulated in the anxious movements of the camera and the heightened shadows or deep hues of the cinematography.

Additionally, the sound design fluctuates between a soft, industrial thumping in more singular moments and boisterous, overloaded cacophonies in the larger gatherings (like the skin-searing finale). The filmmaking at-work in Personas Non Grata accomplishes what might be otherwise lost in-person; for a type of experimental art that seems to aim for alienation and distance to spark critical thought, the medium of cinema develops an immersive, trance-like quality through its audio-visual flourishes, a quality that makes this kind of elliptical contemporary performance suddenly more accessible, or at least approachable.

Adadevoh, Lee, et al. are ultimately able to present this underground collective’s work in an aesthetically innovative way that is sometimes humorously over-the-top in its choreography and other times quietly intimate or even dream-like. What Personas Non Grata does is take that opening line about “society” and use it to its best effect; the humans behind the jarring performances, their physicality in the moment, the artistry of the costumes and props and how they are used or manipulated, the attitudes of these ideas and how they are conveyed as an artistic whole. All of this is achieved by steering away from exposition or statement or anecdotes and instead allowing the visuals on-screen to simply speak for themselves. Therefore, what could have been nothing more than an introduction to a performance troupe or a manifesto for their intellectual aims is elevated to a performance art piece that stands on its own, capturing the essence of Non Grata in a truly cinematic, rather than dramatic, light and bringing a new dimension of understanding to their experimental process.

In the end, is this “proof of concept” a strange experience? Yes. Is it as enigmatic as the collective it follows? In many ways. Was that vaguely heart-like organ in the actor’s hand a real one? Possibly. Did they really brand that guy’s chest? Pretty sure. Will this curious hybrid of a film leave you with not only a desire to see more but also a burning, contentious urge somewhere deep inside you? Absolutely.