REVIEWS AND BLOG

Goodbye Mondays

“Goodbye Mondays”: Contemporary wittiness meets traditional filmmaking!

In its core Michael Salmon’s “Goodbye Mondays” is at the same time both nostalgically traditional and eccentrically modern genre film, which employs the specifics of short film as a format splendidly. While most of the tonally retrospective films of today lack of content, style and character, “Goodbye Mondays” has it all and much more in its short 13-minute runtime.

“Goodbye Mondays” is a suspense drama that progresses with a Hitchcockian tension and culminates in a witty twist. The film follows the first day of a hardworking but a little gullible newly-hired maid Lucy (Gillian Saker), employed in a upper class residence by a sexually active housewife (Eloise Juryeff). The femme fatale archetype – seductive, mysterious, self-confident and -centered – of the housewife works as a great opposite for the humble and down-to-earth servant, creating a motivating dynamic for the plot.

Trying to the best out her first day, Lucy tries to please her employer’s requests, but soon is driven to witness glimpses of the housewife’s private life. And so, with a few incoming phone calls – made with a black, old and allusively cinematic phone – Lucy is pulled into a love triangle, or so she and the viewer are guided to assume.

This fun and utterly traditional plot forms the backbone of the narrative, which relies on finely composed dialogue and strategically introduced information. Thus, the director and writer Micheal Salmon’s screenplay’s structure is beautifully organized to play with the viewer’s assumptions, while advancing the story eloquently. The structure then is in perfect harmony with the setting, built with minimalistically luxurious set design that feels timeless, mirroring the characters and the atmosphere. The milieu indeed tells a lot about the dynamics of the relations of the maid and the housewife, as well as about the economic and social status of both. It helps to contextualize the story, emphasize the tension, and establish the atmosphere for the dramatically progressive events to occur.

The events are followed by perfectly composed cinematography by Beatriz Sastre. The aesthetic framing and motivated movements suit the story beautifully, adding up to the cinematically traditional ambience of the film. The visuals of “Goodbye Mondays” in general, from classy location to stylish tone, are refined, as they work hand in hand with the storytelling. Both Gillian as the maid and Eloise as the housewife give strong performances with their detailed facial expressions and well paced dialogues.

Many aspects of the film provoke to draw parallels to film history, especially to the films of the 1950s and 1960s. In addition to numerous pieces by Alfred Hitchock, the motifs and style of “Goodbye Mondays” evoke recollections from Buñuel’s “Belle de Jour” to film noir classics, creating hunger for more contemporary takes on the genre. These creative provocations of such connotations make “Goodbye Mondays”, as a perfectly flawless film, special. Special in both style and ambitions. And indeed, the narratively and stylistically immersive “Goodbye Mondays” makes you forget Mondays and every other mundane day of the everyday.

Kissy Cousins Monster Babies and Morphing Elvis

Filled to the brim with retro nostalgia, Kissy Cousins is a 90s smack in the face. From the Star Wars opening to the costumes and set decor it’s beautifully constructed yet completely contained.

Kissy Cousins only just counts as a short, with its 40 minute running time its more of a medium, and this at times causes a drop in interest. It could potentially benefit from cutting the length by ten minutes or so. That said, the dialogue is excellent. Written to fit in with the aesthetic of the piece and embrace itself for what it is, rather than pretend to be something it isn’t.

The cinematography and production design are flawless. The film is almost completely contained in one room yet the designers have done an outstanding job creating the perfect 90’s set. The same can be said for costume and make-up.

The story itself may not break any moulds, but it is so well presented and paced (aside from the odd lull) that it doesn’t matter. It’s there for pure entertainment and that is exactly what it provides. AS I stated, it embraces what it sets out to be and that fun and self awareness shines through to provide the audience with something that is pure popcorn endulgence.

A well made, cleverly constructed and designed and overall utterly entertaining piece of film that will make anyone born in the late 80s swoon with memories.

UndercoverUp

How many agents are too many agents?

Within the diverse film landscape of today, there seems to be annoyingly many action comedies that follow the same narrative structures, tones, and character motives. Many of them usually fail to find balance between the action and the comedy. That is, fail to make us laugh and entertain us with creative action scenes. For this reason Eric Player’s crime farce “UndercoverUP” feels like a fresh breeze in the pool of action comedy flops. A story that follows an undercover agent to the dark and raw world of international crime to solve a shady deal plays with crime movie conventions more creatively than many contemporary action comedies.

The crime comedy starts with a too familiar crime series montage of a busy urban city only to gradually reveal its true intensions. However, this clever build-up sets the tone of beginning and provides a structure for the views expectations. Namely, the genre- and topic-based assumptions the movie starts to play with in order to establish comedy and satire. We see a professional looking agent entering a shady warehouse, where he meets his criminal acquaintances. As he walks in, the suspicious looking company monitors his every step. A scene that you probably have witnessed too many times. Will he blow his cover? Who will shoot whom? What are the stakes? Will the Russian criminal, who will soon bring in the merchandise, speak with an awfully stereotypical accent? And so on. The misleadingly arranged storyline brings these assumptions to the surface to employ them into a plot twist that will transform the whole register of the film to a much more funnier and interesting one. What is that twist? You need to see it by yourself.

In addition to the well-structured narrative, the short film succeeds in simple but effective character building. Within the limits of the short runtime, the film manages to introduce enough details of the characters for them to live and breathe. The characters are fun, quirky and idiosyncratic, while the great chemistry between them provides a lucrative base for comedy. Although the dialogue lacks rhythm a bit, its silliness creates a suitable vibe for the story. But what is important, the actors seem to have fun with their roles.

The keyword “simple but effective” is also relevant for the rather traditional cinematography and editing, which leaves room for the fun screenplay and uncommon characters to shine. The visuals create this quite typical, but still fitting urban milieu in which the events. Shadowy night, industrial warehouse, a lot of greenish and bluish tones – familiar, but effective, as the “UndercoverUP” twists the conventions with humor and wit in order to achieve something surprising and fresh.

Despite some technological errors across the film, “UndercoverUP” manages to entertain as well as execute its farcical intentions. The film mocks many tired tropes of comedy action movies and crime dramas, while giving an absurdly unreal or maybe ridiculously palpable take on the work of covert agents. We will never know unless we “UndercoverUP” ourselves.

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.