REVIEWS AND BLOG

FERRUCCIO story of a (little) robot

Quite often films that are presented in a very simple way can be the most effective. Here we see a film that has a aesthetic that is detailed and atmospheric. Instead of distracting from the narrative or the characters this is done in a way that compliments them. The set dressing, costume design and lighting work perfectly to create a world that adds to the narrative impact.

The performances of cast are strong providing the audience with compelling and dynamic characters that we want to stay with throughout the film.

The film is well pieced together and all departments compliment each other to create a piece that is a pleasure to watch.

Face to Face by Weigang Song

This short film brings with it a simple concept but it presents in a compelling and interesting manner that keeps the audience involved throughout. The performances are layered and dynamic providing a story that is compelling.

The film is presented in a way that is simple but this allows the audience to fully immerse themselves in the narrative and the characters. The direction allows the actors to deliver their performances in a way that feels natural, this in turn helps the audience to relate to the characters.

The beauty of this film is its simplicity actually aids in the depth of it. By allowing the audience to fully invest in the narrative and the characters this film is able to tell its story fully.

Hazel

Teen dramas are commonplace in the market, but rarely do they pack the impact they intend to. Hazel is the exception. The story may not be completely original but it is presented in a way that is compelling and interesting. The imagery and colour palette compliment the tone of the film perfectly making it an easy and palatable watch.

The film provides performances that convey the emotion within the story effectively, creating characters that are relatable and dynamic. The script is well rounded and written in a way that isn’t contrived or on the nose. Strong editing and sound mixing work well to emphasise the impact of the film. Costume and Set design support the overall tone of the film but don’t distract from the narrative.

Hazel provides a compelling narrative and encompassing atmosphere that keeps the audience interested throughout. A strong and enjoyable short film.

Joyce the shortfilm

Contemporary urban life has its strange tendencies that shape social material of the world. From familial ties to the global flow of people, the cities shape the life of different social classes leaving a mark on the way parenthood is constructed.

The short film “Joyce” looks at the life in New York City, where successful workaholic and egocentric parents dedicate their lives on their work life, while equally hardworking immigrant nannies take care of their children. Unlike many other films that address such situation, the subtle, empathetic and heartfelt drama focuses on the story of the nannies, and particularly on the touching everyday of Filipino nanny Joyce. Warm and caring Joyce has migrated to New York from Manila in order to support her family at home, whom she misses dearly. She works for a husband and wife, who too busy to notice or care about their daughters interests or if Joyce has received her paycheck in time. Their arrogance and self-centeredness forms a telling background for the story that focuses on Joyce’s struggles of being mentally and physically far from her family. In “Joyce” we follow one of the harder days of her life, which exposes many thought-provokingly emotional aspects of contemporary notions of parenthood, work, and global class divide.

The subtle storytelling makes sure that the intimately structured story hits its emotional notes. The both realistic and allegoric feel is achieved by naturalistic cinematography and editing, which bring the events close to the audience and stress the affectionate approach that the film tries to successfully achieve. Joyce’s emotional journey is presented without sentimental accents, which makes the themes and emotional atmosphere easily identifiable. Although the soundtrack occasionally slips to the track of sentimentality, the performances keep the film beautifully grounded.

The positive and negative tensions arising between the sensitively directed characters pull the story forward and are the thematic core of the film. The importance of close and understanding relationships for an individual living in any kind of conditions is essential for their wellbeing. “Joyce”, which understands the hardships of finding such relations in a foreign and socially distant context in which familial relations are mediated by quick and expensive phone calls and homesickness is soothed by material objects from home.

The calmly paced narrative of “Joyce” is a little bit too convenient in some parts and covered topics are a little too simplified, but the sensitive approach that the socially and psychologically precise director Nora Jaenicke takes treats the universal subject matter with notable warmth and empathy. Movies like “Joyce” help as to be more empathetic towards migrants, while making us rethink our familial relations in contemporary world that appreciates blinding thirst for success, self-centeredness, and anonymity and instrumentality of relations. By stressing the importance of close relationships in a setting that deepens loneliness and exclusion daily, “Joyce” concludes with hopeful notes about how to emotionally survive amidst the global flows of workforce. It is beautiful and honest contemporary drama for the people working as nannies for the people hiring them.

Rest Stop

Stephen King has this great initiative. He offers aspiring film students and filmmakers a possibility to adapt his short stories to film for one dollar only, under contractual obligations, of course. These so called “Dollar Babies” are the world famous best-selling author’s way to contribute to the film industry and annoy his accountants. For example Frank Darabont (the director of The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) used this initiative as a stepping-stone, which landed him his following work with Stephen King.

Canadian filmmaker Stephen Baxter’s “Rest Stop” is one of these King’s “Dollar Babies”. And very mature and polished one, too. While being a cinematic crystallization of Baxter’s talent, the drama thriller tells a story of a restrained and refined English professor, whose alter ego is a badass Indiana Jones looking mystery writer Rick Hardin. The professor in the film’s protagonist is a little embarrassed about his other darker and robust side, which brings additional income by attracting the crowd, who buy their books from gas stations. After one of his students brings the professor’s hidden life into the focus during a lecture, the protagonist’s dichotomous identity comes to the fore, again. This sets the complex but clear frame for the story and continues to engrossingly explore the dynamics between the two sides of the writer and how these tensions materialize in this real life and in his creative work.

Stephen King’s short story is adapted to the film form splendidly with a captivating multilayered approach that mixes the protagonist’s reality together with the fiction that he produces without seeming too confused or pushed. Furthermore, the tensely written dialogue that flirts with topical themes carries the story forward with a well-paced tone that knows, how to have fun and when to tighten the tension curve. Although we can thank Stephen King for the great protagonist who has all the complexities that a good character should, the screenwriter Amy Halloran is one to adore, when we look at the coherent and progressing storytelling of “Rest Stop”. Halloran’s polished and well-structured screenplay vitalizes the characters, while it gives relevance for the gripping story.

The director Stephen Baxter’s solid work builds a wonderful tone for the story. By relying on the duality of the protagonist, he maximizes the great performance of the lead actor Eric Davis (Mother!, The Bone Collector, 19-2, Midway), who manages to pull of the two completely different natures of his character with charm and power. While many contemporary authors fail to create a balance between different genres, Baxter mixes the visual elements and tools of both drama and thriller skillfully.

The cinematography by Wyler Diome Montour creates an awesome atmosphere for the film and finds the best angles for supporting the progressing tone of the scenes from tense crime action to charmingly lit bar sequences. The score reinforces the duality of the narrative and thus the tone further. Due to its cinematic and narrative consistency, I hope that Stephen Baxter’s “Rest Stop” is one of those “Dollar Babies” that the director’s namesake ends up watching. It’s truly worth it.

Eric Hanged Himself

What happens when a sociopathic man comes across with two friends, impregnates one and does something unexpected with another? What is the effect of deep love, which makes people blind over certain aspects of the person whom one loves?

Ryan Bennett, a versatile filmmaker from New Zealand, answers such questions and some more in his third short film that is provocatively called “Eric Hanged Himself”. The modern morality tale tells a short domestic story about Jenna, her best friend Tracey and Tracey’s boyfriend Eric, the latter of whom is the root of all evil in the story. So, these three characters form a soap opera type of dynamic full of betrayal, tears, pregnancy, cruel intentions (yes, this is a nod to the late 1990s movie “Cruel Intentions”), manipulation, and exploitation.

The story starts with introducing suspicious looking Tracey and the full on pregnant Jenna talking on a phone about Eric, who has allegedly killed himself. Where the thematically tactless (hint the title and the main motif) film does with the soapy premise from there on, though, gets rather interesting. By playing with the spectators’ attention, “Eric Hanged Himself” makes the storytelling multilayered, which means that the casual activities the characters do during dialogues are more meaningful than the things they often say. This approach turns the story a little more intriguing, while demonstrating the skills of the director-screenwriter and the co-screenwriter Benjamin Rider, whose script is tightly written and well energized. That is, the script, events, and characters are presented functionally, while they seem to hold water, although the premise might sound absurd, when pulled out of context.

The young and upcoming actors Elizabeth Dowden as Jenna, Arlo Green as Eric and Fiona Armstrong as Tracey truly materialize the motifs of their compactly written and directed characters. Their dynamic and solid performances carry the film that is constructed around the morality and immorality of the characters. And in that the film reaches its goals in studying shortly but effectively the interplay between morals and personal goals, love and friendship.

The events are depicted by efficiently present cinematography by Lance Wordsworth, while the meaningfully paced editing supports the storytelling by giving it a good rhythm and communicating the meanings that the story conceals in action and visual storytelling. The narrative is accompanied by road trip vibe soundtrack that is part of establishing the atmosphere of the film and the feeling of departure, which can be easily associated with the themes of the film. The set and costume design emphasize the domestic drama tone, while making the story more plausible.

Although the film is far from reaching the goal of joining “a larger conversation on abusive relationships and manipulation of women” and only depicts some aspects of the problem without any proper comments, “Eric Hanged Himself” reaches very close to justifying its too offensive and provocative title and poster, which really doesn’t reflect the narrative, tone nor the essence of the film. If to pass this misdirection, one can conclude that “Eric Hanged Himself” demonstrates the craftsmanship of its authors, especially in the field of stylish editing, convincing acting and determined directing. And oh, of course, conclude that men suck.

1,2,3, Once Again

Alzheimer’s disease is an awful disease, which can’t be reversed or cured. As Wikipedia states, its gradually worsening effects cause memory issues, language problems, disorientation, mood swings, lack of motivation and other behavioral issues. In order to provide support to elderly people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, there is a therapeutic program in Portugal, which curates musical interventions for its participations. These physical and musical sessions form a rather distinct reality apart from the rapid flows of everyday life. The Portuguese filmmaker, performance artist, photographer, poet, musician, video artist, painter and communication scholar Vasco Diogo (known for the award winning experimental film “anexperimentalviralvlog – the movie remix # !”) explores this reality in his short film “1,2,3, Once Again” with a unique experimental approach that creates a fascinating and unconventional film reality, which makes the viewer emphasize with the Alzheimer patients as well as absorb to the distorted reality the film establishes.

Vasco Diogo, who usually works with mixed media and experimental approaches and has a strong theoretical and practical background in different forms of creative expression, approaches the unfamiliar and strangely haunting space intuitively and improvisationally. This approach separates “1,2,3, Once Again” from a conventional documentary that the short film could have easily been. By adding disorienting layers with sound design and video effects, Vasco Diogo makes the film visually and thematically more complex. More unreal and more demandingly as well as physically experienced. This is not a documentary about a form of Alzheimer’s therapeutic program that you consume by watching and thinking.

No, Diogo’s experiment pulls the viewer in to the sessions in another level provoking existential thoughts and emotional responses with its unconventional approach to editing and effects, as well as storytelling. By playing with time, tone and voice manipulation, the artist creates an absorbing reality with its own roles and timeline. These effects combined with the subject matter creates a therapeutic environment around the viewer, as if the short film itself was constructed to provoke a stimulated therapeutic session. But then an interesting question comes to the front. While the people depicted in the film suffer from Alzheimer’s and work in a session carved for this particular disease, what is the condition of the audience? Is it individually or collectively perceived? Does the experimental film form a uniform therapeutic space in which different spectators ponder on similar questions and experience similar processes? These are only some of the questions that the experiment arises with its unconventional form and fully experimental execution that employs both visuals and audio to make sure that the reality and the experience constructed by the audience is detached from the everyday reality.

Because of such different approach that locates 1,2,3, Once Again somewhere between visual art, experiential cinema, participatory therapeutic cinematic intervention and documentary, Diogo’s newest work might feel too unconventional and odd for the audience who prefer clear and cinematically polished ways of visual representation. But for those, who are ready to explore uncharted territories, 1,2,3, Once Again offers psychologically engaging and thought-provoking framework for experiencing and exploring big existential questions.