Today’s shorts: The Red Balloon (1956), Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974), Spacy (1981), Landscape Suicide (1987), Bio-Dome (1996), Get Out (2017), At Sea (2007)
The Red Balloon is one of the most beautiful films about childhood ever made. It follows a young boy who finds a magical balloon that, I suppose, befriends and then chooses to follow him everywhere.
The poignancy of this short is embedded in the image of the balloon – which for some reason holds something quite special within it. As a symbol of childhood a balloon seems to signify intermittent joy and levity that everyone knows will soon burst or float away. And in such, it seems a good measure for getting to know a young boy. Most will fight over a balloon, try to pop, batter or destroy it. But, a few will look after and cherish it. And it’s this paradigm that this narrative explores, one that holds so much power because of its emotionally raw and simple depiction of human bonds that we could easily see mapped out onto many different contexts.
Ali: Fear Eats The Soul is a film by the prolific New German Cinema auteur, Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It follows a 60-year-old German and a 20-year-old Moroccan in a relationship, exploring themes of racism, discrimination, alienation and hostility. Though this isn’t a unique subject to tackle, Fassbinder does well in his assessment of the idea that close relationships are born and thrive on understanding.
However, beyond this there’s not much more of merit about this film. Both the acting and the script have a horrific rhythm to them, and we are constantly held at a distance, both directorially and through the script, from each and every character. I could see the argument that this distance allows a more realist commentary to be formulated, but, this simply disengaged me. What’s more, there is no tremendous profundity to be found in this narrative. With a better incite into the characters provided, this narrative would have been far more immersive, giving the final message much more impact.
All in all, this is an ok film, but not much more.
An exploration of ‘mise en abyme’, Spacy is an experimental film by Takashi Itoh that has us move through space (a gym), perpetually, moving through pictures within picture within pictures. As opposed to mise en scène (placing on the stage), mise en abyme (placed into the abyss) sees the formal blocking of a cinematic space reduced from a three dimensional ‘sculpture in time’ into a pseudo-four dimensional sculpture through time.
With the subtext of self-exploration at the core of this ‘narrative’, realising the formal links to a sculpture through time, Itoh then commentates on cinema’s capacity to transcend a human understanding of time and space and relay that back to an audience. This becomes a much more accessible idea when you realise that this experiment exposes the formal subtext of many films that move through space in a inhuman manner – of which you can find a plethora of examples.
The final focus in Spacy then seems to be on a camera’s perspective and how this relates to an audience being fed its perception. Interesting food for thought in my view.
The only thing of note about this film are the script and the performances. As a re-enactment of court transcripts from two cases of murder, both the director and actors come together to produce what I would unquestionably assume to be real confessions and testimonies if I didn’t know otherwise.
However, inserted in between these re-enactments are lengthy looks at landscapes and other mundane details about small towns. As the title suggests, this could have been inserted as to question the kind of environment that produced the murderers we are, in a certain way, presented. However, the length at which we’re made to consider this is pretty absurd, and eventually I completely lost interest in the experimental imagery and started to fast-forward. Maybe I should have given this more of a chance, but there really wasn’t much substance to be found in this narrative at all.
If anyone thinks we that live in chaotic times and that nothing makes sense nowadays… maybe watch 1996’s Bio-Dome knowing that this movie almost definitely wouldn’t be made today.
Bio-Dome is a terrible movie that’d take thousands upon thousands of words to review and properly get across this point. But… I love this movie. I grew up with this nonsense alongside movies like Bill And Ted as well as California Man. There’s no excuses and there is no shame; I almost cry with laughter as practically each and every unfunny joke hits its mark stupendously well. And I’m not even laughing at this movie, rather, with it. Why…
I’m going to have to do a bit of soul searching before committing to an answer. Nonetheless, it is what it is: a personal favourite.
Get Out is a strong movie with quite a few faults. Whilst the acting throughout is pretty good, the characterisation in the script is so-so and the direction leaves much to be desired. In such, there is no sense of atmosphere, nor cinematic language that communicates the horrors of the given scenario. Moreover, all of the best imagery found through direction is tantamount to a trope or cliche, leaving the film without a strong sense of style or articulation. So, in respect to the narrative, Get Out was quite a let down.
However, the subtext of this movie was somewhat redeeming; a commentary not just on racism and discrimination as many have framed this film to be, instead, an exploration of an encroaching and unneeded focus on said themes that seems especially prevalent in the modern day.
So, all in all, Get Out was an ok watch, but ultimately a mediocre film I don’t see myself seeking out and viewing again.
At Sea. The most entertaining aspect of this film was constructing my own soundtrack – one that certainly didn’t match the narrative. Beyond this, I’m getting tired of experimental filmmakers asking me to sit back and muse over their static, stretched-out imagery. Whilst, yes, this film has many bold and powerful shots and a somewhat interesting topic (a ship sailing off before being beached), forcing us to view this all in silence is very pretentious. In fact, it just comes off as lazy – and to the point that I wasn’t really bothered to engage with the narrative.
As a cinematic symphony, At Sea sits in the same realm as films like Man With A Movie Camera and Koyaanisqatsi. However, unlike both of these films, At Sea has no sense of rhythm or pace, nor does it assume a particularly interesting perspective. In such, we are made to see mundane shots of sea, sky, beaches, docks and men working – all of which begin to lose their power as we are exposed to the same old observer’s perspective. I would have loved to have had a proper sound track, more interesting shot types and to see Hutton give character to this scenario – either by better depicting the people within, or more intricately documenting the ship itself (its processes and little details) instead of putting us on or around it to observe everything from a distance. This ultimately would have better represented the ideas that may lie beneath narrative.
All in all, not really worth the trouble. But, I do have to say that I don’t regret watching this film. So, take from that what you will.
End Of The Week Shorts #6.1
Zoo – Humanity?
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