Shorts #21

Today’s shorts: Symptoms (1974), Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992), Teen Wolf (1985), Nostferatu The Vampyre (1979), The Heart Of The World (2000), The Murderers Are Among Us (1946), A Man There Was (1917)

This British horror movie just didn’t work for me. Some would put it in the same vein as Polanski’s Repulsion – and you can also feel hints of Bergman’s Persona in this too – but, to compare Symptoms to these films would be an incredibly grave mistake.

Both mentioned films have atmosphere; their forms speak to their content. The use of zooms, sound design and lighting in this film, however, never work; there is no tone set and no tense atmosphere. If we were to aesthetically compare Symptoms to another European art movie, the place to look would be Bergman’s Cries & Whispers. The cinematography in both of these films is very similar, but nonetheless, Bergman manifests atmosphere where Larraz simply doesn’t.

It’s not a slow-burner, it’s just dull. With bland characters, mediocre acting and nothing much more to speak of, Symptoms is a film that most probably don’t need to see.

It’s not perfect, and it’s probably not as good as the first, but Home Alone 2 is still a brilliant movie.

If in a bad mood, the predictable nature of this movie and the plethora of ex machinas will probably annoy you. Seen in the right setting, usually with family – how close to the holidays doesn’t really matter – this is endlessly entertaining. The slapstick in this movie is surprisingly good with Pesci and Stern proving again to be absurdly well cast. Culkin, too, revises his character well, putting on a performance that works despite the impossible heights of irresponsibility that his character strives towards in the first half of this movie. The score as well… excellent. John Williams is a pure genius. And all of this is managed and brought together near-flawlessly by Columbus.

All in all, Home Alone 2 is great fun and a movie I always find myself watching a few times a year.

P.S. The Donald Trump cameo is a little more striking than I think it was ever intended to be.

A fantastic film, one I’ve been watching since I was young, and though it is aged and imperfect, I’ve always loved it.

The best thing about this movie has to be its tone. Teen Wolf captures the feel of the 80s high school movie wondrously with some great sound design (that, admittedly, has its problems), perfectly-matched music, brilliant characters and an entertaining, though formulaic, story about popularity, teen problems and finding yourself.

To me, this is still the VHS I’d stay awake at nights to get through; warm, completely harmless, imbued with nostalgia, and plainly tremendous for what it is. The one thing I still don’t understand is why Scott would even think to go for Pamela over Boof. Nonetheless, a lasting personal favourite.

As the title alone suggests, this is an amalgamation of Dreyer’s Vampyr and Murnau’s Nosferatu. We see this, too, reflected in the plot and aesthetic of this movie with Herzog blending Murnau’s expressionism and Dreyer’s sense of surrealism into his own dark, silently profound and realist style.

Never before, or since, has Dracula been captured in as horrifying manner as what Kinski and the make-up artists bring to screen in this picture. And never have I known for a Dracula adaptation to have such a thick and atmospheric story, one seemingly about superstition (or faith), isolation, fear and loss. Utterly captivating, Herzog’s Nosferatu is an astounding piece of cinema and one of the most mature and sinister vampire films I’ve ever come across.

An incredibly impressive short film, edited to run at a million miles an hour, juxtaposing theatrical suffering with death, capitalism and love.

It seemingly means to comment on the arts as a captivation of human emotion and sensibilities with creativity being the ‘heart of the world’. By having theatrical suffering, death and capitalism fight for this position, there seems to be an implied conflict between such concepts that is nonetheless overcome by cinema – as this is what the woman (she who all of these personified themes fight for the hand of) transforms into when journeying herself to the heart of the earth. With cinema itself having all of the mentioned elements within, this film is then seemingly an affirmation of a higher purpose to cinema that transcends its theatrical roots, morbid fascination, clichés and money.

Well worth the watch and a moment or two of thought.

Truly chilling, The Murderers Are Among Us is one of the first post-war German rubble films, one that focuses on the scar of war on both the German landscape and people.

Originally called The Man I Will Kill, this had a radically political script that was initially seen to want to incite vigilantism. With re-writes guided by Soviet backers, this became a piece of reformative film – a lot of which were imported by the Allies into Germany for re-education in the post-war period. Instead of imploring vigilantism, The Murderers Are Among Us then makes a hefty political statement concerning justice and compassion in the face of escapism and ignorance.

This is brought to the screen with a realist story, but expressionist aesthetics that synthesise awe-inspiring imagery and chest-piercing storytelling simultaneously. Both historically significant and a striking experience, The Murderers Among Us is a film I’d have to recommend.

I was half expecting another version of Griffith’s The Unchaining Sea with A Man There was, but, the melodrama of Griffith’s film is replaced by a poetic sense of fate and dismay by Sjöström. This is thanks to the harrowing aesthetics that lift the story above its coincidental roots and the intricate placing of the inordinately plentiful title cards.

Whilst understandably placed for their lyrical qualities derived from the poem from which this was adapted, the use of verbose and innumerable cards is a brave move for a silent film. This is pulled off effortlessly within A Man There Was, however, leaving this a rare example of a great piece of cinema, one that is acutely visual at points, though nonetheless, large-part literary.



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