Shorts #27

Today’s Shorts: Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Cadillac Records (2008), Fever (1921), The Madness Of Dr. Tube (1915), The Fall Of The House Of Usher (1928), Pather Panchali (1955), Blacula (1972)

It’d be an understatement to say that I saw this film in undesirable conditions. Slightly tired, I sat in a stiflingly hot theatre to watch this and was almost pushed to the point of hallucination (I was seeing three vibrating screens at one point), before shamelessly falling asleep for 30 minutes. So, suffice to say that my brain wasn’t functioning at optimum capacity. However, from what I gathered (and I think I did relatively ok), I can say that Blade Runner 2049 was a pretty good movie. I won’t put down any solid opinions, but this movie looked great – though I wouldn’t say it was awe-inspiring – and it relied heavily on cinematic storytelling, which is to be expected from Villeneuve. On the negative side, this was a little slow and didn’t have much of a subtextual punch. But, and this is a big but, I missed a 30 minute chunk in the middle.

All in all, not a huge fan of the original Blade Runner, but, I feel a re-watch of both that and this is, in all fairness, due.

Cadillac Records is a pretty good movie that looks back at a few momentous events and characters of music history with a good degree of sentimentality and romance. In such, this is focused on the emergence of black musicians, such as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Etta James, from Chicago who gained world-wide success and notoriety in the 50s, and would subsequently go onto influence generations of musicians who, in many respects–sometimes literally–stole their music.

As a film, this is good, but not worth writing home about. The story is solid, though nothing special; a take on the ‘white guy/woman goes into a black neighbourhood to make things better’ story with some degree of self-awareness and social commentary. Whilst this doesn’t amount to much, the music certainly makes this movie recommendable; Beyoncé as Etta James is particularly excellent. All in all, if you’re in the mood for a light story, but some great music, this is a film worth giving a watch.

Fever is a tremendous – even quintessential – impressionist film. Light on story, deep on emotions, this is an invite into the body and minds of a sailor and a past lover that is entirely situated in a bar in which a fight breaks out.

The qualities of this film are decidedly in your hands; you must choose to step into these characters, to keep up with the pure, sometimes abstract, narrative, and to feel their emotions as they may be. In essence, the photogénie – the formal elements of this film that heightened the moral value of its narrative structures – are certainly there to be witness, but are required to be met half way. Stepping into this film with such intentions makes this a beautiful and highly affecting – though not necessarily deeply profound – experience. For that, I urge you to give this a go.

A whimsical early short film from Abel Gance about a mad scientist that discovers a hallucinatory powder that distorts reality.

Very reminiscent of Porter’s 1906 film Dream Of A Rarebit Fiend, this is a highly impressionist trick film with elements of comedy and horror. Whilst Porter achieves his impressionistic effects through editing, Gance’s camera work is all very tactile and in-camera: he uses mirrors to distort reality and give the sensation of hallucinatory inebriation.

This all comes together to produce a mostly comedic, part sinister, absurd comedy that leaves almost more questions that it does raise any points. So, though this film lesser than Porter’s film, which is almost a decade older than this, I’d recommend The Madness of Dr. Tube.

A stunning masterpiece of silent cinema, one that feels very much so like Murnau’s expressionist Nosferatu and Dreyer’s abstract, sometimes surreal, Vampyr thanks to its gothic story structure (adapted from a short story of Edgar Allen Poe’s) and general experimental aesthetics. Added to this, this film seemingly preempts those of Jean Cocteau as you can feel temporal elements of Blood Of The Poet within this. Much more strikingly, however, is the influence that this must have had on his grand masterpiece: Beauty and the Beast. The use of slow-motion, the concentration on emotions and the inner psyches of characters in a highly complex story (that is essentially a tragedy that reverses Sleeping Beauty) constructs a fantastical veil to be entirely lost in, despite this have very little plot in contrast to a film such as Beauty and the Beast.

A masterpiece in regards to experience and aesthetics, The Fall of the House of Usher is plainly awe-inspiring. Not all will be able to immerse themselves into this, but those who can will be blown away.

Considered one of the, if not the, greatest Indian and Bengali films ever made, Pather Panchali (or, Song of the Little Road) is devastatingly brilliant. Moreover, this is a strong candidate for the best directorial debut ever made.

A key film that was apart of the early Parallel Cinema movement – a stream of realist films that are quite antithetical to classical Bollywood movies – this explores poverty, youth and the weight of ancestry and the caste system on a family. Shot, directed and performed masterfully, almost every single frame of this film is picture-perfect. And above this Ray’s capturing of textures, lights, reflections, nature and animals is truly stunning. With this film as a melting pot for so many individually phenomenal elements, Pather Panchali is ultimately awe-inspiring in such a way that your just left speechless.

Blacula, one of the most iconic blaxploitation movies ever made, was nowhere near as bad as I thought is was going to be. Nonetheless, this is not a very good movie at all. The dialogue is clunky, the action isn’t too good and the direction loses focus – but, if a focus was sustained, this would have been the most impressive element of the film. There are, however, many immersive sequences and the film itself is entertaining enough as a ‘black horror’ (a genre of film which this pioneered).

The biggest downfall of this movie is simply that it isn’t very clever. There is an attempted commentary on slavery and racial tension in post-Civil Rights America, but this is predicated on a romanticisation of African kings that is, in all likelihood, historically incorrect. So, a weak advocation of black power and unity amongst black people, Blacula doesn’t work incredibly well on any level, but, is, in many regards, passable.

 

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Grave Of The Fireflies – Flickering Lights

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Bandit Queen – Rage

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