Saturday, June 2, 2012

WSFF 2012: Reviews #1

Reviews of screenings from the 2012 CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival (WSFF), Toronto, Canada.

Award Winners From Around The World

Screens: Tuesday June 5, 7:00 pm @ The Bloor Cinema + Sunday June 10, 9:30 pm @ The Bloor Cinema

The Short Take: In one sense, that gala status and presumption of "award-winning" excellence might do a bit too much to raise expectations here. Technical excellence abounds, but as with any programme at the festival, not every story is going to register with every viewer.


The Elaborate End Of Robert Ebb (Dir: FX Goby/Matthieu Landour/Clément Bolla, France/United Kingdom, 2011, 13 minutes) "It's a movie about a man who turns into a monster," says Robert Ebb, making plans with his girlfriend to sneak away from work to go to the drive in. However fate — and strange trail of slime — intervenes. A witty and self-aware nod to campy creature features of yore.

Luminaris (Dir: Juan Pablo Zaramella, Argentina, 2011, 6 minutes) Visually-inventive stop-motion animation fits right into this steam-powered Rube Goldberg world, where a man working in a light bulb factory dreams of something more illuminating.


Trotteur (Dir: Arnaud Brisebois/Francis Leclerc, Canada, 2011, 9 minutes) Jutra Award or no, this impressionistic tale of a man racing a train fails to register emotionally. Looks nice, feels boring.


Armadingen (Dir: Philipp Kaessbohrer, Germany, 2011, 23 minutes) A meteor is hurling toward Earth, and all hope is lost, as the TV stations sign off, telling people to spend their last moments with their loved ones. Farmer Walter hears the news, and does what he can to protect his wife from knowing, trying to give her a final happy day uninterrupted by doom. Charmingly low-key, this one is more Last Night than Armageddon — or is it?

Dripped (Dir: Léo Verrier, France, 2010, 9 minutes) This wordless animation tells the story of an unusually-chameleonic art thief. With a jazzy score, this is an effective argument in favour of abstract expressionism.

Grandmothers (Dir: Afarin Eghbal, United Kingdom, 2011, 9 minutes) I discussed this film when I saw it at Hot Docs.

The Fisherman (Dir: Samantha Pineda Sierra, Mexico, 2011, 11 minutes) An old man goes fishing for memories, using old photographs as bait. Successfully suspending disbelief, the tone of magic realism is just right here for an effective metaphor of how we increasingly harvest our memories as we grow older.

Creative Control

Screens: Wednesday June 6, 7:30 pm @ The Bloor Cinema + Friday June 8, 4:30 pm @ The Bloor Cinema

The Short Take: Creative work is always a struggle, and these shorts explore a variety of tensions arising from both high and low art. A bit of a mixed bag here, this isn't the strongest of the programmes, and until redeemed by the longest selection at the end, I was thinking this wouldn't be one I would recommend.


The Maker (Dir: Christopher Kezelos, Australia, 2011, 6 minutes) This sumptuous stop-motion animation follows a strange, rabbit-like creature undertaking an arcane rite. Stylish and richly-detailed, it's not so much about Frankenstein's urge as the existential problem of reproduction.

How To Raise The Moon (Dir: Anja Struck, Germany/Denmark, 2011, 9 minutes) Another off-kilter animation, this is imbued with more of an experimental feel, suggestive rather than discursive, and mysterious like the moon's light. A rabbit and fox battle over a sleeping woman's fate, invoking an uncanny, vaguely-elusive dreamlike feeling.

Withering Love (Dir: Samanou Sahlstrøm, Denmark, 2011, 29 minutes) In this "long short", Maria (Emmanuelle Béart) becomes interested in Vincent (Denis Lavant), an author whom she rescues against his will. Floating somewhere between tendresse and amour fou, she slowly takes on the properties of the lost love in his novel as she tries to comprehend his soul-anguish. Moody without becoming melodramatic, this features good work from both leads.


Lifetripper (Dir: Graeme Joyce, United States, 2011, 14 minutes) Playing out a bit like The King of Comedy without the kidnapping, this film follows the daily life of Stan (Rob Benedict), a socially awkward auto mechanic prone to starting random conversations on the bus, inflicting his cringe-inducing comedic observations on those around him. This gives him a taste for something more in his life, as he begins to consider trying his material out on stage. We're meant to feel a tension, I guess, between the goofy banter and the sober cinematic treatment it receives, but I found it mostly to be unlikable people talking past each other — I felt an immense sympathy for the guy on the bus who shouts "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Uncompelling in pretty much every way.

Cheese! (Dir: Louis Thomas Pelletier, Canada, 2011, 5 minutes) A one-joke film with a tourist couple's vacation snapshot overtaken by an over-eager local ("do you mind, I'm a professional!"). Things go awry, but in a predictable way, and the performance here has a bit too much fromage to it, leaving it feeling more like a like Just For Laughs gag sequence.


Heaven (Dir: Jan P Matuszynski, Poland, 2011, 15 minutes) A portrait of a man as artist and patient, we watch him working on his paintings while being treated for cancer. Meditative and light-filled, this explores the ties between sickness and inspiration, and the touch of the divine that provides both.

Gravity Of Center (Dir: Thibaut Duverneix, Canada, 2012, 14 minutes) In an empty, abandoned-looking room, a lone figure begins to dance — and transforms into a sequence of different individuals as they continue. Outside, a group of figures carefully make their way across a field with an oblique series of dance steps, as if they were crossing the Zona. That sets up an air of mystery that the film can't quite sustain as it progresses. There is an interesting series of surprising jump cuts, fluid camera work, and nimble editing — but what this does for you probably depends more on how endeared you are to dance as a narrative form.

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