Friday, June 8, 2012

WSFF 2012: Reviews #7

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

The Night Shift: Co-Dependence

Screens: Sunday June 10, 1:15 am @ The Bloor Cinema

The Short Take: The second segment of the Night Shift marathon mostly deals in complicated interpersonal dynamics; as such, it's often the case that the uncanny elements at hand are more being used as metaphors, and several of these use horror-film grammar to depict non-horror situations.


The Myth Of Robo Wonder Kid (Dir: Joel Mackenzie, Canada, 2011, 3 minutes) Even viewed on its own, this unusual origin story would have stood out, but in the midst of a programme filled with dour palettes, this colour-filled animation bursts out like a jetpack aimed at some more joyful plane of existence. An origin story with verve, the visuals are animé by way of Powderpuff Girls — and the whole thing gets an extra kick from the use of Rich Aucoin on the soundtrack. (We can hope that as part of the deal he reserved the right to deploy this footage in concert!)

Moxie (Dir: Stephen Irwin, United Kingdom, 2011, 6 minutes) Just like Sunset Boulevard, we start with the dead body of Moxie the Bear, and then flash back to see his last week. Very dark — but very funny — we watch Moxie's drug-taking, pill-taping self-destructive last days unfold.


Pöheikön Hönkä (In A Musty, Misty Thicket) (Dir: Maarit Suomi-Väänänen, Finland/ France, 2012, 13 minutes) A sepia-toned tale of life in the wilderness, wherein Pik Mama languishes, a-drinkin' by the fire while the servile Missy attends to her. They seem adjusted to life in the woods, but whether they are seeking pastoralism or survivors of some calamity isn't really clear, and nor is it totally established whether they're kinfolk, or in a rustic Finnish version of a Boston marriage or what. We do get some snot and fart jokes, but the movie's commitment to its own trashiness seems half-hearted, and in the end, it just seems like some sort of unengaging faux-anthropological exercise.


Upstairs (Dir: Jesper Maintz, Denmark, 2011, 38 minutes) Jonas needs some time on his own, and after breaking up with his girlfriend at the film's outset we meet him moving into his new digs, the least-soundproofed bachelor apartment in Sweden. Stuck in a grim cycle of self-pity, he proceeds to smoke and stew, getting slowly driven to distraction by the sounds emanating from all around him. The sound design would be the outstanding element here, adding an uncanny air to the proceedings. Otherwise, we watch Jonas bumble along in his desaturated realm as the nature of his predicament begins to unfold: not so much afflicted by the supernatural, he's existentially frozen between the gross banality of couplehood and the soul-crushing burden of being alone, two modes of existence that seem equally terrible.

Prita Noire (Black Doll) (Dir: Sofia Carrillo, Mexico, 2011, 8 minutes) A woman is held in thrall to her dead sister, who happens to be a doll that she keeps in a jar. Proceeding like a bad dream, we watch the Black Doll exercise her control and commune with the spiders. The creepy animation has wonderful sense of light and manages to feel at home in a dark and irrational child-like place.

Crown (Dir: AG Rojas, United States, 2012, 10 minutes) Grimly stylish, this feels a bit like the lead in to a high-concept hip-hop video. And like Upstairs, it uses the elements of a horror movie although it is not one. Instead, we get disorienting jumpcuts, mutilation, torn skin and the like as metaphors for drug use, as we watch a group of affluent-looking older white guys make their way to a crack den. Assuredly atmospheric, it lets us work these themes out for ourselves as it unfolds.

Believe The Dance (Dir: Thomas Berg, Norway, 2012, 15 minutes) With the force of Godzilla rampaging over a city, the Will to Dance will find you, no matter where you try and hide. Pleasant, if perhaps a few minutes longer than the idea deserves.

Animation Spotlight: Studio Film Bilder

Screens: Sunday June 10, 2:30 pm @ The Bloor Cinema

The Short Take: A fun overview of some work from Stuttgart's Film Bilder, purveyors of finely-crafted animation for over twenty years. Looking at the works of several artists here, there was certainly a wide stylistic range. And if there was some child-like wonder underpinning a lot of it, the work was equally coloured by a darker adult sensibility. It'd be very worthwhile to check these out on the big screen.


Intolerance III: The Final Solution (Dir: Phil Mulloy, Germany, 2004, 24 minutes) The endless reaches of space, Elvis, time travel, sex boxes, robotic wigs, penis mcnuggets — there's entirely too much going on here to even attempt to summarize. A grand clash on a cosmic scale, mankind has been hurtling through space for two thousand years on a mission to destroy The Zog. At least, those that even believe that The Zog exist are planning on destroying them, when not distracted by their attempts to crush the Anti-Zog faction. This increasingly elaborate story is all plot plowing relentlessly forward — at times it feels like a child's story, with giddy narrative drift inserting new twists with scant regard to logic and continuity. Underneath it all, it's a fable about humanity's unceasing need to have an enemy as well as the ultimate price that we pay for that. But it's expressed with a helium-voiced zany grandeur that astounds.

Kein platz für Gerold (No Room For Gerold) (Dir: Daniel Nocke, Germany, 2006, 5 minutes) One of a pair of anthropomorphized shenanigans from Nocke, this plays out like a scene from a reality show with diverse personalities forced to live together, complete with shaky handheld camera — except for the fact that the competing alpha males are an alligator and a controlling rhino.

Ring of Fire (Dir: Andreas Hykade, Germany, 2000, 15 minutes) A trio of entries from Hykade all share a strong visual identity, but this one left the most striking impact. A starkly monochromatic cowboy story that follows a pair of desperados on a journey through an abstract sexualized landscape. Paging Doctor Freud! There's more envagination here than you might have expected in an old west story (or a cartoon) but there's no doubting the vividness of the imagery.


There were no pans at this programme!


Love & Theft (Dir: Andreas Hykade, Germany, 2010, 7 minutes) This newer entry from Hykade eschews narrative to create a hypnotizing, psychedelic experience. Starting with clean-lined drawings, figures loop and melt into each other, slowing becoming more complicated. The love and theft both arise from the fact that many of the images are borrowed from the history of animation. Trippy and disorienting in the best way.

12 Years (Dir: Daniel Nocke, Germany, 2010, 3 minutes) Like Gerold, this gives us a small slice of a dying relationship rendered through talking animals. Here, a pair of dogs sit in a restaurant, trying to break up with civility — although their animal nature isn't buried too deeply.

Die schöpfung (The Creation) (Dir: Thomas Meyer-Hermann, Germany, 1994, 7 minutes) Sort of a more beneficent spin on the Duck Amuck concept, this presents the Creator as Animator, sketching out new ideas and just as quickly erasing the nonviable ones. But it's also about the creative principle itself, propelled along with an inventive visual spirit.

Rubicon (Dir: Gil Alkabetz, Germany, 1997, 7 minutes) A proposed solution to one of those old brain teasers: how to get a wolf, a sheep and a cabbage across a river, if you can only take one across at a time? The visualization here quickly becomes untethered from the bare bones of the problem, revelling in a series of increasingly unlikely and abstract transits back and forth across the river. Amusing, though one of the few here that felt like it could have been a bit more concise.

Der kloane (The Runt) (Dir: Andreas Hykade, Germany, 2006, 10 minutes) City-dwellers might find it discomfiting to think that some pets don't last forever, as a young boy on a rabbit farm learns here. Although imbued with colour, unlike Hykade's Ring of Fire, this felt somewhat visually austere.

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