Thursday, May 28, 2009

SIFF Reviews: Short in the Dark and Dead Snow

Instead of virtuously attending the 12th Ave Stewardship Council meeting last night like I meant to, I was gang-pressed into taking in a SIFF double-feature: Short in the Dark at the Northwest Film Forum and Dead Snow at Pacific Place.

I just barely made it into Dead Snow, even with friends waiting for me in the Will Call line way ahead of time. Seattle likes their foreign, friends-go-to-an-isolated-cabin zombie films that much. We were not disappointed, though the short film that accompanied Dead Snow might have been better than the feature we came to see.

Full Employment is a German short about an employment assistance agency for the elderly who still need to make money but aren't getting around so well anymore. It's full of mockumentary goodness and jokes about how all young people in Germany are unpaid trainees or volunteers. And the best part: Mr. Jones, the elderly man who's day we get to a zombie hunter.

Short in the Dark is a series of experimental short films, some of which were really great, others of which were...definitely experiments.

  1. SHU (dir. Philipp Lachenmann, 12 min.)
    12 minutes of time-lapse filming watching night fall over an isolated high-security prison in the Mojave Desert. Mostly, you just hear the wind. It is quiet and beautiful. It is frightening to stare into the vast clear vault of the desert sky as it turns to night.

  2. Puccini Conservato (dir. Michael Snow, 10 min.)
    Oh man... ten minutes of fuzzy closeup pans of someone's Panasonic stereo system as Puccini plays in the background. It was so bad. The sudden, silent cuts to a fireplace, flowers, and open water were so unexpected and bizarre that the threater burst into laughter.

  3. Garden/ing (dir. Eriko Sonoda, 6 minutes)
    The whole short is a constant loop around a glass door that looks into a garden. The viewer seems to be approaching the door, only to go through it and see that they're looking at the same door again, somewhat like an inescapable revolving door that just keeps dumping one back into the lobby over and over again. Over time, the view of the garden through the door switches from the "real" view to a projection of that view to the entire screen being a projection of the "real" view of the room and the view. It was a fascinating study, although the constant circling motion made me rather queasy.

  4. Dig (dir. Robert Todd, 2 min.)
    A seizure-inducing series of signs painted on the street to guide road construction is accompanied by the sound of jackhammers. It works - it does indeed "[reveal] a restless array of mysterious geometries". Thankfully however, it was kept to two minutes so that the audience did not succumb to seizures or sensory overload.

  5. Slow Boat to Thassos (dir. Jon Behrens, 7 min.)
    Speaking of seizure-inducing... seven minutes of rapid-fire reverse colored photographic images with weird-ass noise in the background. This film would be perfect for brainwashing and hypnotic suggestion.

  6. Horizontal Boundaries (dir. Pat O'Neill, 23 min.)
    This one nearly killed me. It certainly brought back ten-fold the queasy feeling I got from Garden/ing. It was supposed to be some kind of statement about LA's cityscape, since all the images used in this unending brainkill were of that particular metropolis. What it was was an eternity of vertically overlapping images of the city accompanied by a mind-breaking soundscape of music/noise/old radio plays/dogs barking. I would be interested in 2-5 minutes of this. I could stand 2-5 minutes of this. But after nearly half an hour I was surprised I didn't have a migraine from my body's rebellion against the aesthetics of the piece.

  7. Somewhere (dir. Salise Hughes, 4 min.)
    Roy Rogers and Maria from West Side Story, cut directly from their native film stock and pasted onto a brightly colored backdrop, sing "Somewhere". Clunky and meh.

  8. Adulte (dir. Carlos Reygadas, 7 min.)
    Very, um, experimental. It certainly was surreal watching a naked man sitting in a coffin, lamenting, rolling himself and the coffin to the cliff, and then throwing the coffin over the edge while wearing a (miraculously self-attiring?) suit.

  9. Bedtime Story (dir. Sarah Jane Lapp, 2 min.)
    It's great, mostly because its a cute little story with a plot.

  10. The Chronicles of Cleo and Jack (dir. Karn Junkinsmith, 15 min.)
    Hands-down, this is what made Short in the Dark worth my while. Well, and SHU too. Two young hipsters skateboard all around Seattle trying to deliver a package and get away from Hari-Krishna types that dance like the hippies in Hair. It's lovely in black and white, and Karn Junkinsmith is right - skateboarding is like dancing, at least when she films it.

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