Monday, March 06, 2006


Romance With A Double Bass

On Friday night, I decided to partake in a bit of culture, and popped along to a showing of short films at the AMC Cinema in Manchester. The segment, Kino Horror, was a part of the '10th Manchester International Short Film Festival' - snappy name, right?

I'm unsure what to think about short film, and this problem wasn't helped any by actually watching some. I'll do some mini-reviews (like the films!) and maybe you'll see what I mean.

'Home Sweet Home', from South Korea, was entirely typical of South-East Asian horror films in that it avoided direct confrontation with the viewer, instead opting for psychological sniping. The story concerned a family finding out through the news that their daughter had died in a nursery fire, only for her to turn up on the doorstep. Instead of being grateful for this, they decide to try and kill her - but of course! Actually, I found it rather effective, and it was one of the better made of the films - shot nicely in washed-out blues, giving the proceedings a nice clinical air.

'Bass In Contra', from Germany, was my personal favourite. I have no idea who director Alex Schmidt is, but I would place money that at some point he has directed adverts. The whole thing was less than seven minutes, and in it's gloriously camp over-gothic stylings (would a twenty-something cellist really be able to afford to live in a gothic mansion?) was obviously aiming for comedy as much as for horror. Nonetheless, the contrabass of the title, jealous of it's owners new girlfriend, proceeding to attack her, was so simple yet sublime I was enchanted. The influence of 'Psycho' was obvious throughtout, but it didn't feel like a lame rip-off.

'Hambre', from Spain, was a curious animated feature clearly drawing inspiration from the horror films of a century ago. A young girl decides to dig up a corpse for food. It actually reminded me intensely of those Stella Artois adverts, particularly this one. The skill behind the animation was impressive, but the story was hardly gripping.

'The Carpenter And His Clumsy Wife', from Ireland, was also clearly aiming for humour. A clever little tale, it told of a man whose wife kept getting bits of her anatomy cut off in various accidents and him having to make (better) replacements for her. It was totally ridiculous, but I quite enjoyed the throwaway nature of it. Most surprising was its narration by Jim Sheridan, last seen directing the 50 Cent hagiography 'Get Rich Or Die Tryin'.'

'Las Viandas', also Spanish, was a very well worked tale about a man stopping to eat at a rural restaurant and not being able to leave the table. All good horror works when you identify with the victim in a situation they cannot escape from, and that is what was on offer here.

'Nemesis', again Spanish, was a tale about a man trapped as a ghost in his own tiny apartment. It was intriguing, but the constant narration and home-video method of shooting turned into a sort of domestic 'Blair Witch Project', and that's hardly a good thing.

'Oh My God', from the US, was pretty poor. A man comes home and finds his wife and kid dead. He yells 'Oh My God' and 'how did this happen?' over and over again. It's immensely irritating, but sets up the comic pay-off at the end. That is funny, but frankly the previous nine and a half minutes were just painful to watch.

I left happy, but unsatisfied. I can respect people who make short films - indeed, it must require nearly as much skill as a feature film, not least because of the vastly smaller crews, the deeply limited budgets, and the need for faster character exposition. Still, when was the last time you watched a short film? Who, exactly, are they made for? Supposing I wanted to watch any or all of these again, how on earth would I? Who knows?

Careful with that . . .

I've been involved with a few short films - They're mainly made for festivals - as promos for producers, directors and production companies to get other work. It's a shame, as it would be fairly easy for cinemas to show shorts but there's no point as there's no money in it, because noone cares enough. I'd love to be able to successfully produce and distribute short films.

I guess its a bit like the short story - where do they get published apart from magazines or newspapers every so often?
That's something else that makes me sad. I love short stories, anything up to 100 or so pages - I prefer them to novels to be honest. Nathanael West's 'The Day Of The Locust' is one of my favourite ever stories.

However, unless your an acknowledged author, it's all but impossible to get short stories published, so I'm told. A real pity.
The last one I watched was on late night channel 4. I have absolutely no idea what it was about.

I love those Shooting Gallery segments, or whatever they call them these days. In the last one I watched, a young boy teased his sister relentlessly, so his sister hit him in the head with an axe.

Well, as I always say, you've got to stop that backchat early.
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