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SLFS Review – Shorts Program 5: Experimental

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Review by Dane Marti

Shorts Program # 5: Experimental plays as part of the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase Tuesday July 11th at 5:00pm at The Tivoli Theater, 6350 Delmar Blvd.

As an experimental filmmaker, I am looking forward to seeing what my competition is. Who knows, perhaps I should have submitted my surreal film shorts. Perhaps next year!
Anyway, even looking at the opening frames on this DVD menu of films to be show at the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase makes me excited that I will be in for a treat! All of the imagery looks interesting to me.

180 –  Zlatko Cosic was the great filmmaker behind this first simple but colorfully interesting film: One giant rectangle consists of many smaller cubes of kinetic and colorful moving pictures. It is a moving painting—literally. With repeated viewings, the filmgoer will catch additional nuggets of eye candy. I believe that his collage definitely demands to be viewed on a large screen. All moving, all colorful, this short demonstrates the power of the moving image. It is a fascinating edifice.

Butterfly –  Directed by R D Zurick (23 minutes)
Subtle and surreal, the images languidly dissolve one after another, blending and reshaping in a naturalistic fashion. Utilizing many local pieces of Artwork from a plethora of fabulous local artists, the viewer becomes hypnotized by the cascading images and music. An experimental film in the best sense of the word, Butterfly, like many so-called ‘experimental films’,  is across between a painting and poetry, but it moves with subtlety and grace. It is alive! Within the movie, a lot depends on the particular artwork that was originally filmed: Often the colors are muted, while at other moments in the film, the colors explode in shimmering streams – moving neon. Not for the dull, traditional filmgoer, this short piece of artwork is both kaleidoscopic and heavenly. A viewer should think ‘outside the box’ and leave traditional film perceptions behind. It affects a person on a subconscious level. Actually, it really does not need to be reviewed at all.
Hell, I cannot add nor detract from the experience of watching the film. Ha. Still, I’m going to do it anyway: Subconsciously, while watching the film, I appeared to catch dreamlike memories of happiness and flowers: this is a well-done ‘work’ on many levels. As far as Avant Garde short films go, it doesn’t break any new ground. Yet, within the context of this artistic genre, it does show intelligence and creativity. Besides, as an Architect once said, “I’d rather be good than different”. Edited and shot with skill and patient care that comes across nicely in the film, I found this short film experience to be compelling and good. The ambient music is also very special as well.

So far, as much as I liked the minuscule, firing frames of the first experimental film short, this second one grew on me by hypnotic leaps and bounds! As this film goes on, the images become pristine and complex, but retain an effervescent, ebullient quality: For some reason, I thought of helium balloons. Yep, this second film was darn good. I would’ve been proud to create it. The shifting lines and intersecting colors make this a first-rate experience, which should be viewed on a large screen and the Filmmakers Showcase. I’s a Trip. R D Zurick is a first-rate filmmaker.

Cold Morning Sunrise written and directed by Pearce Healey. This short film is a slyly simple, but well made film exploration of dark events that intrude into a person’s life. Although it effectively utilizes flashback crosscutting, I didn’t find the film to necessarily fit within the ‘experimental’ framework. However, it is a subtle and poignant film of love and loss. It maturely deals with sadness, loss and grief, but never becomes overly emotional or saccharine. In film school, I saw many short films that attempted to pull off the fragmented and sweet story that this film handles with charm.

Double Walker by Leanna Kaiser. At first, the film seems very simple. Abstract, the first images compel the viewer to “look” through things; we watch a woman clean windows. Meanwhile, aggressive and foreboding music begins to build – Doorways are locked and tension builds. What is sometimes clean, becomes fragmented with nightmarish red images; a subconscious, confusing world.
Color, geometric shapes and editing add to this disturbing vision. Cool film.

Haircut Directed by Sarah Worner. This film is focused on young people and young concerns: It centers around two sisters and what transpires when one of the women decides to cut her hair. The appeal of this film is in the expressions of the characters. Just reading a few lines that tell the gist of the story do not accentuate the beauty inherent within its moving images. The film begins at the Springdale swimming pool. The images are faded and de-saturated. The pool is filled with attractive young people on a hot day. You can almost feel the heat. An Asian American girl and a blond are friends – or sisters. The latter girl is attracted to a guy at the pool. Later, she cuts her hair. Time passes and the blond girl goes off somewhere. Her friend has no idea where she is. Finally, when the blond sister arrives back home, the comfort of love and family helps to ease the off-screen sadness and conflict. This is a short film that packs an emotional, subtle punch. Quite effective, the writer-director seems to have a good grasp on the emotions and thinking of young people caught in an often-unpleasant world.

The Plague Directed by Christopher Jordan -9 Minutes. This film was down my alley. Ostensibly related to the brilliant novel by the Existentialist Albert Camus (and the Nazi occupation of France), this film is more dreamlike. Obviously, this is a short film and cannot include or elaborate on scenes and subjects as comprehensively as a novel or even short story could. As the creepy film begins, a writer is seen from behind diligently writing—or documenting something– something: It is poetic, but almost appears to be part of a William Burroughs cut-up method. Of course, I imagine this narration is taken directly from the Camus novel. He seems to be writing something to a person who has died. The dark tone of the film is helped by mysterious and, ultimately tragic events that are told within the film in a very understated, grim but realistic way. Although not completely as unusual as a Lynch film, that director’s name came up in my mind while viewing this splendid film experience. Some of the themes in this movie seem to be alienation, loneliness and racism. Jumping back and forth in time, the film might deal with some form of post apocalyptic plague. The music is compelling. I couldn’t accept the place where my family ends. My description does not adequately demonstrate the eerie and beautifully nightmarish images and tone.

 Remix by Douglas R. Meloche– As someone that took animation in college, I found this movie to be compelling: Moving from the pixilation of a wooden figure model used for artists studying the human figure, the moves quickly explodes into a combination fireworks display and stained-glass window; the animation is both searingly colorful and lovely to watch unfold.

Sea of Doubt  by Brett Marren – a house floods, garments float and a Sea Creature materializes. I love experimental films like this. It’s truly inventive and a wonderful way to think of a human relationship – the good and not so good.

Sentient- Directed by Andy Lombardo and Stu Modifies. This is an interesting look at the human body in suspension. What is great about this film, as well as all the other short films I‒ve viewed here, is the amazing technical and aesthetic ability of all our local filmmakers. I”s something for everyone in St. Louis to be proud of.


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