Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival: Shorts

London Film Festival-branded bag; photo by Val PhoenixWho Are You
Mondo Mayhem

Two shorts programmes on view at the festival span the sedate to the way out and how. Who Are You is centred on identity and features mostly North American work, the exception being Isold Uggadottir's Icelandic coming out story Family Reunion, which starts in New York but then ventures to Reykjavik as a young woman fears her secret being revealed to her family. Strangely grainy in tone, it features an amusing twist.

Other films venture into darker territory, with Slippin' (dir Mike Forshaw) exploring the crisis of masculinity in a group of London youths trying ever so hard to impress each other with their posturing and drinking. Tragi-comic is the word. Screening (dir Anthony Green) takes the ever-so-topical war on terror/homeland security/paranoia from a personal point of view as a woman traveling back to Britain fears a fellow air passenger. There is real tension but I could see the twist coming a mile away. Funniest of the pack is I Am Bob (dir Donald Rice), featuring everyone's favourite saint, The Geldof, not being recognised at a Lookalike Convention and having to sing for his supper.

Mondo Mayhem, curated by Philip Ilson, veers off the straight and narrow into the downright weird, offering, as promised, several "what the f---k" moments. Most bizarre is the Mexican A Red Recipe to Cook Crustaceans (dir Eun-hee Ihm), which is baffling but beautifully shot. After an abusive father chokes to death, his wife and son spend most of the film boiling and eating his reincarnated body with lip-smacking and bizarrely sensual relish.

Almost as strange is Mammal (dir Astrid Rieger), which features a man plunging his face into bread dough, a woman being dropped into a soup pot and a man hiding under a carpet. Anemone (dir Nathalie Teirlinck) is a truly disturbing depiction of a girl's birthday party under surveilance by a paedophile and the consequences of his actions.

Offering light relief are Taste of Kream (dir Deanna Russo), a mock-doc on some deluded cat owners in Florida, and Thanks Anyway (dirs Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke), in which the latter practises some squeegee cleaning on the trams and S-bahns of Berlin, with amusing results.

Help is Coming (dir Ben Mor) is a riposte to the promises offered by Washington and assorted cronies to the people of New Orleans, post-Katrina.

Welcome to the Black Parade (dir Yasmine Abboud) is an alternate vision of the song by the irredeemably crap My Chemical Romance. Now, I find it difficult that anyone could extract anything profound from this extremely trite band. I find it even less possible that the people of Beirut, having been shelled by Israel, could find comfort in this music. I am not at all sure what Abboud's message is, as she mixes images of soldiers and various militaristic figures with skaters. "Keep on skating?" "Resist and rebel?" "Fight the power?" I only know I had this f-----g song in my head the rest of the day.

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