Eurydice: She, So Beloved is a rare in the Quay brothers legacy non-animated work – or, at least, not entirely animated. As is obvious from the title, it explores the legend of Eurydice and Orpheus, who went to hell to bring back his love. Basically it’s a sequence of images loosely based on that story connected with each other mostly through opera-like singing.
I do not care very much for opera, although I cannot but admit that it can be really beautiful – to the ear, anyway. The image is a very pretty black-n-white; and, I think, some parts of the movie may indeed be animated. Be that as it may, it’s rather clear that without some sort of cultural background a viewer would not understand what’s going on there. Not that it’s a drawback or anything – just a remark. Still, the story itself is not that fascinating – or, better say, it’s not fascinating depicted as the Quays did it. Nice to have watched it, I suppose, but hardly more than that.
Smile is a short film that probably tries to be a horror. A girl goes on a night-time walk, and while the city in general is very much content, at some point she encounters a weird guy who moves like a broken puppet and smiles all the time.
So the smiling guy does look eerie, but this is pretty much the only notable thing about this film. The development of the story is awkward and inconsistent. There too few details to create significant enough context, and so this short looks like merely a stump. It’s not particularly scary, nor interesting. Although it could have been. With a better story.
Burn Out is an animated short about a space worker who had emergency land on a desert planet. The place seems uninhabited at first, but the heroine soon meets a little girl, who is apparently living there in some cave. The girl dreams of going to the Sirius space school and eventually becoming a space researcher, which reminds our heroine of her own dreams.
On the one hand, the essence of this short is pretty clear – it’s an inspirational call, follow-your-dreams, stay-true-to-yourself, etc. But upon a closer view, the story is kinda weird. So, we have a woman who landed on some space rock, on which, she assumes, there’s no atmosphere. Then she meets a little girl, who lives there by herself in a cave. Was it a real person? Was it a hallucination? Was it a walk down a memory lane? There are no clues that would indicate any of those options with any kind of certainty.
The animation looks like a Disney wannabe only not as brightly coloured, – at that, I’m talking Disney of the 1990s, not the modern kind. Personally, I do not care for that style – it’s too rough and mellow at the same time.
All in all, considering senseless optimism of the message and approximateness of the science, the film looks like a load of crap. Not a large load, just a middle-sized one.
26 Bathrooms is yet another Greenaway’s work in line with his passion for classification of everything. This time he shows the audience a number of bathrooms, enumerating things and types of activity associated with them.
I’ve watched a version 9 minutes long (and it seemed like a finished work, too), but apparently there’s a longer one somewhere out there. Be that as it may, it probably isn’t very different from the short one. All in all it’s not unlike other similar films of the director, and is curious and somewhat amusing. At the same time, there is nothing to regret if you haven’t seen it.
Warmachine is an animated action short film that looks like a teaser to some videogame. Weird technobeasts pursue a warrior directed by the will of some techno-villain. Then they fight.
Animation seems to be rather good quality, but it lacks subtlety. The story looks like a part of a bigger one, but neither that larger picture, nor this piece are very interesting and/or original. Characters are voiced by the same person, and it’s painfully evident. All in all, it’s not clear why this thing should even exist.
Mirindas asesinas is a short film about a mass serial killer who came into a bar and ordered a Mirinda drink. When the bartender asked him to pay for the drink, he killed him. Then he made another visitor serve him more mirindas.
This is a little bit trashy, but curious piece of cinema. It’s full of violence and its story is contrived to a certain degree, but the behaviour of the characters is subject to internal logic and corresponds with psychological reactions to extremely stressful situations. All in all, it was okay.
Scrapple is a short film by the Duplass brothers about a woman and a man playing scrabble. Soon enough the hate-love chemistry between them makes it look a bit weird.
Same as other shorts by the Duplass duo this one is very simple. It looks better than the rest, though, thanks to natural lighting and decent acting. Although it’s not exactly clear why the brothers deemed specifically this sort of relationship worthy of depicting, but I suppose it has every right to exist. All in all it was okay.
The Laundromat is a short film about a random encounter in the laundromat, with a guy who thought he met a nice girl, and a girl who enjoyed the feeling of danger and knew well how to handle it.
The film is pretty short, and simple, – so much so, it leaves a feeling ‘what the fuck was that’ in the end, but the thing is: this feeling does not relate to the quality of the story or its structure, rather it’s the result of empathizing with the one of the main characters. I guess, it is kinda weird, a little bit, but at the same time internally consistent, provides a wide enough and deep enough context, and all in all is quite interesting as an idea. Also, the execution is very good.
Street of Crocodiles by the Quay brothers is a screen adaptation of Bruno Schulz’s work. It’s a surreal tale of a puppet who got freed from the strings, in ‘a dusty and forlorn commercial area. The explorer becomes ensnared into miniature tailor shop by baby-faced dolls’.
This is rather superb work of animation – a highly detailed world, distinct heroes, obscure story with strong but weird and misty relationship ties between the characters. It is extremely interesting to follow the events of the movie, even though most of the time it’s hard to understand what exactly is going on. As it often happens with the Quay brothers works, the most impressive are separate images: here these are the baby-face dolls and their dance in the finale; the uncoiling screws; the bulb-headed person; what seems to be a confrontation between the puppet and the baby-face master; masterful but unsettling incorporation of meat into the otherwise inorganic world; and many others.
Care is a short film that might have been conceived as a horror. It is about an old lady wandering around an abandoned senior home. As she enters one room or another, she hears voices and sees images, which might be her memories, or ghosts.
There is nothing to this film except the texture of the interior, which, frankly, is not much. No apparent story seems to emerge from the sequence of shots shown to the viewer. The context, if it’s in there at all, is hidden so well I failed to decipher it. The image looks pretty cool, and the post production was clearly a lot of quality work, but it’s no cinema.
Spanky: To the Pier and Back is a very simple short film about a god named Spanky on his way – yeah, you guessed it – to the pier and back. It’s a picture of the world through the eyes of a dog – that is, a fragment of it. The movie is filmed in a manner typical for Maddin. It is curious in a way, but not very interesting; on the other hand, it’s very short, so it’s far from being burdensome. All in all it’s okay.
Tour de Pharmacy is a mockumentary short about 1982 Tour de France cycling tournament on which every single participant was doping. After the disqualification of the absolute majority of the cyclists after the 1st day, only 5 remained: Marty Hass, the first white man to represent Aftrica, Juju Pepe, the leader of the race until he died right on the bicycle, Adrian Baton, a disguised woman, Slim Robinson, the first black cyclist, and muscle giant Gustav Ditters. The movie follows the development of the competition between them, witnessing such story turns as sudden uprise of passion between Marty Hass and Adriana Baton, Slim Robinson’s detour, and a chance of Stu Rickman, a reporter covering the race, to actually win the thing.
The film is called Tour de Pharmacy, because using illegal and semi-legal substances to enhance one’s chances of winning is the primary subject of the story. It may have been inspired by the Lance Armstrong story as he was disqualified for doping; curiously enough, Armstrong plays the part of himself in the movie, – I guess, it says a lot about his capacity to self-irony. The film is structured as a typical journalistic investigation and includes multiple interview pieces from various people, most of whom had something to do with the events narrated.
The resulting film is a highly entertaining, funny and uplifting piece of cinema. As is characteristic for most parodies, it sometimes goes overboard with mocking – but in this particular case it doesn’t happen that often, and even when it does it still remains within the boundaries of good taste. The acting is pretty great, albeit not alien to exaggerations. The quality of execution is truly superb.
All in all, this is an exceptionally worthy movie. Highly recommended.
I Heard It Too is a horror short about a mother and a little girl who encounter an evil entity in their own house, one that can mask using sounds of the loved ones.
The idea is actually pretty great – not too original, but potentially quite powerful. The execution, though, leaves much to be desired. The structure of the film is unbalanced and sags in some places, which significantly impacts the overall perception. The acting is barely good enough. The direction lack experience.
In other words, the film is not very good as it is, and in comparison with how it could have actually been done, it really sucks.
Sans titre, as the IMDB description asserts, is a “postcard addressed to the Cannes Film Festival, in which the director would give news of himself and of his film project Pola X“.
In reality it’s a set of random shots with no obvious connection between them that, frankly, seems like a pile of rubbish. I suppose, there is a wider context to this short, but it remains outside of the work itself, which makes it incomprehensible.
Van is a horror short about the mysterious ways a dying brain works in. A long drive through the night gets a weird development, when one of the girlfriends receives a message from another asking to come and get her. After arriving at the defined spot, all she sees is a van on an empty parking lot.
The story is somewhat obscure, but still discernible with a little bit of effort. The execution is rather brilliant – especially I liked the way messaging is incorporated into the narrative. The acting is good. All in all, it’s dark and daunting, and not exactly mystic notwithstanding the apparent signs. Pretty impressive, I would say.
From 1994 is a sentimental short about a boy who opens his own time capsule box and finds there among other things a letter written to him by his mother when she was still alive.
This short has a strong emotional charge, but otherwise is not very interesting because there is no real story there. The execution is pretty great, though.
Soar is a fantasy animated short about a little boy, a wanna-be aircraft designer, who witnesses a tiny person experiencing a plane crash in the moment of exodus. In order to help him get back with the rest of his people, the boy eventually comes up with a design that work.
This is a pretty neat movie – the story is internally consistent (even though lacks context), and the characters are interesting enough to make it work, albeit underdeveloped due to the shortness of the form. The underlying idea (with the origin of stars) is rather cute. As a pure fantasy, the film seems pretty great, and the only thing I didn’t like about it is the absence of speech – it felt strained and unnatural. But all in all quite alright.
No Service is a horror short that follows on a compelling and plausible assumption: what if during a huge event you would happen to be in an area with limited cell service?
The story is well-composed (admittedly, it’s very simple, so there’s no room for getting it wrong), and the execution is overall really good. The development seems conclusive enough, and the context provided – sufficient. In other words – this is a quality work.
Zookeeper Workbook by Guy Maddin is a short film about something. It is done in the silent-cinema-mimicing technique peculiar for the director, and because it’s even more incomprehesible than Maddin’s normal, it’s pretty much impossible to understand what is it about. At least, I couldn’t. Seems like a mash of video shots to me.
The Looking Planet is an animated short that tells about the creation of our solar system by a race of infinitely superior aliens. The crew involved in the construction is behind schedule and is rushing to finish the job. Lufo, the son of the chief engineer, finds out something odd about the 3rd planet from the star, and, instead of working on the planetary rings, which is his usual assignment, decides to mess with the original design and attach a moon to the planet.
This is kind of weird film. On the one hand, the story is internally consistent, the characters are well-defined, and the animation is rather superb, all of which makes it a nice entertainment.
On the other – notwithstanding heavy use of sciency-sounding terminology, the story is essentially non-scientific, and even, I would say, anti-scientific. Simply because it asserts the bullshit idea of intelligent design, only incorporating certain scientific findings to make it seem more valid. The director was basically celebrating the life, but not the science. Why would he try to disguise it I don’t really know, but it all feels very shifty to me. Considering also that the story is not very original as to its basic attributes (a brilliant son softly going against the will of his not as bright family), the film produces a really ambiguous impression.
The Eidolon State is a horror short that tries to develop the idea of a Slender Man, a mysterious humanoid entity that haunts victims of its own choosing, some of which disappear from the face of the earth as a result. One such victim, a young man Josh, is obsessed with weird dreams, in which he feels the presence that keeps getting closer, until it crosses the border between dream and reality and starts haunting him when he’s awake. He turns to Ally, a friend of his, for help; she digs some info from the internet, but their efforts to stays safe prove to be insufficient, and Josh, after being lured into an abandoned house, vanishes. The title of the film refers to the specific state of mind a person acquires when haunted by the Slender Man.
This is a very crappy film, which is the reason I retold the plot almost entirely – it’s not worth the 20 minutes of its running time. The story is pretty much empty – that is, in comparison with what could really have been done with a notion like Slender Man. The film is structured in a way that shows beyond doubt that Cavallaro and Thomas have no freaking idea what they are doing – there’s not enough quality elements in it, and the balance between them is for shit. The acting is bad.
In short: there is not a single thing in this movie that might’ve become a reason to watch it. It’s not even scary.
A Very Short Film by Vallee & Duhamel is an absurd short video that doesn’t have any story. It includes multiple instances of surreal solutions, most of which are based on inversion of ordinary things. Because it’s really short and also because the accompanying music fits with the video sequence very well, it is rather pleasant to watch. The quality of the execution is pretty high as well – even though the universe of discourse does look artificial, the special effects are clear and precise.
Stille Nacht is a series of surrealistic shorts created by the Quay brothers over the period of 14 years. There are 5 of them right now, and more can appear in the future. Some of these films are made to fit some particular music, others present merely a visual sequence, but all share the gloomy, depressive disposition and ultimate weirdness of what’s going on in the shot. Of course, all of them are also superior as to the quality of animation and their artistic value.
Time: ~2m; Released in: 1988; Qualities: (5-/5); IMDB: (link); Written and directed by: Stephen and Timothy Quay
Freaky doll; everything is overgrown with dust? needles?; spoons are growing from the wall.
II: Are We Still Married?
Time: ~3m; Released in: 1992; Qualities: (5-/5); IMDB: (link); Written and directed by: Stephen and Timothy Quay
Eyes; ping-pong ball; rabbit; girl’s calves in stripped socks.
III: Tales from Vienna Woods
Time: ~4m; Released in: 1993; Qualities: (5/5); IMDB: (link); Written and directed by: Stephen and Timothy Quay
In death have I blossomed; quotes about the Ukrainian night; a hand; hanging table.
IV: Can’t Go Wrong Without You
Time: ~4m; Released in: 1993; Qualities: (5/5); IMDB: (link); Written and directed by: Stephen and Timothy Quay
Girl’s calves and rabbit once again; bleeding; peeking through the keyhole; 167; stealing eggs; no gravitation.
V: Dog Door
Time: ~4m; Released in: 2001; Qualities: (5/5); IMDB: (link); Written and directed by: Stephen and Timothy Quay
Wolf with bleeding chaps; a doll in an unsettlingly erotic position.
A Walk Through H is a surreal short film about a person’s travel though an unknown land using 92 maps flowing into each other. The ultimate goal is to figure out what ‘H’ stands for, although by the end of the journey it barely matters. On the technical level the film is a camera slowly moving along the maps, sometimes interspersed with a shots of various birds in their respective habitats, accompanied by a voiceover detailing the trip.
The film is subtitled ‘Reincarnation of an Ornithologist’ because it’s a sort of tribute to the director’s father, who was an ornitologist and died shortly before it was made.
By his own admission, Greenaway was always fascinated with maps, and this film is the representation of that devotion of his. All the maps used in the film were painted by the director himself.
The film is best explained by Greenaway, which quote can be found on his website: “The film is on the journey a soul takes at the moment of death, to whatever other place it ends up – H being either Heaven or Hell.” The narrative involves, among other components, the character of Tulse Luper, which is probably director’s alter ego, – a detail that might put things into different perspective considering the relationship connecting the main hero of the film with Luper.
All in all, even though the film is completely devoid of any action, it is not all that boring to watch. It’s experimental, sure, and it is strange, but the availability of the context makes it rather curious – at least.
8 by Acim Vasic is a short story about two soldiers caught in the winter woods. One is a paratrooper, presumably sent to the military territory with a mission, or maybe a pilot of a shot down plane. Another is a border guard of the adversary army. The film depicts their trip through the forest as the second escorts the first to the military prison (or whatever).
Except for couple of moments (specifically, the absence of the dialog, which looks like a stretch, manner of the border guard to express himself through weird noises; and couple of coincidences in the development of the story), this is a really good movie. The situation is simple yet meaningful, and all in all more than plausible. The evolution of the passing relationship between the characters is logical enough. The finale is interesting; its context bears more significance than what is actually shown.