Category Archives: short

[s] Vienna Waits For You / Spitzendeckchen (Dominik Hartl, 2012)

Spitzendeckchen, or Vienna Waits For You, is a horror short about a mysterious entity that exists in the form of an apartment in the capital of Austria. The apartment hates to be alone, and squeeses all the life juices from its tenant. In order to keep it happy a special routine was developed, a part of which is a tenant agreement with a fine-print clause about necessity to find a new tenant before you can check out. Considering how small the payment is, nobody really reads it, and Anna didn’t read it as well. But when it came to foredooming another person, she hesitated, and finally made a decision to sort it out by herself.

The story is interesting and relatively original, although not without some weird stretches. (For example, why would an old lady in the beginning try to escape through the window if leaving the apartment wasn’t actually a problem at all?) The execution, unfortunately, is less than perfect. While the acting is rather great, the direction and technical implementation have issues. Not that any of them, or even all of them combined, is any kind of dealbreaker. But the makeup could have been more subtle, and the finale could have been more pronounced. And yet, this is a really worthy film. Recommended.

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[s] N[eon] (Dave McKean, 2002)

N[eon] is an arthouse short about some man wandering around Venice (I think), his reflection about his life, some masks and some female ghost. Even though it does look interesting at times, generally speacking, this set of cinematic devices does not sum up to a consistent story, and is rather boring all in all. Perhaps, the only reason it was made was that the author (McKean) needed to get rid of some stuff that’s been pressing him or something. This work is not worth half an hour it lasts.

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[s] Slut (Chloe Okuno, 2014)

Slut by Chloe Okuno is a short story about a small town, where a shy girl lives, who has no parents but only grandma, and who wants to become more like her coevals. One day on a skating-rink she meets a pleasant-looking man who has just arrived into town, and just when she started to believe that he likes her too, he left with a more loose acquaintance of hers. This compelled her to finally do something about her appearance, and the next day she came to school transformed. Little did she know that not only her classmates, but the man from the skating rink noticed it as well.

Now, this is a real movie – a consistent, full-fledged story, with a lot of work put into each of its layers of execution, with its own feel and its own touch. This is a very adult work, in a sense that there is not even a hint of lack of skill; it’s a film created by a mature mind with really comprehensive professional background. The story is well-constructed, interesting and captivating. The acting is wonderful. The direction is absolutely perfect. I hope to see a full-feature movie from ms. Okuno one day.

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[s] M Is for Man, Music, Mozart (Peter Greenaway, 1991)

M Is for Man, Music, Mozart is another one of Peter Greenaway’s dancing extravaganzas; this one follows alphabet all the way to letter M, and then uncovers the foundational meaning behind such notions as man, movement, music and, as the culmination of everything else in the world, – Mozart. The video is full of dancing, and naked people; it is exquisitely arranged, and is aimed at achieving harmony. Although it might be a little too long for harmony; if the first half of the film is kind of interesting to follow, later it becomes a little monotonous. But it stays pretty all the way through, that’s for sure.

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[s] Igor: The Paris Years (Quay br., 1981)

Igor: The Paris Years is an animated short by the Quay brothers that tells about Igor Stravinskiy living in the 1920s in Paris. It touches upon his contacts with Mayakovskiy (who is called simply ‘bolshevik’ here) and Jean Cocteau, as well as his fasination with pianola. The animation is in cardboard cut-out technique, but the film consists mostly of music. It also includes inserts of historical footage.

On the one hand, it looks rather simple and kind of crude – all the ‘dolls’ are just photographs folded in a particular manner, the setting is bright and mostly fixed; on the other – the physics of movement is really well-done. I liked how the cacophony of voices sort of fuzes into something comprehensible. The music is pretty nice.

But even though it’s a decent work, I didn’t find it very interesting. At the end of the day it’s a depiction of a casual episode from the life of the composer, coupled with general representation of his life, which combination seems pretty random; if there are deeper implications, they remain unclear. You probably need to go into this film already prepared, and I don’t think it’s the best approach anywhere.

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[s] Simon of the Desert / Simón del desierto (Luis Buñuel, 1965)

Simón del desierto is a short film based on the story of Simeon Stylites, a 5th century christian saint who lived for 37 years on top of a pillar. The plot of the movie starts off when, after more than 6 years of standing on that pillar, Simon moves to another one, erected specifically for him. He then continues his ascesis; people continue to come to get his blessing or get healed; but the main driver of the story is the devil who comes to tempt the saint hoping that he would abandon his service. No matter what the devil throws his way Simon remains unshakable, but what if the last trick would work?

I really loves most of the film: even though it’s within christian paradigm, the characters are all interesting three-dimensional people who are not devoid of natural human qualities and therefore are imperfect. The story has a tinge of humor to it, which is refreshing. The acting is great. The execution is highly professional.

But the finale perplexed me a little bit. The way the devil enjoyed herself in the 1960s kind of suggests that Bunuel sees advances of technology and modern culture in general as the triumph of the archfiend, or at least something that he welcomes. And though he may be right about that in a sense that progress, be that technological or cultural, undermines the role of traditional religion, his silent condemnation seems to be an internally conflicted position. But, of course, I may be wrong about that.

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[s] 3 Verses / 3 Versos (Antonio Yee, 2016)

3 Versos is a horror short about some girls who sought help from a psychic on account of a violent apparition that has been harassing them. The psychic performed the ritual, and it seemed to have worked… Or did it?

Now that’s, I believe, how a great horror should look like. It is clear that the budget for this work was quite decent, but this circumstance is, of course, just supplementary. The execution is  amazing – the camera, and the music, and the special effects, and the makeup – all these things show without any doubt that significant effort was put into this production, and, moreover, it was applied properly.

The acting is wonderful, too. But, like always, the most important thing here is the story, which might not be mind-boggling, but definitely is interesting and captivating. The turns are ingenious, the context provided is abundant, and the final twist is totally felicitous. Thanks to all of the aforementioned but above everything else – to the director, the film fulfills its purpose splendidly – in other words, it is pretty scary. Highly recommended.

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[s] My Last Minute (Leos Carax, 2006)

My Last Minute is a microfilm by Leos Carax, so short it would be faster to watch it than to read this text. It is pretty grim, but also charming in its own way. And, I guess, it would get you thinking – if you watch it closely enough. It seems like it’s worth it, anyway.

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[s] Hitler is Alive / Hitler está vivo (Álex de la Iglesia, 2006)

Hitler está vivo is a sort of secret inteview of Adolf Hitler who survived and moved after the war to South America (or something). A complete nonsense, as you can imagine, neither funny nor ingenious. But the fact that it has 3 (three) writing credits is kinda hilarious. Three people for two minutes of mediocre action, with ‘mediocre’ being a generous characteristic. Worthless.

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[s] Intervals (Peter Greenaway, 1969)

Intervals by Peter Greenaway is most like a demonstration of how the sound influences the perception of a video sequence. This short includes three instances of the same footage accompanied by three different soundtarcks. The video features intervals between the houses and people walking up and down the street. It’s not particularly interesting, not to mention that the author’s idea is nowhere near clarity, but I guess it’s Greenaway.

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[s] The Whistle (Bost, Glunz, Quirin, Schmidt, 2017)

The Whistle is a horror short about a man who was returning home from work, and heard a whistle in the middle of the dark street.

Exactly as it happens with, it seems, most of such tiny horrors these days, this one terribly lacks context to be really scary. However, it does have suspense, which makes it stand out if only a little bit. On the side of technical quality, the picture is sometimes is too dark, but otherwise it’s quite alright, – especially the sound (which is natural, as a lot in the story relies on it). All in all, it’s decent one-timer, but nothing too special.

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[s] One Day… (Michel Gondry, 2001)

One Day… is a metaphorical story about a guy, whose turd once climbed out of the toilet and started following him around. The turd obviously represents all the bad a personality can have; the development of the relationship between the guy and his turd represents acceptance of that bad side, surrender to it. Like all the intentionally metaphorical stories, this one has a didactic odor to it, which I personally do not appreciate. But David Cross (who plays the turd) is a funny guy, so this film is worth checking out at least because of him.

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[s] Writing on Water (Peter Greenaway, 2005)

Writing on Water by Peter Greenaway is a sort of video presentation of a new form of compositive art, where music and vocals are merged with concurrent video sequence and, most importantly, a distinctive application of calligraphy by way of some special equipment – all of which is performed simulteniously, with an impromptu element to the whole thing. The clip includes 9 different pieces of music, without intervals, all within the same paradigm. It’s not particularly interesting to watch, but it does look beautiful, and besides, I believe that a concert performance with all that stuff demonstrated to the live audience would be a wonderful undertaking. But I don’t think they are doing it. Which is too bad.

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[s] The Dirk Diggler Story (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1988)

The Dirk Diggler Story is a mocumentary biopic of a male porn star who became famous by the name of Dirk Diggler. It tells a story of his rise and subsequent fall (that was caused by abuse of drugs) through mimicking of documentary footage and interviews from the people who knew him – lovers, fellow actors, producers, friends.

This film in all likelihood is a parody, and probably at the time of the making it was obvious enough. These days, however, it is way too subtle – in the internet era we see things that are way more ridiculous every day, and most of them are created with the most serious of intentions. Most of the people today won’t even understand what’s the deal here – an ordinary TV doc, nothing really special. And it does lack couple of things – not only the poignancy of the mockery, but also dramatic intensity. Anderson later adapted the idea that inspired this short as one of the storylines to his Boogie Nights, and in that film it works much better.

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[s] The Life of Death (Marcin Dubiniec, 2015)

The Life of Death is a facetious short about a sort of death. The content of the film boils down to the idea of showing an ordinary life, only with a grim reaper instead of a human person.

For the life of me I cannot understand why would anybody think that allocating resources to implementing this ‘story’ is a good idea. It is not funny, it is not even amusing, it is not internally consistent, and it is not interesting. In short, it’s infinitely lame. And not even a decent level of execution can change this fact.

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[s] Quay (Christopher Nolan, 2015)

Quay is a documentary short that provides a glance into the inner workings of the Quay brothers workshop. The brothers talk about their puppets and about how they make their films. It is indeed short, so there aren’t any groundbreaking revelations there, but it does tell about a couple of interesting techniques, even if only in general. The execution is rather good – the film looks pretty and interesting, but the appearance does not steal any thunder from the subject matter. It has also made me want to re-watch the works of the Quays, so I suppose the purpose of this short is fulfilled at least for one case.

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[s] The Moonlight Man 2 (Danny Donahue, 2017)

The Moonlight Man 2 is a sequel to the first short about a monster that terrorizes parking lots and underground garages. This one has a little bit more of context – in regards to the victim character that is. The monster itself still has no history and no concept. It just is, no particular reason, no particular purpose. Because of this, the film is not very scary. It seems like quite a lot of work was put into making it, but it doesn’t go anywhere, so… yeah. Worthless.

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[s] This Is John (Jay Duplass, 2003)

This is John is a short film about a man who tries to record a new message for his answering machine. He tries, and tries, and fails every time, and from this the context of utter loneliness emerges, which is supposed to mean something significant. But it is rather obvious that this lofty idea was conceived consciously, as opposed to have been result of a personality story, and like all such ideas, it’s pretentious and doesn’t really work. Meaning, it’s clear but instead of pushing the right emotional buttons it only irritates.

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[s] Land Without Bread / Las Hurdes (Luis Buñuel, 1933)

Las Hurdes is a documentary short by Luis Buñuel about an isolated region in Spain, which was connected to the ‘big land’ only recently (circa 1932), when a road was constructed. It consists of 52 villages, all of which are extremely poor – to the extent, in fact, that their inhabitants consider bread a delicacy, never mind meat. It is overflown with diseases; a child born there has a pretty low chance of living past several months, and if survived, he or she is destined to the life of misery and constant struggle for existence.

After this film Las Hurdes all in all seem like a terrible place. According to wiki, there is a dark legend about this region that existed since the middle ages, which Bunuel continues. It appears that some of the scenes were staged by the director in order to create a gloomier picture (successfully), and some points were a bit exaggerated for the same purpose. But it appears that the dark legend does have objective roots, as the reputation of the region persisted until the beginning of XXI century, during which time the population was steadily decreasing, while living conditions remained on a generally low level notwithstanding all the efforts aimed at improving the situation. “Nowadays Las Hurdes is a good holiday destination for city-dwellers because of its scant population, its pristine wilderness and its landscapes. Thanks largely to tourism, present-day standards of living have risen to the average Spanish levels”.

The film, therefore, arouses mixed feelings: on the one hand it’s pretty well done, and with good intentions, too; on the other – it is manipulative (even if only a little), and it didn’t influence the reality very much (if at all), and chances are – exactly because of that impurity of means. But it did make me inquire more about the subject, – i.e. it made me interested, and this is probably a good thing.

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[s] The Blacksmith (Veselin Efremov, 2015)

The Blacksmith is a fantasy short about a powerful entity in the situation of defending his status from an infinitely inferior human. It is not so much a story as a teaser to one, – on top of demonstrating the power of the Unity engine, of course. The animation is incredibly detailed; the overall execution, with the music and the context that is deeper than the appearance, is really great. I hope it would result in something bigger.

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[s] The Jigsaw (Al-Safar br., 2014)

The Jigsaw is a short horror story about a man who purchased a jigsaw puzzle in some shop on a flea market, even though he was warned by the seller not to do it.

This one is a pretty good scary story: on the one hand, the execution is really good on many levels, including technical and acting; on the other – the story is quite interesting, and all the details (like the behaviour of the seller, for example) create context larger than what is shown directly, which makes it possible for a viewer to apply imagination where necessary, and through that achieve understanding of the deeper story and get scared. All in all, a very successful attempt at mystical narrative.

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[s] Making a Splash (Peter Greenaway, 1984)

Making a Splash is one of Peter Greenaway’s non-dramatic shorts. There is no story, nor any characters, which ordinarily would’ve been enough for me to dismiss it altogether, but I find it extremely curious for a whole different reason. The thing is, in the absence of a story there is still a narrative, and it basically boils down to representation of the evolution paradigm through the leitmotif of water. If you look close enough, it’s obvious that there is development there, and it goes from simple to complex, starting from just some drops splashing on the stone to primitive forms of life to more complex ones and resulting ultimately in complicated forms of human cooperation.

And thanks to masterful editing, which goes in astounding harmony with accompanying music, watching this development is not only pleasant and soothing, but also pretty interesting.

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[s] Dolorous Shadow / Sombra dolorosa (Guy Maddin, 2004)

Sombra dolorosa is a representation of what I assume are Mexican mystical convictions about death in general and the process of passing of a deceased soul in particular. The depiction is based on a generalized situation, when after a beloved husband and father passes away, his wife has to fight the grim ripper for her daughter because she comes very close to perishing herself.

As it seems to be a general rule for Maddin’s short stories, there are no characters here, but rather symbolic figures, archetypes; because of this the movie is not too interesting. On the other hand, it’s pretty clear what’s going on there, which is not always the case with Maddin, so that’s good. Ultimately, though, it escapes me what is the motivation for creating films like this in the first place, but I can contemplate that it all comes from conscious, volitional aspiration but not from emotional need to tell a story, and so it doesn’t really awakes the emotional response.

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[s] Mannequin (Zach McCoy-Davies, 2016)

Mannequin is a horror short about a girl who stays late for work, alone with a recently acquired mannequin. As is often the case, it’s a film of mystical inclination, but without any kind of background story, which makes it basically a pile of crap. I’m not sure who would be scared by this bullshit – it has no ties to reality whatsoever, plus the acting of Amy Shaw leaves much to be desired, although, to be fair, this is probably director’s fault. All in all, a weak and worthless movie.

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[s] The Letter / La lettre (Michel Gondry, 1998)

La lettre is a short film about a little boy, who is in love for the first time in his life, but is unable to openly express himself and so he hides behind a camera.

This is a really beautiful tiny thing, very subtle and at the same time – strong. A simple story of first love and first disillusionment conveyed through the eyes of what seems to be a representation of Gondry himself, it’s a truly powerful work of cinema, masterful on many levels, including the acting and the special effects, but most importantly – the direction. In this film Gondry’s gift may be showing through more than in many of his later feature works. But sometimes it’s better to watch than to read:

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