The Dresser loves going to the movies, but she has to admit that DC Shorts Film Festival Showcase 3 created a short circuit that literally made her uncomfortable in her own skin. Starting with the six-minute Australian comedy Squeeze by Will Goodfellow, the Dresser fully expected that the convict trying to escape his prison through a tight sludge-filled sewer pipe would meet a rat but not a mate in a penguin suit. OMG, that light at the end of the tunnel was a new kind of hell that actually needed no words to go with the disgusting action. And besides, the Dresser could barely hear and understand the Aussie patter.
WHEN COMEDY IS FRAUGHT
This particular short makes the Dresser think of a story her friend Madam Mayo tells about Paul Bowles who wanted her to understand that he got the meaning of her expletive use of the word gross! Oh, he said, would gross be like the time I was eating in some dark hut only to find I had maggots crawling off the food onto my face? The Dresser thinks there should be a new film category called grossmedy, which might warn people like the Dresser to forego this so-called comic opportunity.
Of the eight films making up the DCS Showcase 3, there were two other comedies--first-time director Heather Scobie's Twisted Proverbs: Candle and Marc Carlini's Worn. Though carefully placed in the lineup of films to neutralize the horror of two particularly heavy stories--Leonids Geshichte and Tattoo (more on these two film soon), these comic shorts are what the Dresser would call fraught. Both films are loaded against a female player, which cranks up the emotional payload of the seventh Showcase 3 film Tattoo.
Probably if the two-minute Twisted Proverbs was played by itself, the Dresser would not give much thought to this tiny film where the punch line about the face of a Chinese man's wife looking like "the south end of a north-bound donkey" had more staying power than her actual face. On the other hand, the sixteen-minute Worn is the last film and in it a young woman agonizes over her promiscuous encounters with men as she stands in her closet trying to find a party dress that does not remind her what a wanton she is. Although the Dresser found the conceit of Worn interesting and realistic--women often have emotional behaviors about their clothing and shoes, the end of film was confusing. Wearing every day clothes, Emma tries to redeem the one good relationship she had only to find out that the ex-BF has moved on. He tells her to do what he did after she left him and that was to get in the car and drive away from the life in L.A. As the credits roll, Emma, all dressed up, is at the party her friend urged her to come to as a way to forget her bad feelings about herself. Or at least that's what the Dresser assumes, meaning the protagonist had not changed, that if she can't hook up again with the good boy friend, she'll continue to be a bad girl.
While labeled a drama, TGIF by Australian Brian Lien borders on comedy and seems companionable with Carlini's Worn. The story is about a young woman, out with her women friends, who is made aware that her new flame is in the same bar with her, but she is reluctant to let him know that. The Dresser sees this story as a reverse stalking tale. The young woman doesn't want the new BF to think she is stalking him, but as she leaves he starts texting her until she realizes he sees her. At ten minutes, the Dresser thought this pretty effective short not quite short enough.
OF RADIATION & ANGEL MONSTERS
Leonids Geshichte (Leonid's Story) by German directors Rainer Ludwigs and Tetyana Chernyavska and Os anjos do meio da praça (The Angels in the Middle of the Square) by Brazilian directors Alé Camargo and Camila Carrossine are animations. However Leonids Geshichte mixes real people and scenery with drawings that shimmer the characters into action. Leonid's story concerns the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. While the nineteen-minute film starts like a happily-ever-after story about a man and wife who want a better life for themselves and their family, it becomes a painful account of what happens to their health as they were exposed to the radiation. The Dresser found the animation format an effective way to tell this modern-day calamity.
Os anjos do meio da praça is a colorful fairy tale that has a Harry Potter feel to it. Three angels in one, or one angel with three faces, (take your pick) fights with a fiery flying dragon and is wounded. The angel falls to earth and splits into three beings. The people of the town where the trinity angel falls build a cage over this set of creatures. On the sideline is a little boy with a conscience who watches all of this. While the angels won't eat human food, they accept boxes of the townspeople's unrealized dreams and in consuming these festering wants and desires, the angels become monsters. The boy grows up and bravely frees the trinity. Magically he becomes a boy again. This film feeds the stories of Tattoo and La Dernière Rondelle.
THE LAST PUCK
In first time director David Tomassini's La Dernière Rondelle, an older man who has been honored with a hockey award, possibly a lifetime award--the trophy reads "Une vie de Hockey"--goes out on the ice after all his teammates have left the arena to hit a line of pucks into the net. Standing outside the locker room door, his wife is wished good luck by one of her husband's teammates but she stops the man from saying more. Here the audience has been alerted that something is terribly wrong with the man who ends his lonely game naked in the shower crying. Fully clothed, his wife embraces him as the water continues to rain down on them and the film ends. The title of this Canadian film is translated into English as "The Last Time Around." Rondelle also means "puck." What's troubling about this ten-minute film is the program description, which reads, "After being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, an elderly man's wife offers him one last chance to be a great hockey player." No where could the Dresser discern any statement about a diagnosis for anything, let alone Alzheimer's, and the wife merely supports the husband who does not skate like an elderly man. Probably the Dresser would not have selected Showcase 3 without the interest in this particular film's descriptive notes. However, the film could have stood without such an introduction, though it might have been puzzling to some - raising questions about why he was crying in the shower and why his wife was so simpatico.
TATTOO HORROR SHOW
Tattoo by Finnish director Paul Helin pushed the Dresser right over the edge. She had intended to stay in the theater to see Showcase 4, but the shocking outcome of Tattoo created such a disconnect that beyond seeing the concluding short Worn, the Dresser was eager to put miles between herself and any more cinematic surprises as well as try to understand why the entire set of short films were so disturbing. While the DCS program guide called this sixteen-minute film a thriller, the description gave no clue about the dark nature of this story. Compare the DCS précis "Sometimes the tattoo you desperately want looks better on someone else" to what the LA Shorts Festival guide said, "An under-aged girl goes to a tattoo parlor to get her first tattoo from a shady skin-artist." The Dresser thinks that what the oral-surgeon-turned-tattoo-artist does to this young girl's back is in the same category of horror as the scene where Stieg Larsson's girl with the dragon tattoo exacts a tattoo revenge on the sadistic social worker under whose supervision she has been forced by the Swedish government. Wow, are those Scandinavians always so full of dark stories?
If the object of Festival Director Jon Gann was to create a reactive collection of shorts that would stay indelibly etched in memory, the Dresser will absolutely acknowledge that the goal was met and venture to say that there are filmgoers who like this kind of edgy mix. As for the Dresser, this set of films caused the same kind of reaction for her that her, so far, only visit to the Washington, DC Holocaust Museum caused--she was so glad to leave the traumatic experience behind.
In Jason Schneiderman's poem "Proposals for a Holocaust Memorial, on Display at MoMA," he attempts to get into the heads of the dead Holocaust victims. It is a poem that is both sensitive and outrageous. For the Dresser, this poem makes her feel exposed in the same way most of the DCS Showcase 3 films affected her.
PROPOSALS FOR A HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL,
ON DISPLAY AT MOMA
...At The Exhibit of Socially Conscious Art at MoMA,
Is that my dead you speak of,
because I wish you'd stop.
I want it to be quiet now,
and not because they are speaking to me
(we don't even speak
the same language)
but because I want to think
about what they felt
and what they thought
when they were dying.
What would you think
if you were dying?
What would you say
if you were dying
like they did (so famously),
You don't have
to have an answer.
Blow up the Reichstag. Pave the Autobahn with cobblestone. Project images of the dead onto the retinas of the living and make them live with the dull scrim of death forever obscuring their vision. Have numbers tattooed onto the wrists of all the children born on a certain date, to be determined by lottery. Give them the number of a survivor--make that someone their godparent. Interrupt television to read the names of the dead. Read the names of the dead. Love the names of the dead.
by Jason Schneiderman
from Sublimation Point
Copyright © 2004 Jason Schneiderman