Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #7.2


End Of The Week Shorts #7.2

Today's Shorts: The Oyster Princess (1919), Gulliver’s Travels Among The Lilliputians and The Giants (1902), Rescued By Rover (1905), The Cameraman's Revenge (1912), Life (1993), In The Blue Sea, In The White Foam (1984). The Seashell And The Clergyman (1928), The Abyss (1910)

The Oyster Princess is a flawlessly directed silent film with spectacular editing. The absolute scale of the mise en scene itself is enough to sustain this narrative as strong piece of entertainment. And unfortunately, it does. 
Despite the great technical achievement that is the form of this picture, the script provides very little in the way of characterisation. Admittedly, the plot and scenario have much potential, but every single character is either bland or unlikable. This is a huge let down as with a little more of a spark, this could have been a comedic masterpiece. But, nonetheless, The Oyster Princess is a pretty remarkable movie.

A good example of Méliès application of double exposure and matte painting, this 1902 adaptation of Gulliver's Travels is an interesting watch. Pre-dating his more complex narrative films, this is only a few scenes used as a showcase of special effects and spectacle. So, with a unique aesthetic that's been long lost, there is still a lasting touch of magic in this short.

Rescued By Rover is an intriguing example of a paradigm of seeming anxiety in early narrative films. With immediate and unmotivated conflicts - such as a baby being stolen, just because - we see a depiction of meaningless chaos within society that is fancifully confronted and quashed that is present within many other films. Further examples of this would be the very similar Rescued From An Eagle's Nest (1908), Suspense (1913) and the numerous fantasy/horror films - examples of those coming from Chomón and Méliès. 
This is probably just a result of snappy plotting with very little characterisation and an idea that I'd need to explore further, but is an interesting paradigm nonetheless.

The Cameraman's Revenge is a brilliant animated comedy and bitter-sweet romance about the chaos of cheating and debauchery from the early pioneer of stop motion, Ladislas Starevich. Often using dead insects, he was the first to make puppet-animated films with stop motion from 1912 onward. In this short, he combines this realist form with personification to conjure an astounding aesthetic that perfectly supports this subtly ingenious narrative. 
With some scenes somewhat reminiscent of Pixar's A Bug's Life (in terms of the sensibilities in the approach to world building and personification) this is a pretty timeless film and a must see.

This is a beautiful cinematic poem by Artavazd Peleshian that explores the pain and labour associated with birth, life and its propagation. Wonderfully shot with intricate cinematography this short has a rich atmosphere that perfectly puts you in a reflective mood. However, the true substance of this film certainly lies in the experience of the narrative rather than the aphorisms it motivates. In such, without words, just imagery, this short is an articulate enough exploration of the given themes that simply requires viewing.

In The Blue Sea, In The White Foam is basically a surreal blend of Disney's The Little Mermaid and Aladdin (to a pretty alarming degree) based on Armenian folk and fairy tales. With some dizzying creativity, a good musical tone and a compelling - though transparent - plot, this is was a good watch that should definitely be checked out for the links to the Disney films.

An ambiguously profound masterpiece, The Seashell And The Clergyman is widely considered the first surrealist film. Entirely captivated by the aesthetic, the astounding edit, lighting and cinematography, I'm left entirely awe-struck by this short. In such, and without having a linear and concrete understanding of the narrative, I've been profoundly affected by the apparent themes of struggle, frustration, desire, yearning, control and confusion. And so, without much more of an ability to articulate exactly why, The Seashell And The Clergyman has deeply resonated with me.

The Abyss is a surprisingly sexual take on a classical tale of fatal mishaps and misfortunes thematically reminiscent of works such as Jane Eyre and Tess of the d'Urbervilles that condemns female naivety and impulsivity, yet also sheds some sense of sympathy for the fatally unfortunate. 
In such, this a somewhat complex film that showcases an evolution of narrative and structure in early silent films, though not any formal, directorial or aesthetic development. All in all, without a particularly expressive or interesting story, nor formal approach, The Abyss is relatively ok, but not something I'd be compelled to view again.

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