Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #30.1


End Of The Week Shorts #30.1

Today's Shorts: American Made (2017), Where Is My Friend's House? (1987), Tom Segura: Completely Normal (2014), Diary Of A Country Priest (1951), At Five In The Afternoon (2003), In The Darkness Of Time (2002), Je Vous Salue, Sarajevo (1993), Origins Of The 21st Century (2000)

Whilst this isn't a masterpiece, I can't find a single fault in this movie. Liman is clearly going for the Goodfellas vibe; it's obvious in the script and in the playful directorial approach. This means that American Made glorifies good old American values such as hard work, family, smarts and bravery with a blind eye to all notions of ethics and morality. Reveling in corruption and anarchy, this is then solid fun with strong, highly likeable characters, descent structure, sharp editing and ok cinematography. Cruise in particular does a great job as the anti-hero, or the devil on your shoulder, that makes you disregard the realities of his evil. This film, much like The Wolf Of Wall Street and Goodfellas, is ultimately like a court jester who jabs at real, open wounds, but somehow has you giggling in fits. 
All this lacks is that secret ingredient, that something special, that Scorsese injects into the likes of Goodfellas. Beyond this, I have nothing bad to say about this movie.

Where Is My Friend's House is a beautifully simplistic film that follows a boy who accidentally takes his friend's homework book home and so has to return it to him before the next day when his friend may be expelled. The only problem is, he not sure exactly where his friend lives. 
This is a mini-adventure of sorts as well as a coming-of-age story that comments on education and discipline. In such, whilst many figures - parents, teachers, elders - attempt to instil their ideas into our protagonist, they all seem to fail to recognise his maturity and sense of responsibility. He then ends up demonstrating a sense of community and compassion that everyone is trying to lecture and teach into him, but only via their hindrance. This leaves this film to be an allegory about the seeming naivety of adults and elders as well as the persistence of a true small-time hero and the prevalence of traditional valiant traits.

Whilst this is not the kind of comedy that has you rolling around in fits of laughter, this works very well. 
The laughs came consistently. There were a few bumps in the hour, but every moment had me amused and smiling. This is all because of Segura's relaxed stage presence. There's no screaming, arms flailing, shouting, imitations or act-outs; Tom pretty much just talks about the T.V he watches, the terrible state of his body and the hotels he stays in. None of this could work if he didn't seem comfortable with, and in control of, his style. Moreover, without much expression from the camera work, but with great support from the focused editing (which doesn't contain shots of the crowd - something I've always hated), Completely Normal stays true to its title and performer in the best way possible. 
Subdued, yet solid, this is worth the watch.

Truly magnificent, Diary of a Country Priest, whilst it is not Bresson's best film, submerges you into the anxious subconscious and existentially lost mind like few other films manage. 
Somewhat reminiscence of the later film The Man Who Sleeps, this is a narrative dominated by V.O. The manner in which Bresson has his latent imagery interact with the narration of our protagonist's diary then turns him into an epithet and a totem of 'himself'. As a shell of a man, played by an actor who is basically prevented from acting, our priest then becomes a child in a realm of adults, one who is in constant search for a graceful way to suffer through his days. But, as dismal and mundane as he becomes, there remains an unpretentious sense of significance to his journey, one that, in the Bressonian way, exudes a silent truth which some may be able to grasp as it seeps from the screen and take to heart.

With At Five In The Afternoon the two Makhmalbaf sisters present the conflicts and pain of Afghani women in post-Taliban Kabul. This is done with an incredibly distant structural and directorial approach that comes to alienate us as spectators. In such, we are never allowed to truly empathise with our characters because of the restrictive mise en scène and elliptical narrative that jumps past significant beats of conflict as to concentrating on showing a journey. I cannot then say that I enjoyed this film - and it seems to be designed so you do not - but, by extension of this, I felt no connection to the narrative. 
In challenging audience expectations of narrative and character the Makhmalbaf sisters create a film that has much potential, but fails in, intellectually or emotionally, giving wings to all it presents. In short, the distance of this film only pushed me away and never gave me much of a reason to persevere in penetrating its facade.

Finally, a Godard film I like and respect. A formal experiment that contemplates time in regards to humanity, In the Darkness of Time addresses the moving force of the universe as one that brings pain and suffering which, in spite of humanity, is lost in the infinite coils of being. 
Without answers, only melancholic rumination culminated with an intimate interaction between sound and image, this short juxtaposes death and snippets of life with a solipsistic tension in its perspective. In such, loneliness and pain are presented as tools of isolation and alienation whilst they imply a simultaneous counter-point; that humanity only has itself to hold onto in face of the great arbitrariness, malleability and forgetfulness of the universe. This melancholy is, however, given further depth with the presence of art and human evil. Though we may only have each other, we are not an existential bubble illuminated and unified. Such leaves this as beautiful as it is confounding.

Somewhat ironically, the art, the exception to pain and its presence in humanity, is spoken in Godard's Je Vous Salue, Sarajevo. Such is to be expected with Godard's surface approach to narrative; his art is in your face and he screams about it with the form of his films. 
There is, however, more to Godard's words and images with this 2 minute short; there is atmosphere, tone and emotion. This frees Godard's approach, giving it presence through a more transcendent idea of cinema, one that does not just slap you across the face and wait for you to listen, instead penetrates and, as is suggested, communicates not just by speaking, but being. As a result, Je Vous Salue, Sarajevo is an affecting statement and a nice slice of experimental cinema.

Of course Godard would have made this, a provocative political statement on the 20th century focused on war and death, instead of directly commemorating cinema itself for those at Canne. 
This speaks to, and has a lot of cross-over with, his later short Dan Le Noir in its representation of art as reflecting upon history, tragedy and war. But, despite the density of the material, it never really feels as if Godard is articulating anything specific or substantial here without reference to the later short. His montage is then striking and provocative, but, upon consideration, is impenetrable and seemingly arbitrary. In all probability due to my lack of historical knowledge, this then lacked a sense of unity.

Previous post:

Only Yesterday - Animated Photogénie

Next post:

End Of The Week Shorts #30.2

More from me:

No comments: