Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #71


End Of The Week Shorts #71

Today's shorts: Creep (2014), The Wailing (2016), Red Desert (1964), Loving Vincent (2017), Black Swan (2010), Early Summer (1951), Demetri Martin: The Overthinker (2018), Iliza Shlesinger: Confirmed Kills (2016)

Creep is a somewhat interesting found footage horror film, but is ultimately rather inane. This is a story we have seen many times over: someone invites someone else over to their house where they are trapped and eventually killed. This is Dracula and every single on of its descendants. All Creep does differently is change the perspective of the narrative so that we see the archetypal Dracula narrative through the camera of a videographer instead of from a third person view - in fact, this is rather like Bram Stoker's original book, especially the introduction, which is told through Jonathan Harker's diary. This ultimately means that any claim to originality that this film tries to make is highly questionable. Alas, overall, this does do some things somewhat differently from other found footage movies - the character is not as dumb as they usually come (but isn't all that smart either) and the structure provides some unexpected turns. In the end though, this just doesn't work; a real phone call to police would have solved this whole mess.


The Wailing is a profoundly captivating film, one that plays with mood effortlessly, one moment a comedy, another an inciting family drama, another a crime film, and yet another a horror. On top of this, this is directed and performed to perfection. There remains a question mark over this narrative for me, however. The Wailing's overall feel is that of a folktale, yet its resolution is too blunt and plot driven to retain a classically evocative quality. So though this has lulled me into dreamy cinematic ecstasy with its form, I'm left pondering upon its content - and not necessarily in a good way. I don't see this narrative forming a cohesive whole with intention and meaning (I thought this was going to say something about a child growing up, maybe xenophobia, alas, no). Furthermore, I suspect a re-watch would reveal a plot-driven supernatural thriller; a great work of this genre, but not a masterwork of storytelling. That said, on this watch, I can only conclude that this was a brilliant experience.

Red Desert is a difficult modernist film from Antonioni. It contrasts and clashes together existential loss and a symbolic representation of the modern, industrialised world. The two do not seem to be the direct result of one another, yet one has an affect on another; the industrial word causing neurotic flares within a housewife meandering through life. It is as this wife gets mixed into her husband's work life that she loses contact with her son, who grows very ill, and, herself, starts to grow deranged. Her challenge seems to be to manage natural impulses within herself, those of a seemingly sexual nature, in spite of the outside world's alien, mechanised nature which means to encroach upon her own.

I cannot say that I was at any point struck or immersed into this narrative, its characters and its exploration of theme - which left me feeling that this was rather pretentious. But, not wanting to assume I fully understood this film, I'll end by saying that maybe a re-watch in the future will reveal more.

A touch too sentimental, wrapped up in too much plot, lacking character, lacking structural flair, Loving Vincent is riddled with problems. To continue, the acting is slightly shaky, the choice of English language/accents is ill-advised and the story constantly seems to be sprinting for an end despite the hurdles put up by the writer and their plot. On the page, this is a mediocre Citizen Kane-esque investigation of an unknown someone. Formally - and it is the form for which this is known - this is... questionable. Whilst this really rides on the fact that this is the first feature-length painted film, it was, and appears as, rather rushed. In such the rotoscoping often seems too obvious and the storyboarding unimaginative; the idea that this exists in between cinema ad fine art never seemingly truly pondered upon and played with. Directed only satisfactorily, this is not a failed experiment, but also not an overwhelming success.

Re-watching Black Swan today, I found myself with a film I understand far better now and see greater depth in. However, it has lost its sheen ever so slightly.

No longer is this as illusive or affecting as it was a few years ago. At many points, it is easy to sense that Aronofsky is writing outside of his bounds to some degree, that he is contriving a world based on cliche and assumption - that world being one of ballet and the inner workings of a prima ballerina's psyche. I'm inclined to err towards believing that the falseness of this world has much to do with intentional elements of genre and Aronofsky's attempt to showcase and, to a degree, melodramatise the darker elements of his narrative. But, though has lost a touch of its magic, I still cringe at all the body horror, so Black Swan retains some of its punch. In total, I'm happy to have re-visited this.

How easy it is to forget the mastery of an Ozu film. How easy is it to be soothingly reminded again. Early Summer exudes beauty in whispers, its story hidden within the fabric of its still cinematic spaces. A study of multiple varying characters, Early Summer sections up a family, tries to understand its individuals before exploring all of the different links that keep them one. Presiding over this is the antithesis of melancholia, which is to say that joy, not sadness, emerges without clear cause and in contrast to a certain atmosphere. This is for the fact that, the more we learn of how closely knit this family is, the clearer it becomes that they will be soon drifting apart. Such is presented as the simple nature of life, and so family itself is given a simultaneous constant and intermittent quality; forever do we have family, but only briefly do we get to act and live as one. It is from this uncanny expression of simple truth that Early Summer grips your being and shatters logic, leaving your senses stumbling and soul humming. A masterpiece.

Not bad.

A blend of one liners, commentary on pictures and musical comedy, The Overthinking is consistently amusing. It plays with the form of basic stand-up special - as many comedians are doing these days - by showing and voicing some procrastinatory thoughts from the comedian as he performs. This sometimes works, but it ultimately only adds a small something different. The most successful editing choice comes with the structure, especially the opening and closing - quite relaxed and understated, I certainly appreciated them. Overall this is not profoundly funny, but it was a good watch. Recommended.

Not brilliant.

Thought it holds some of Shlesinger's strongest comedic attributes - primarily her voices and so on - this feels drawn out and cliched. The best jokes stem from personal experience, but things become somewhat tiring when she leans on stereotype and premises that are more than within reach. Some of the worst punchlines are the ones you see coming, yet the more successful ones bend and push past expectation. So, in the end, not a thrill, but sometimes funny - probably best seen in clips.

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