Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #9


End Of The Week Shorts #9

Today's Shorts: Come And See (1985), Lonesome (1928), Cléo From 5 to 7 (1962), Ritual In Transfigured Time (1946), Ensemble For Somnambulists (1951), Kevin Hart: I'm A Grown little Man (2009), Aries Spears: Comedy Blueprint (2016), Shark Tale (2004), Duel (1971)

A masterpiece. One of the most visceral and impactful war films I have ever seen. 
Come And See is a surreal blend of impressionism and carnage set during WWII that follows a young man who attempts to join resistance fighters and repel the Germans who are invading Byelorussian (Belarusan) villages. There is no strong sense of a plot within this film, instead, a fractured narrative stitched together through poetic cinematic language and silenced, yet devastatingly poignant, characterisation. This heightens the associative tone, drawing your senses into this story entirely as you're helplessly subjected to a raw exploration of the most torturous and dire of human struggles. 
Come And See is ultimately an undeniable opus of masterful cinematic storytelling that is a little tough to get through, but overwhelmingly worthwhile.

Lonesome is a simple romance that is devastatingly powerful. It follows two lonely city dwellers who stumble across each other at a fair and fall in love. 
Reminiscent of both Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans and The Crowd, Lonesome captures the undeniable beauty, ingenuity and poignancy of late narrative silent films. This is, however, tainted by a handful of talkie scenes that cause the tone of the romance to drastically change - and not for the good. These scene are only very small moments though and so don't have a major impact on the wider narrative. In turn, Lonesome is then a great study into the difference between pure cinema and a theatrical cinema of the early talkie period - one that showcases a lost form of cinema at its best. 
All in all, this is probably a new personal favourite that I can't refrain from recommending.

Made by French New Wave auteur Agnès Varda, Cléo From 5 to 7 is a subtle romance about superstition, fear and a pursuit of happiness. In such, this is a poignant narrative, wondrously directed and performed with the illusion of being in near-real-time. 
What struck me most about Cléo From 5 to 7 was the intimate character study of our main character, Cléo, one that aphoristically, yet without sentimentality or pretence, explores her existential reaction to the news that she may have cancer. This film is then a brilliant feature from the Nouvelle Vague that is much more akin to the films of Truffaut rather than Godard thanks to this focus on content that supersedes a play with form. 
All in all, Cléo From 5 to 7 is a brilliantly constructed film by a great auteur that I thoroughly enjoyed and will certainly be seeing again.

Ritual In Transfigured Time is an abstract short narrative film by Maya Deren that follows a dancer in three separate spaces; a room where she winds yarn, a party where everybody breezes past one another and a garden of sorts where she is pursued by a male dancer. Throughout these three spaces, we move through fluid shifts between normal motion and slow motion (that is simply stunning) as an extroverted and an introverted figure follows our protagonist. 
This loose narrative then seem to be focused on both the roles our protagonist has to play in society as well as her perception of such processes in respect to time. And through this character study of sorts, the overriding idea that bleeds from the screen is a yearning for abstraction and an escape from societal rituals in space and time. 
It is then through highly experimental form and content that Deren dexterously puts to screen sensations of entrapment and freedom, leaving this film a mightily impressive one.

Ensemble For Somnambulists is an unofficially published film of Maya Deren's that was shot as a test or practice for a later film - which is formally very similar - The Very Eye Of Night 
This is then a completely mesmerising short that uses negative photography to project dancers moving about in a dark void - all edited together to give this ambiguous space a strong sense of rhythmic and fluid cohesion. 
The most compelling element of Ensemble For Somnambulists, however, is the formal link between the opening, lights shining in darkness, and the rest of the narrative: humans shining in the darkness. This poetic juxtaposition speaks volumes about a lot of Deren's work, which is often imbued with a sense of motion equal to a dance. This then says that there is something attractive and striking, to Deren's eye, about the moving human form on celluloid; something worth capturing - something she certainly does in purely astounding ways, time and time again.

Truly phenomenal. In my opinion, this is the special that makes it obvious why Kevin Hart is the most successful stand-up comedian ever. With I'm A Grown Little Man, Hart transcends simple notions of stage presence, essentially assuming a position much like Andrew Dice Clay did whereby he's clearly acting out a character, but in a subtly complex way so that it blends into his personality to the point that it's not clear where the divide resides. The level at which Hart manages to do this can be recognised once you consider the fact he's done this routine hundreds, maybe thousands, of times. However, he still laughs with the crowd. We can confidently assume that he doesn't find his own jokes funny, especially after doing them so many times. But, he blends this into his character so that we believe that he's telling these jokes in the moment and for the first time, as if there's not hundreds of hours of work behind each of these bits. 
With that layered onto the insanely hilarious quality of bits like the "ostrich" one, it's impossible to dispute that Hart is one of the greatest comedians to go near a mic.

A solid hour that captures most of what Spears does best. It holds back on the impressions, especially of rappers, but it felt like he played them through in previous specials, so no complaints from me. That said, he does keep in tact his Hollywood 80s action star impressions - his Sly bit being brilliant in this set 
Spears' interaction with the audience is also pretty spectacular. However, his patterns of 'improvisational' comedy seemed repetitive and pre-planed to a certain extent. Nonetheless, some of the best content came from a play with the crowd with some hilarious call-backs. 
Beyond this, many dirty-comic cornerstones, everything from relationships to personal anxieties, are hit incredibly well, leaving this Comedy Blueprint hour a great piece of R-rated entertainment.

A cliched story told very well. 
With great characters and some clever world building, Shark Tale is an easy watch and a lot of fun. The animation hasn't aged too well, especially in regard to textures and details, but is still pretty good - the wider shots of the ocean in particular. (Finding Nemo undoubtedly outshines this technically though). 
One of the things that makes this film so fun is certainly the directorial approach that mixes well with the lively script and great soundtrack.All of these elements come together to tell a tale of lies, immaturity, growth and finding oneself that we've all seen a trillion times - though, only a few in the ocean with shark slaying fish.

Well directed by Spielberg - though, that's certainly not a surprise - Duel is an exercise in capturing the most energy and excitement from a basic plot through cinematic language. And in regard to the direction, Duel is a somewhat successful experiment. However, the screenplay is not so great. 
The premise is too simple and the story stretched too far. In fact, Duel is one of the most infuriating films I've seen in a long while, one that attempts to create suspense, but only manages to bloat out the simple story with dumb character decisions, artificial plot beats and ambiguous nonsense. This is somewhat justified as Duel is seemingly supposed o be a commentary on apprehension, fear, confrontation and "Manning" up (and I'm sure the pun is to be intended). But, I didn't enjoy this movie at all; I could appreciate its formal design (the camera work, cinematography and editing) but was never invested in the story - certainly not the characters.

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