Wednesday, 25 May 2011

"It's a sign of a good film when you can't wait for it to end..."

Originally said in sarcasm, the title of this post rings painfully true with one of the three shorts I saw at this month's Duke Mitchell.

First I have to give a big thank you to the Duke Mitchell Film Club for helping to continue my cinematic education. Month on month I am impressed by the quirky and obscure gems they throw up, always introduced with enigma and passion.

This month we had three shorts, unrelated apart form their similar lengths (around 40 minutes each), most likely chosen for their contrasting nature. All fantastic, in their own ways.

First up we had The Accountant written and directed by its star Ray McKinnon, and winner of the Best Live Action Short Film Oscar, 2002. The Accountant is a perfect blend of the profound and the ridiculous. Its simple set and minimal cast make it not much more than a play on screen. Although the lovely soundtrack, which includes Michael Hurley and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and beautiful location and filming do lend it an edge, it really is a character driven piece, driven by McKinnon's title character in particular. This fantastically acted and rather strange accountant crashes into the lives of two brothers whose family farm is at risk. He is called in in order to meticulously do the sums behind an insurance scam to save their livelihood - a scam which could literally cost an arm and two legs. The depth comes from the fact that the accountant is not working for profit (aside from a 'coincidental' $27.99) but out of an idealist revolt against a multimedia conspiracy. Sadly the poor sound quality of the recording and thick slurred accents meant some of it was lost on me, but it was nevertheless rich with dark and deadpan hilarity, with a hint of seriousness about the loss of local identity to corporate power.

Following this we were shown Kijo no Kurn ("An Armchair Theory") from director Junji Kojima. Originally part of the Jam Films 2 anthology this cute, funny, and very Japanese short is a satirical guide to dating according to Japanese tradition. Armchair Theory is very much a film in two parts. The first part is the dating guide, or the 'armchair theory' complete with examples, both animated and demonstrated. The lessons include 'trailing' i.e. stalking; the importance of being able to open jars; and how to ingratiate oneself with one's potential father-in-law. The second half, marked by a complete change in tone, and opening credits, is the theory in action - a mini romantic comedy, which whilst being ridiculously cutsie still manages to warm the heart. Charming and funny throughout, Armchair Theory is a quirky, saccharin delight to behold. I only wish we had watched it after, rather than before, the final film of the night...

AM 1200 is David Prior's traumatising horror to which the title of this post refers. If I could have seen my watch I would have been counting the seconds for this to end. Not because it was bad, but because, in its way, it was excellent. Introduced to the unwitting audience as simply a 'horror' with no further expansion or explanation, I had no idea what to expect, and this anticipation had me pretty much on the edge of my seat from the offset. To start, it seemed mysterious, possibly slightly bland, but definitely intriguing. Without any introduction, this could have been a thriller, as it moves on it seems it could be a slasher type horror, and then come hints of the supernatural. A man haunted by a guilty secret goes on the run to escape from literal 'Paradise' - a town by that name - seeking the more figurative version. Unfortunately for him, as the film unfolds he is only getting closer to figurative - and latterly possibly even literal - hell.

The key to AM 1200 is its simplicity, and its soundtrack. The music is eerie in itself, but not overdone, it is kept to a minimum, adding to the reality of a man alone at night scanning through an AM radio. Each insect, each grind of gravel, the leather car seat, all can be heard, and to fantastic effect. The most terrifying moment of the film comes when the background cacophony that the audience take for granted suddenly ceases, leaving the man even more alone than seemed possible. The tension is built up slowly and maintained, fully gripping the viewer, making for fantastic, and horrifying, escapism.

The darkened pub where AM was being shown - with the volume turned up specially, definitely contributed to the atmosphere, making this the most terrifying cinematic experience I've had in a long time - to the extent that I was wishing it would end. So, then another thank you to Duke Mitchell for excellent hosting. I think.

No comments:

Post a Comment

scribble scribble scribble