Category Archives: Shorts

GEORGES MELIES ENCORE

The films of Georges Méliès are testosterone for surrealists. In 2008 Flicker Alley and the esteemed Blackhawk films released The First Wizard of Cinema, a mammoth 5 disc, thirteen hour collection of Méliès’ surviving films. It was the DVD event release of several years. In 2010, the same forces have released a supplemental collection of 26 newly discovered shorts, aptly entitled “Encore”.

Understandably, this is not the event from two years ago, but it is an essential, released addition in the appreciation of Méliès’ unique art.  Contemporary viewers with preconceived notions of the term “film” may be thrown off by the aesthetic mindset from a turn of the century experimental filmmaker. Get over it and don’t look for narrative in the post-Edwin S. Porter sense of the word. There is much to savor here when transported into Méliès’ very different world.

First, there are two films here that were at one time mistakenly attributed to Méliès, but were in fact directed by the Spanish filmmaker Segundo de Chomon in the Méliès style (he was often compared to Méliès). Chomon, who worked for the smae company as Méliès (Pathe), specialized in color tinting and “The Rose Magician” (1906), with its washy blues, yellows, streams of flowers and painted backdrops, including a giant seashell, exudes a heady, exotic nouveau flavor. “Excursion to the Moon” (1908) is clearly a homage to Méliès’ famous “A Trip to the Moon” (1902). Sublime golds, oranges, pinks, greens and blues permeate “Excursion”. Chomon beautifully utilizes snowy imagery, sleep, mushrooms, space rockets, explosions and a snow covered face in the moon, which has to be seen to be believed. Taking nothing from Méliès, the two Chomon shorts may be the most significant discoveries in this collection.

Still from Melies Encore (2010 DVD)As for the actual Méliès pictures, “The Haunted Castle” (1896), which is not related to Poe, begins in a castle set with a bat (on strings, of course) that transforms into the Devil himself (complete with horns and costume which looks like it was bough from L.S. Ayres). Old Nick waves his hand and a giant cauldron appears. He follows this with some black magic business, summoning forth a servant and a maiden, who emerges form the cauldron, then quickly disappears. The servant, then the cauldron, then the Devil himself all disappear.  Two Continue reading GEORGES MELIES ENCORE

SATURDAY SHORT: FRED AND BARNEY FOR BUSCH BEER (1967)

For someone who wasn’t around fifty years ago to see the original airings of “The Flintstones”, watching Fred and Barney down a couple glasses of Busch beer may come as a bit of a shock.   Younger generations commonly view the Flintstones as a family friendly comedy appropriate for all ages, but the show was initially intended for adults.

Fred and Barney’s casual drinking aside, this commercial has even more odd qualities in store. The hypnotic circle at the beginning, repeating of slogans, and Mr. Slate’s hallucinations make for an anomalous gem.

SHORT: MEATBALL MACHINE: REJECT OF DEATH (2007)

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Asami

PLOT: An undead schoolgirl (?) joins three ethnic stereotypes to battle a bare-breasted Meatball Machine mutant in this music video-style short.

Still from Meatball Machine: Reject of Death (2007)


WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  Filmed by special effects maven Yoshihiro Nishimura in 2007 as an extra for the Meatball Machine DVD, Reject of Death was made without a net, and without a sense of accountability to anyone who might censor it for content, or for sense.  Done in the style of a music video, it displays all the narrative rigor one expects from the form—which actually serves this material well.  Add politically incorrect stereotypes to the fast-moving mix of absurdist gore, heavy metal music, and killer boobs, and you have one weird little extra.

COMMENTS: I can only imagine that the correct way to see Reject of Death is to view it before seeing Meatball Machine; not knowing the “rules” of the MM universe likely to boost the already pretty “WTF?” level into the stratosphere.  The scene is set by a schoolgirl causally hacking at her arm with a razor, only to find a glowing button encased beneath her flesh.  She presses the button, and heavy metal power chords assault our ears.  Cut to a scene of a wigged prostitute whose trick turning is interrupted by the whir of tentacles and spray of blood that indicates infection by alien parasites.  Intercut those scenes with three ethnic stereotypes—a Native America, and African, and an Asian—wandering bemused around the streets of a Japanese city.  Bring all three groups together on a rooftop for a bloody battle royale which sprinkles in kung fu posturing, hermaphrodism, and a nipple that shoots barbed chains into eyeballs, and you have yourself an out-of-control featurette that will score with fans of pop-surrealism and exploitation-extremism alike.   Rejects of Death utilizes the thin mythology set up in Meatball Machine, and very well may be an attempt to explain one character’s back story, but it stands apart stylistically from the feature that inspired it.  Unabashedly (and gloriously) offensive, the short isn’t special enough by itself to justify a DVD purchase, but packaged together with the feature film, it may be enough to inspire fence-sitters to take a chance on a rental.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…as good—and in some respects, much better—than the main movie.”–Bill Gibron, DVD Verdict

SATURDAY SHORT: ORGESTICULANISMUS (2008)

Mathieu Labaye’s tribute to his father, who suffered from multiple sclerosis when he was 29 years old, was confined to a wheelchair at 40, and died of pneumonia at the age of 55.  Labaye has an indisputable talent for creating music and visual art that radiates a surplus of energy.  Warning: like our last Saturday Short, “Orgesticulanismus” also contains some brief artistic nudity.

SATURDAY SHORT: [USER ASSUMES RISK] JUNE 18, 2008

If there’s one thing we like more than a talented, unconventional film director, it’s one who also writes extraordinary music.  John R. Hand is one of these talented artists. His band, User Assumes Risk, mixes their disturbing electronic music with horrifying, gruesome images for a live performance that would make Marilyn Manson envious. CORRECTION: Although Hand is also a composer, the music in this video was actually written by Lemmie Crew.

BORDERLINE WEIRD: THE SHORT FILMS OF DAVID LYNCH (2002)

DIRECTED BY: David Lynch

FEATURING: Harry Dean Stanton, Jack Nance, Catherine Coulson

PLOT: A series of six short films spanning director David Lynch’s career from the

Still from The Short Films of David Lynch

1960s through the 1990s.  We track Lynch from his early years as a highly experimental student to a macabre master of the darkly surreal with these films that show a man who needed to grow and challenge himself as a creative force.

WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINE: As collections of short films go, this is one of the most mercurial and hard-to-peg I’ve ever seen.  There’s really no denying the odd nature of Lynch’s efforts.  The first film alone, a minute-long animated loop of six hideous plaster sculptures throwing up,  stands as a timeless testament to Lynch’s nightmarish creative vision.  And the gut-wrenching scope of his silent feature, entitled “The Grandmother”, is a window into the mind of a radically different artist than the one Lynch has become.  But, honestly, the quality and sheer atmosphere present in most of Lynch’s features feels absent here, and there’s not enough memorable material to consider this a momentous release.

COMMENTS:  Much like a renowned painter or an extremely colorful luchador, a filmmaker’s work becomes more lionized as his fame grows, even his mistakes.  David Lynch is a very famous filmmaker, so it’s only appropriate that this assortment of short subjects should come out to cement his status as an iconic artist and a true visionary in the world of the nightmarish and the utterly bizarre.  But those die-hard fans of the man who seek a diamond in the rough here, a Pollack behind the frame of this small cache of movies, will likely find themselves disappointed, or at the very least conflicted.

If short films represent the transformation of a filmmaker as as he/she goes from one project to another, this gathering of shorts spanning Lynch’s career is a shadowy, rocky road.  Half of these films don’t desire to be much more than insubstantial experiments, hokey dumping grounds for ideas that are really just there to try something out.  They merely exist in a tangible form for the consumer because of the marketable name of Lynch, not because they actually have some sort of deliciously demented merit and are worth seeing for any length of time.  And while the three that are good are indeed very good, it’s easy to put this one on the borderline with the vibes I get from the other three.

Let’s break it down by feature, shall we?

“Six Figures getting Sick (Six Times)” – A minute long film loop featuring a set of six Continue reading BORDERLINE WEIRD: THE SHORT FILMS OF DAVID LYNCH (2002)