Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

Posts Tagged ‘jane campion

8 No Time Left

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Cinema cannot make the world better, but more aware, yes. – Gaspar Noe

This is the overarching theme of the 8 No Time Left campaign, in which eight filmmakers produced eight short films about the Millenium Development Goals set by the UN in September of 2000. By 2015, they hope to cut world poverty in half. The issues the filmmakers explore include poverty, education, equality, child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, and development. (You can read more about the No Time Left project on their website.)

I’d like to focus on two of the films included in this project, by two auteurs with distinct filmmaking styles, Mansion on the Hill (2008) by Gus Van Sant and The Water Diary (2006) by Jane Campion.

Honestly, I’m not sure I see the connection between a skateboarding montage and child mortality. The information Van Sant includes in the film is startling, and I can appreciate the simple way he reveals his purpose to the audience – with statistics in bold white lettering across a montage of young adults testing their limits. The only connection I could reach for is that many children will not get the chance to try things like skateboarding, because they’ll never reach the age to do so. In developed countries we take advantage of our time for leisure and ability to try any activity, while Third World countries struggle to meet the physiological needs of their younger generations. The simplicity, short length, and nonfictional nature of this short stands in stark contrast to Jane Campion’s short.

This film blew me away. Campion tells a much larger story about resources and sustainability through the eyes of a child dealing with the hardship of extreme drought and global warming in a diary format. The film has incredible pathos to move people to action; it is fiction, but it is believable fiction that represents a coming reality. The film includes great visual effects, like the scene where the children are leaping over clouds formed along the ground. My favorite part of this film is the way Campion framed many of the wide shots; when the protaganist finds out her parents had to kill their horses, the camera is so far away that the conflict between characters is going on down in the bottom left corner of the screen, while the audience can see the barren landscape these people exist in. She frames another scene, of Felicity playing her viola, through the window of her house at night, beautifully focusing our attention on this central figure offering hope to her community. The last shot, where Felicity plays on the hill as the clouds behind her gradually darken, offer the audience a glimpse of ambiguous hope (I’m thinking of the very last scene of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Inception) even as it visually suggests “dark days” are still ahead. This film is one of my favorites from this entire semester.

You can find more information on the anthology on the United Nations Development Program website, and on the Sydney Morning Herald’s website.

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To Each His Own Cinema (2007)

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This anthology was commissioned in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Cannes Film Festival, and the credits read like a snooty film class syllabus. While some reviews state that these auteurs manipulated this framework to make a film about whatever they damned well pleased, many of these shorts have something unique to say about the ritual of going to the cinema, the devotion which we pledge to the chapel of film, the way the art of film mirrors our lives and how we shape our lives to mirror it, and finally how, as with every other artistic endeavor, technology and modernity are killing everything we love. Variety.com says this of the collection:

Especially through the first part of the grouping, the overwhelmingly dominant image is of old movie theaters fallen into states of disrepair, disintegration and disuse. In the films of Takeshi Kitano, Theo Angelopoulos, Andrei Konchalovsky, Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Tsai Ming-Liang, just for starters, one beholds the spectacle of a world in which cinemas, at least as a home for shared experienced in a privileged domain, no longer seems valid or valued. A mourning for the passing of the classical Euro-style art cinema of the ’60s — of the sort very much represented by films commonly shown in Cannes — filters strongly through the proceedings, no doubt in great measure because they were made by men who belong to that tradition or grew up on it (Jane Campion, still the only woman to have won the Palme d’Or, is the sole femme in the group here).

My personal favorites were Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Anna, about a blind woman’s visceral reaction to Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt, and  Zhang Yimou’s Movie Night, in which a young boy is so excited during the preparations for the town’s outdoor movie night that by the time the film is actually shown, he has fallen sound asleep. This anthology is definitely valuable, especially in terms of short film study, though I wish we had focused on each short’s context (who directed it, where they are from, and what else they’ve directed) in order to understand fully the range of celebrated talents featured on this DVD.

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