Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

Posts Tagged ‘the perfect human

Estes Avenue (2005)

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This three-minute film directed by Paul Cotter took one 10-hour day to shoot and cost a grand total of $122. This film is an example of what I think short film does best: makes a brief point in a unique way, employs some story-telling ideas that Hollywood feature films wouldn’t touch, and doesn’t linger in melodrama. Five brief stories, told in three minutes, centering around one place and one idea.

That idea is how people use the word and concept of “God” on one street, simultaneously. The film points to the rich aspects of life going on around us all the time that we aren’t even aware of. The slightly sarcastic, detached voiceover (reminiscient of The Perfect Human by Jorgen Leth) sets the scene on Sunday, or “God’s day, if you like.” The characters living on Estes Avenue use the word God to express anger at a surprise hairball underfoot, desperation at a wrecked car that will lead to debt, and even ecstacy during sexual acts. In its great simplicity, Estes Avenue shows us life with an utterly realist point of view.

Garnering a boatload of awards, and a bit of recognition thanks to a featured spot on the Film Movement DVD catalogue, this film seems well worth the $122 it took to make.

Written by Alisa Hathaway

March 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm

The Perfect Human (1967)

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The original 1967 short film The Perfect Human directed by Jorgen Leth is black and white, with an aloof, removed narration (by Leth himself) much like a nature documentary. It pokes fun at the idea of perfection in humanity and in film. With just two characters, no setting, and sparse mise-en-scene, it is hailed (perhaps ironically) as a “perfect” film and an example of the Vows of Chastity detailed in the Dogme 95 Manifesto. An admirer and student of Leth, as well as one of the authors of the manifesto, Lars von Trier challenged the older director to remake the film five times, with five different obstructions to muddle the perfection and clarity of the original film. Interesting that their collective goal was to remove the obstruction from truth that film imposes as a medium, and that their plan of action was to further obstruct the truth in order to reveal it. The product of this exercise, The Five Obstructions (2003), is a fascinating study in filmmaking. Is it more important for a filmmaker to impose their artistry in a film to represent the truth, or to lose all artistry and aesthetic to get as close to truth as possible? An analysis from the Movie Gazette writes:

Von Trier wants to disrupt and banalise Leth’s original film, chiselling away at its cool perfection and forcing the director to expose something of his own imperfect humanity in the remakes.

This is most apparant in the last obstruction, in which von Trier forces Leth to allow him to direct and keep Leth’s name on it, as well as casting him to read a voice-over where he admits defeat to von Trier. It’s an interesting look into the relationship between these two filmmakers, and the obvious respect Lars von Trier has for Jorgen Leth even as he tries to trip him up at every turn. The obstructions force the audience to admit “Leth proves over and over how creative he can be—indeed, the obstructions seem to heighten his ingenuity.” (From Ferdy on Films)

Written by Alisa Hathaway

March 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm

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