Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"The Cold Heart", animated version of German fairy tale, leads the first show of "DC Shorts"

“Show 1” of DC Shorts concludes with arguably one of the most visible films in the whole festival, “The Cold Heart” (“Das Kalte Herz”) by Hans Ralle, animated in expressionistic style, 20 minutes.  It seems like a remake of the 1950 film “Heart of Stone” by Paul Verhoeven. Yes, the new English title reminds me of “The Normal Heart”.
In the 19th Century, Peter lives as a charcoal burner in the Black Forest in Germany.  When he meets the gray forest spirit Glasmenlein, he makes and gets wishes for more.  He has a glassworks business (my own father was a rep for a glass company) and gets richer but squanders it. Under the influence of an even darker spirit Peter becomes like Faust, giving up his soul to become ruthless as a crimelord, even having his wife killed when she shows kindness.  Is there still salvation for Peter?  I think this theme can be developed in a much more subtle way, where indifference alone is the sin that brings someone down, especially if one is challenged by others in an unequal world.  This film was a real favorite among the festival judges.
A Special Day” (“Un Dia Especial”, 13 min, by Daniel Padro), filmed in a church in Barcelona, sets up a wedding as the kickoff (as did the feature “The Remaining”).  David (Dafnis Balduz) becomes confronted with the idea that his bride Amelia (Carmen Balague) is perhaps superwoman, or is maybe a monster.  I’ve never seen a groom vomit at a wedding in film before.  Finally, he says “I do” anyway.
Mosquito” (Timo von Gunten, 12 min, Switzerland) is rather like a David Lynch short.  (No relation to Peter Weir’s “Mosquito Coast” (1986) which I recall seeing when I lived in Dallas.)  An aging man (Manfred Liechit) lives alone in a flat above a bar in a stylish European city (simulated in part by CGI).  He has a hand-cranked record player and listens to Tchaikowsky’s “Swan Lake” (hint: “Black Swan”). When the record player runs down, the music develops annoying wow and flutter.  It tracks heavy; maybe it has old wood needles.  A mosquito, maybe carrying disease, taunts him.  He is willing to “use an atom bomb to swat a fly” as they used to say when I lived in Texas in the 80s.  The room fills up with water and he drowns.  By the way, the director’s first name seems so popular with young male artists in Europe.  Timothy in the Bible is a good guy.

Job Interview” (9 minutes, by Julia Walter) was another film that drew me to this showcase.  A young women shows up for an evening interview at a Munich company, given by a woman about the right age to be a romantic rival.  That turns out to be important.  So is the “stress test”, and the “memory test”.  The setup reminds me of my own feature screenplay, “Do Ask, Do Tell: Conscription”, where a man wakes up and doesn’t know if he is in a hospital, in the Afterlike, is abducted by aliens, or being interviewed by the CIA.  Maybe it’s all of these.  This little short doesn’t have my Mobius Strip or my embedded time machine (next short).  What it does have is murder, a touch of Hitchcock.

One-Minute Time Machine” by Devon Avery.  Shot in Burbank CA in an outdoor park, this film pits sweethearts James (Brian Dietzen) and Regina (Erinn Hayes).  James has an astrobabe-like toy that keeps restarting the last minute of his life and their encounter in a parallel universe.  This is indeed an exercise in string theory.  Something odd:  in the initial and final scenes, one of James’s arms appears to have a tattoo; in the other scenes, they’re just appropriately hairy. 

He’s a Fighter” (7 min).  A drug-dependent mother explains how her son overcame his poor background and became a prize fighter. That’s not necessarily a good outcome. Boxing is not a desirable sport in my world.  But the kid was also an honor student.

Everything Starts Somewhere” (4 min) a couple recreates its one-night stand in monologues,
I saw this Monday afternoon before a fair crowd at the Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax, VA.  For some reason, the short “2:43” was not included. 

For a 6-minute short film on life in Ar-Raqqa, Syria, from the Wall Street Journal, see my International Issues blog today. 
Picture: a classic car near racetrack in W Va. (mine),  

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