Shorts at #Locarno67: meditation vs testing the audience’s patience

Aug 16th, 2014

iMage 1 resized

A guest blog from Mico Tatalovic

When the representative of Single Stream, one of the shorts screened here, said ‘hope you enjoy our trashy movie’ I didn’t actually expect it to be about trash. Nor would I have guessed that 23 minutes, without dialogue, of shots of the inside of a recycling plant could be so enjoyable to watch.

It’s the cinematography, framing and well-judged timing of this virtual walk through the recycling process that makes it a success. The absence of any dialogue or information prompts one to think about the process – why is it that some things are picked off at certain stages of the process and how do the workers make sure they have taken out all the unwanted materials from the constant stream of trash? The film does more than an educational documentary might do to pique interest in the actual process and people working here. But it also allows for a meditative experience, and drifting away momentarily in your thoughts does not hamper your enjoyment of the rest of the movie.

Screenshot from San Siro

Screenshot from San Siro

Italian production San Siro is a similarly meditative and original piece of work focusing on the preparations for match day at a football stadium. Not that one would guess this early on in the film. The director, Yuri Ancarani, didn’t want to talk about the film before the screening, saying instead that he expresses himself through his audiovisual language. And the audio element is truly integral to the film, and is what elevates it from a film to an experience.

The unusual shots of details that films – and the human gaze – usually gloss over takes a common setting and turns it into an engrossing alien world populated by its own characters, rules and sounds. The shot of supporters entering the stadium, for example, could easily be seen as the boarding of an alien space ship or commuting on a foreign planet.

The director has managed to take mundane things and sounds and turn them into a symphony and a unique artistic experience.

The programmers have cleverly placed such movies at the end of each collection of shorts, as waves of people do leave throughout the screening. Not all of the slow-paced films played at the end of each screening were good, though, as a disappointing Croatian production, Višak Vjetra, proved.

What marked out Single Stream and San Siro, though, was their technical perfection and strong and unifying authorial vision that convinces us to go along with them and see them through to the end – unlike many of the other films that somehow made it into Pardi di Domani (Leopards of the Future) section of the competition here at the Locarno Film Festival, in Switzerland (6-16 August 2014).

A lot of the shorts, and perhaps especially medium-length films showed here this year, including some of the Academy screenings (shorts by young filmmakers taking part in the festival’s training programme), cry out for critical appraisal and further work before they should be unleashed on unsuspecting audiences.

On the plus side, the jury’s work should have been easy; conversely, faithful audiences are subjected to a surprisingly variable level of quality. Further work would have helped programmers, too: they would have had a decent selection, one really worth watching, had they pruned out some 3 in 4 of the existing programme.





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