Holy Spirit (Directed by Mike Baran)
The opening scene of Holy Spirit is quite fantastic, and features an almost Claude Chabrol quality to it – sweeping shots of the countryside expand before us, a car travels heading somewhere, a few dramatic cuts, and a child before the image of Christ. This opening sets the tone of the film. Furthermore, this scenario helps establish the most successful element of Holy Spirit, which is its high polished images: the sequencing of which often build on a strong array of locales, bold iconography, and thematic elements.
There’s also the keen use of sound, which is fantastically balanced between being comically musical, and cleanly delivered dialogue, which thanks to the actors is well textured.
On the flip side though the film seems to lack much of any real emotional depth, this in part due to its handling of comedy and other genre cues, such as thriller and action motifs. Whilst some characters are likable, most aren’t. Furthermore, the film only seems to touch of its contextual set up – often dipping in with a soft touch in order to establish something, but never going into too much detail truly make it authentic. A part of me feels like the film somewhat lacked a tension which would drive the film forwards, one which was more forceful than its pastiche ‘beloved public figure turned killer’ plot.
None of this results in an exception film, nor does it result in a horrible one. Ultimately, Holy Spirit is a well executed film, and is perhaps best understood as an exercise in style over substance – which is completely recommendable.
The Guitar (Directed by Michael Boston)
For the most part, The Guitar, sails as one of the more polished and strong short film efforts we have seen here at TMBT Film Awards.
The fall though with this short is quite a minor one – excess. There’s an excess in content for a short film in my opinion – too much scale, and too many plots, for this runtime (Boston clearly is gearing up for a feature level now).
And perhaps, the second fault – no offence to Michael Boston with this, but its inability to measure up to, or be of the same flawless delivery of his previous submission to us – Dress Rehearsal.
Here though, unlike Dress Rehearsal, there is a specific dynamic between people. A community of sorts gather around Leo, a thin homeless being with a fantastic musical skill. It is a fantastic dynamic, and shows a real concern and understanding for the growing disassociation society has between those who ‘have’ and those that ‘don’t have’.
Though most of the film’s plot line tends to surround subplots, it is the dynamic between son and father, or perhaps socially comfortable persons and paraniahs – that drives the film’s success. One must add a commendation to Raquel Gallego, whose photography really helps capture a disenchanted locale, and a worn and tattered person in the centre of this landscape.
Michael Boston does here what he did in Dress Rehearsal in essence: he delivers a quality product steeped in a rough urban heart.
The Somnambulist (Directed by Duane Michals)
Duane Michals is back at it in the surreal powerhouse (we previously saw his glove fetish a few months ago). This time the focus seems to be very much on the circumstance of time, and its passing. An elderly man walks through an apartment opening rooms into metaphorical memories. The film on the surface sounds fairly shallow, but its strongest asset is its form: a steadfast dreamscape of moments intercut, almost like a silent film, overpower the first third of the film.
Here, almost like Ingmar Bergman’s opening for Persona, we are provided with a kaleidoscope of images which recall an earlier primitive form of cinema.
Though the editing of the film tends to be quite stylized to perfection, the budget of this project, as well as its overall execution, seems to lean heavily on the audience being forgiving towards this in lieu of its unusual template.
Where Michals’ previous short presented to us bolstered with a fairly original story, this one doesn’t – the scenes which make up The Somnambulist strongly recall the dream walks of Sophie Barthes’ Cold Souls, as well as the classic Being John Malkovich, but unlike those films, fails at the glossy delivery, or the blatant bold answer to a character’s existence.
Having said all of that, one has to admire Michals’ consistent surreal tone.
The Radicalization of Jeff Boyd (Directed by Uwe Schwarzwalder)
With a budget of $35,000, Uwe Schwarzwalder has done a great job with The Radicalization of Jeff Boyd. The film feels quite well rounded in terms of consistent image and performance quality, the script too seems to be quite well adjusted to its genre and tone, which slides along as one would hope to see in a production of this calibre. The cast, who carry quite a large array of characters, keep the film’s pace alive, most of whom have a great vocal gusto, which elevates the viewing experience.
The main fault of the film is its photographic style, and its particular choices in terms of frames and editing though, all of which tend to render the film’s style into the look and ‘feel’ of a TV show. This is mostly because of the cookie-cut routine of master and coverage, as well as the all too predictable repetition of particular scenes in terms of their determination: enter character x, x and y talk, y leaves. This isn’t to say that the film isn’t good, in fact – it is in a sort of a way a compliment: Schwarzwalder and his team have managed to produce work at such a consistent level, and with such a consistent vision, that the film itself slips away from any creativity that one would wish for in terms of the cinematic space. To achieve this level of consistency is hard, and quite rare in low budget films.
Overall the experience perhaps feels a tad dated, like a Hong Kong cop film which circulated just before the Hong Kong New Wave, The Radicalization of Jeff Boyd feels as if it belongs to a bygone era of film that no longer really exists in film (and perhaps does in TV). There’s a definite 80’s vibe about the film, be it in terms of its open thought-experiment plot line of politics mixed with social justice, or just the film’s tone and delivery. Overall it is quite satisfactory, and perhaps only looked upon with a harsh eye by those hardcore cinephiles that want more in terms of film style.