Extended Reviews 2023

The Rabbit Died by Duane Michals

Duane Michals wanders back in time to tell a tale of a woman in a critical point of her life. The scenario is greatly framed, and is the strongest asset of the film – but added to this is a fantastic vintage feeling, which is established through the photography and lighting.

With a strong ensemble, and authentic costumes, the piece plays out in a period piece style – it is fashionable in terms of how it is made in that context (i.e. a period drama), but also somewhat theatrical. This is a strange film on that front – what with its blending of mediums.

When the curtain finally falls, this feels like a one-act drama. A part of me wonders if, after all these years, Dunae has a feature in him… and strangely, this short feels the closest to that. There’s a real sense of tension and verisimilitude in this content. It feels important.

The End by Duane Michals

At 91, Duane Michals is continuing to intrigue the world with his whimsical observations of our world. In this short film, he is playing the lead in what appears to be the final moments of a gentleman’s life. The setting is the interior of a cafe, and there’s a nicely used newspaper as a prop – I mention this because it appears almost as a metaphor for one’s life: a page-turning item that is easily disregarded when the time is up.

The photography is often sharp and very clean, which is largely built around a third-wall dialogue. It is revealing too that this photography is so digital – capturing the image in such an observation perspective almost recalls the 90’s output of Hal Hartley. The dialogue is quite similar in a way – often poetic, and full of life.

Overall, the short film is a great moment – a captured gesture of one’s thoughts and the philosophy around the situation.

Fall Down Go Boom by Duane Michals

With this comical slapstick routine, Michals presents a surreal world where one can trip, and fall down into the ground? – and then become a printed outpouring print of ink that extends forever.

Much like the impressionistic impact on art – in which the technique was suddenly revealed in the art world (where form had been hidden to the spectator through perfected blends of colour representing light), Duane seems hellbent on revealing the filmic technique of photographic content and the materials that can be edited.

Accompanied by an authentic plonky piano tune, the short appears as a kind of throwback to the silent era, though done so with a digital polish and contemporary city setting. For the few seconds of surrealism that it is, this is quite a great experience to be had.

BoOzy’ OS and the Cristal Gem by J.K. Arsyn

What is BoOzy? It is a wild film that’s for sure. There’s a whole heap of voice noises and fun sugar pop animation. To be honest, this is one of the most fun animation films we’ve had at TMBT – and it is full of references to a variety of video games, specifically the types that we have seen in the last twenty years… making this, in a macro level, a presentation of what is loved and remembered within the recent-past contemporary era.

The post-modern interpretation of so many presentations of information is very interesting. The borrowing of the H.U.D. systems of mise en scene adds to the film’s sense of confectionary – that being of an animation that comes across as a delightful croissant full of whatever flavor you want.

Perhaps the only downfall is the extravagant characterisations featured in the short. The male lead appears quite odd, and perhaps even caricature-esque. Bottom line though, this is a wonderful production.

Makina by Zef Cota

Makina starts as your typical urban story made by film enthusiasts. It has a grim tone, and the lead character looks very miserable. However, this isn’t a bad thing. But rather a compliment – Cota and his team hit the genre so well that it actually is very much a typical urban story… only, unlike the regular demographic that delivers these shorts to us, this one actually appears to be slick, dark, and impactful.

The performances are nicely paced, along with the music and editing, which carefully pull the narrative along. There is a lot of class in this formula though, as the production feels much more expensive than what has been reported to us. It is precise, and very glossy… almost like a high-end production straight off of HBO or one of those cop/crime films made in the 2010’s (I say 2010’s as there haven’t been much well-made films of this kind since 2020).

There’s only one question remaining: Why is Cota making short films? Why is he not working on features yet?! This is clearly a talent that deserves the larger arena.

The Ghost in The Machine by Duane Michals

Collage, montage, and poetry collide in this photo journal which captures the construction of the human body as well as the rather blunt nature of our mortality. To Duane, his vessel is being recalled – and the foundation for a beautiful self-reflexive poem… but this film, much like the transition from montage to text with music, is almost recalled: the photographic image is taken away and replaced by text.

The nature of communication featured in this short film is very interesting. It is first images, and then words. The linguistic presentation also unlocks a character: the filmmaker himself, and his words are lyrical and artistic. We have a person who describes the essence of his life in his writing on the screen, but also in its medium presentation is allows us to see who he is: he is an artist who is dedicated to sounds, images, and words. He is someone who can capture the essence of his world within these presentations.

It is intriguing in design and impactful in delivery. It is personal, intimate, and uniquely Michals.