Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

Custom Search

© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Short films at the 2002 Cork Film Festival

Following is a summary of the short films I have seen during the 2002 Cork Film Festival.

Miscellaneous Shorts

Faces come and go and morph imaginatively in this seven-minute German film, which looks more or less like a series of constantly shifting charcoal drawings. Thanks to the program notes, we learn that this represents what antique sculptures do in a museum after hours. (Seen 8 October 2002)

Just a Little Bit of Love: A Tribute to Des Smith is basically an MTV-style video featuring Irish showband singer Des Smyth good-naturedly singing one of his own songs, in the Tom Jones/Englebert Humperdink vein. Image-wise, we see an enraptured young woman build Smyth out of mannequin parts. (Seen 12 October 2002)

The Last Time she made love is something our fifty-something protagonist can’t remember. And she wants to, because she has had news from her doctor that could turn out to be bad. So she goes around Dublin trying to have a new last time. This somewhat poignant but mostly funny film is by Conor Horgan and features a nice performance by Linda Bassett. (Seen 13 October 2002)

Lemon Crush tells a very simple story of old sweethearts running into each other again. The young woman has been serially dating French professors, while the young man has resigned himself to waiting tables in a London Chinese restaurant. That’s about it. (Seen 11 October 2002)

Rob of the Rovers is an English sports teacher, whose life isn’t going quite as smoothly as he would like to imagine it. Gary Lewis (the father in Billy Elliot) looks strangely like James Rebhorn in this ten-minute comedy/drama, which uses an ironic voiceover narration. (Seen 10 October 2002)

Unscrew is apparently what a couple has, or does, when they break up and separate after five years. This Scottish pair bicker and negotiate over a lot of shared possessions, but to my mind the woman is a bit greedy. Especially when she decides to take one last thing with her, which will be very much missed. (Seen 9 October 2002)

Gay Shorts Program

Celebration, a five-minute American film, plays like a public service announcement for the gay rights movement. A very young boy, in a ceremony like a bar mitzvah, proclaims his sexual orientation to great applause. Doesn’t really send the message the filmmakers were hoping for. (Seen 11 October 2002)

Lucky Bugger feels like a distant childhood memory that had a lasting affect. In this English short, a young boy stumbles on two men on the beach and gets what seems like a welcome revelation. (Seen 11 October 2002)

Gaze is a fanciful live-action/animation mix from Wales. Male figures sketched on canvases come alive when they manage to play a Barry White CD. Shake your booty, baby. (Seen 11 October 2002)

Frühstück? (Breakfast?) tells a story of frustrated young love. The charismatic, impulsive Till is into experiencing everything and everyone. His uptight friend is only into Till. This 14-minute German film feels as though it could have been full feature. (Seen 11 October 2002)

Highstreet Love Story is a highly energetic Australian film about three friends who spontaneously hatch a plot when they experience love at first sight on a city street. Strangely, it’s sort of as if Kevin Smith had directed a Jay and Silent Bob version of the episode of Seinfield where Jerry and Elaine are anxiously waiting for a couple to break up. (Seen 11 October 2002)

Tanaka is a Japanese man who travels to Australia to attend his uncle’s funeral. When he meets his uncle’s Australian family and friends, he doesn’t find quite what he expected. This is a gentle tale, nicely told in 24 minutes. (Seen 11 October 2002)

Public Interview with Jack Cardiff

Sadly, there are fewer and fewer people left who can sit around and tell great yarns about working with film legends like Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, John Huston, and Michael Powell. But Jack Cardiff can, and it was a pleasure to hear him do so, since his memory and his wit are as sharp as ever, and he is extremely generous in sharing his experiences. (One of his anecdotes began by mentioning a matte painter, who worked on Black Narcissus and whom Cardiff described as being “very, very old,” i.e. in his 80s. Suddenly, Cardiff paused and exclaimed, “My God, that’s my age!”)

This octogenarian is a legend, who began as a child actor and went on to become one of England’s first and best color cinematographers. His break came when Michael Powell noticed his work as a crew member and asked him to be his cinematographer on The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. He went on to work with Powell on such classics as Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death (a.k.a. Stairway to Heaven) and The Red Shoes.

People who wanted details about the technical aspects of filmmaking were not disappointed. We learned, for example, that Black Narcissus, despite its breathtaking Himalayan setting, was filmed in studio and that the sheer drop-off that figures in the movie’s climax was a painting. We also learned that the harrowing insect attack scene in The African Queen was achieved by floating feathers, shot out of focus, in a compartment in front of the camera lens.

People who wanted behind-the-scenes stories were not disappointed either. Cardiff told how everyone in the cast and crew of The African Queen, except for director Huston and star Bogart, fell severely ill during the shooting on Lake Victoria. It took weeks for one of several doctors to finally pinpoint the cause: the contaminated lake water that everyone was drinking. Everyone except Bogie and Huston, who had consistently eschewed water in favor of whiskey. Cardiff also worked with Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe on the 1957 comedy The Prince and the Showgirl. He described Monroe as loony, but magical on camera. She was constantly forgetting her lines, and one scene had to be spliced together from a dozen different takes. Still, said Cardiff, it turned out fine anyway because of the star’s charisma.

Cardiff is less renowned as a director than as cinematographer, although he directed more than a dozen films of his own, ranging from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. His favorite was the 1960 adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. He recounted wryly his battles with censors in Hollywood and Britain and how he simply ignored them—and got away with it. He also spoke with a bit of frustration of the Irish film Young Cassidy (a fictionalized story based on writer Sean O’Casey’s autobiography), which he took over from an ill John Ford. Reviewers consistently cited the best scenes in the film as “obviously” the work of the great Ford, including the tour de force riot scene, which was Cardiff’s work. In sum, said Cardiff, only about four minutes of Ford’s footage had actually made it into the movie.

What can you say about someone whose cinematography oeuvre ranges from the 1939 version of The Four Feathers to movies like Conan the Destroyer and Rambo: First Blood Part II? When he is as informative and charming as Jack Cardiff, you just say, thank you. (Attended 9 October 2002)