Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Miscellaneous Film Festival Shorts…

These are various and sundry short films I saw during the 1999 Seattle International Film Festival. These were generally screened before the main features.

Absence is a nicely photographed mini-film that begs to be described as haunting. We don’t know for sure who the man is, riding his bicycle through the woods or why he sees the little girl hiding playfully among the trees. But his eyes tell an entire story about loss, grief and woeful yearning. (Seen 3 June 1999)

Birthday answers the rhetorical question: What do parents do for a child’s birthday party on the Clown Planet? Just amusing enough for its six-minute running time, this is another concept that could have been a Saturday Night Live sketch. (Seen 28 May 1999)

Bunny uses computer animation, but it looks so real that you would swear that it was some kind of supernatural hand puppet trick that the ghost of Jim Henson came up with. But more than technology, this seven-minute short has heart. It will bring you to tears. (Seen 15 May 1999)

Culture is a mercifully brief (one minute flat) examination of what passes for “culture” these days. Needless to say, all that is required is a lot of frenetic action, percussive sound effects, and a splattering of red paint to stand in for blood. (Seen 14 May 1999)

Desserts is a very brief Scottish short that is very funny in the Monty Python tradition of humor. I laughed a lot at this until, days later, my friend Melanie ruined it for me by telling me that this particular joke had been done at least a couple of times before. It features Ewan McGregor in an earth-bound role. (Seen 3 June 1999)

Home provides a brief slice of life somewhere in urban Scotland. Following a social worker on his rounds, we meet blind twin brothers and an antagonistic man with an unusual roommate. Strange and a bit poignant. (Seen 20 May 1999)

Humdrum more than lives up to its name. Produced by the usually wonderful Aardman studios, this animated piece answers the question: what happens when shadow figures decide to make shadow figures? (Seen 14 May 1999)

Jesus Can’t Bear It Any Longer is about a guy called Jesus (no, not that Jesus) who is assigned the job of testing graves (for size, depth) before dead soldiers are thrown into them during World War II. The visuals of this black-and-white German short are basically accompaniment for a text written by an actual WWII soldier, who ultimately died of his war wounds.. (Seen 29 May 1999)

Lift, as the title of this fast-paced, cartoon-like English short might imply, takes place largely in an elevator. The opening is something like out of a David Lynch film or TV show, and its frenetic style manages to cram about 30 minutes of (wordless) plot into ten minutes. A little sick, but fairly funny. (Seen 26 May 1999)

Once Upon a Time tells a story elliptically, which is a five-dollar word meaning “makes you go ‘huh?'” The photography in this seven-minute Polish/English production is lovely and evocative of a fairy tale, as the title suggests. But the subject matter—involving two children, a rabbit, a mother and a grandfather—turns out to be all too twentieth century. It also requires the viewer to fill in some blanks. (Seen 30 May 1999)

Peep Show provides something of an allegory for relationships between women and men. A slickly done and quite funny nine-minute comedy (more of a Saturday Night Live style skit really), it answers the question: if they had peep shows on Skid Row expressly for women, what would they be like and what would the male performers be saying to each other when the curtains are closed? (Seen 22 May 1999)

Sparks for some reason reminds me of a Miller Beer commercial. A wordless, exaggerated slice of New York City life shot on an artificial-looking set, this nine-minute film is only mildly amusing. (Seen 16 May 1999)