Monday, December 20, 2010

SCN: SHORTS program proves more than worthy -- with five winners and one so-so

Each year Spanish Cinema Now hosts one program of SHORTS (Shortmetraje) that is usually as good as (sometimes better) than some of the full-length movies. This year every full-length film TrustMovies has seen (so far) has been very-good-to-exceptional (except one) and -- true to form -- the short program proved just as fine.

Leading off with its most inventive piece -- ExLibris written and directed by María Trénor -- was a wise choice, for the short proved a kind of ode/homage to books and reading from a loving filmmaker. A combination of live action, animation, stop motion and more, this little gem proved as beautiful and inventive as could be imagined. Nude animated dancers, a beauty at the beach, books as piano keys and so much more rear their bizarre heads in the sophisticated, literate romp.

The "genre" short gets its workout with El Grifo (The Faucet), from Denis Rovira, a kind of comedic thriller that pits grandpa against a very naughty piece of plumbing. In addition to suspense and thrills, there's even some nice characterization present in gramps, and his daughter and son-in-law.  The film spans fifteen very well spent minutes, with all technical aspects aces.

The weakest of the shorts comes via Elisa Cepedal and is titled El Playa (The Beach), another in a seemingly endless array of bored teen movies, but one that certainly looks very spiffy. (Seeing a moment from the Visconti classic Rocco and His Brothers on the telly in a cafe does not help matters.) Technical aspects here are first-rate, too, as are performances.  If only there were much of a script or plot. But La Playa is all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Vicente Villanueva and his leading actress provide a lot of fun in the longest of the shorts La Rubio de Pinos Puente, in which Carmen Ruiz does a knockout job as a sweet, ditzy,  maddening brunette with man problems and an enormous desire for no-cost fame. This leads her into Spanish reality television and us into some great fun.  Ms Ruiz is ably supported by Font García as the man of the moment.

The shortest of the shorts -- The 5 Deaths of Ibrahim Gonsález -- is also the funniest and boasts the neatest, most original concept: a young man has a near-death experience and finds it so delightful that all he wants is to keep on repeating it. In fast, smart succession, he finds inventive, funny ways to do this at the expense of his current girlfriend but not us viewers. This one has everything: concept, execution and a perfect length to bring it home. Thank you,  writer/director Pablo Aragüés!

Certainly the smartest -- and most satirical -- short, and the one most concerned with economics, politics, culture and humanity is El Tránsito (The Commute), from Elias León which, according to its very funny introduction, is but one in a series of educational short films. It explains how the system of productionism, as it calls, uh, well, Capitalism, created the commute, and how this serves the system's constant repetition of production and then rest -- in order to produce some more. This very clever idea is itself given too much repetition and proves a little too lengthy.  But it's certainly smart.  We'll be hearing more from Señor León.

The SCN Shorts program plays one more time at the Walter Reade Theater: Thursday, December 23, at 1pm. You can find the entire Spanish Cinema Now series listed here.

No comments: