International Shorts 2: Little Earthquakes
Megaheavy (Den) - Tall, gangly early teen Jolly rides her bike down the roads around her home, looking like a prototype Napoleon Dynamite. Earphones connected to a tape player the size and colour of a house brick, playing heavy metal, she tries to get to know her fellow local kids Helle and Kenneth, but they don't seem to want to know. Her single mother is trying to snag a younger man, Michael, but he seems only half interested. When Jolly's interest is rebutted, Michael becomes an obvious distraction as her hormones begin to multiply. What is Jolly's intentions, and where will Michael figure in it? A gentle little look at the confusing life of a period of metamorphosis. 7.5/10
Mosquito (USA) - Mosquito is the nickname of Caesar, a young boy playing a made up ball game with his friends. It's a bit rough, as the rules state that penalties are dished out by pelting the ball as hard as you can at the offender, as he stands prostrate facing the wall. Not the best time for the elder kids of the block sporting their mighty afro's to come along and try their hand at a bit of old fashioned bullying. A nice if slightly loose film about coping with those who don't see you as equal. 7/10
The Bite (Fra) - A mother and child in a park stop for a while. As the mother waits for her boyfriend her daughter conjures up some dolls and a house to play with under a tree. After an exchange of moneys, the boyfriend bites her, vampire like, and leaves, and the girl finds a snowglobe in a tramps' posessions. Yes, it's French. Yes, I tried and failed to get a handle on what the hell it was about. 4/10
Echo (Pol) - Another chance to see the excellent but unsettling Echo, caught last year at Leeds. A pair of teenage boys are forced by the local detective to reinact their murder of a girl at a quarry. 8/10
Cocoon (Ger) - A very short film about the transitory period of a typical teen, as she stops being a child and begins adulthood, told using the simple process of changing her hairstyle, from a long flowing mane stretching down her back, to the much shorter version, in a bid to change who she is and maybe get a bit of attention. The film didn't do very much more than that, but served as an illustration of the need to make physical changes alongside the chemical ones. 6/10
My Invisible Friend (Spa) - A film to make the shy loner in all of us smile warmly at our own teen problems. Tomas is so painfully shy, he has no friends, and can't even ask his parents to pass the salt. When not attending to his expanding frame at the dinner table, he's off in his bedroom doing all the things young teens do in there, except with less interaction. One day however, the little nagging voice in his head telling him to grow up manifests itself in the form of a fish-headed man in a cape. Can it help poor Tomas take that first step into normal adult conversation? 8/10
Behaviour (Den) - Erik, the overworked father of mentally challenged brothers Mikkel and Lukas needs a bit of a hand, and teenager Julie has answered the advertisement. Both brothers are in their mid teens, and although Mikkel is little harm other than excessive dribbling, Lukas' pants are stretched in all sorts of directions at the sight of a young woman in the house. Julie's day is about to get much worse when Erik has to go off on a job, promising faithfully he will be back. All Julie has to do is feed and bath them... 7.5/10
If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle (Rom) (trailer)
I entered the Cameo theatre to the beautiful sounds of Voix Bulgares, whom some may know from Takahata's equally beautiful Only Yesterday. I'd recommend either.
Silviu Chiscan is in a juvenile offenders block. His mother left him, not for the first time, 8 years ago and he has been left to bring up his younger brother, Marius. Directionless and without a mother or father figure, he got in with the wrong sorts and petty crime has got him sent down. His time is coming to a close and in 2 weeks, his term - if he behaves himself - will be at an end.
However, Marius visits with bad news - mum is back, and she intends on taking Marius with her back to Italy. Recognising the pattern from his own upbringing, the largely conformant Silviu is set on edge, his anger slowly rising. A mixture of an attractive social worker who doesn't appreciate his advances, and a fellow inmate who sees profit in holding Silvius' future in his hands threaten to push him over the edge into a damaging rage.
Director Florin Serban was present and waxed a little about the 'new wave of Romanian cinema' which is frequently applied as the years go on. Truth is that the Romanian output over those years has been consistently high, surpassing the need for transitive descriptions of 'waves'. Whistle is certainly an impressive addition, although this is not apparent at the start, as it slowly winds itself up to the tense conclusion that manages to be both inevitable and unexpected. 7.5/10
Vital Signs (Fra/Can) (site)
Simone Leger has no direction in life, having dropped out of harvard and half-heartedly pursuing a relationship with on-off boyfriend Boris for some time. The death of her grandmother begins an emotional journey as Simone volunteers to work in the paliative care unit that cared for her gran. As her involvement with the patients there increases, she finds that the comfort in Boris' childish bedroom games wane in comparison to the emotional waves she gets when present during the final hours and days of someone who may not have anyone else.
Most people have spent time at the bedside of a loved one, during the last moments of life, and this film will definitely bring back memories both painful and beloved of those times, and sometimes it hits particularly hard. One of the mechanisms for doing this is with the use of scenes where the patient is shown in their prime of life, perhaps how they would like to be remembered most. It also deals with the uncomfortable subject of whether to assist in bringing those lives to an end, although thankfully there is no message rammed home on either side of the fence.
Vital Signs is one of those films where you can get completely lost in the emotion and both laugh and cry at the content. It doesn't dwell on the depressing for long without swinging over to a light-hearted scene, so you'll never get bogged down in the heaviness of it all, and you get a nice musical number by the doc at the end as the credits roll. 8/10
A Spanking in Paradise (UK) (facebook)
Lauded heavily in the catalogue and the previews as the kind of film that tells the jokes you shouldn't, I think it may have been bigged up too much by its' director Wayne Thallon beforehand. Of course, my disappointment with the film may have been because I'm not Scottish, and I must have missed one word in three due to the thick accents.
Justin Thompson is a freshly graduated human rights lawyer. As he waits for his visa to be processed for work in America, he decides to spend a little time in Edinburgh with a side of his family he hasn't seen for a while. Shame his uncle Rab is the owner of 'Birds of Paradise', a brothel in the middle of the city, populated by a range of, erm, well travelled women, and staffed by Leo, a brooding ball of frustration and hate doing a bit of drug dealing, and Rab, whose aggressive stories of drunken daring do are I think meant to remind us of Tarantino's extended conversations.
So the film is as you would expect, a set of crazy capers where Leo reluctantly carries out his uncle's errands, mixes with the stereotypical underbelly of the city, and teases the viewer with the possibility that he might leave his US girlfriend and fall for Caroline, a fresh-faced new girl who looks wholly out of place amongst the tarts, tugging at our heart strings with throwaway stories of unwell children.
As you can probably tell, I wasn't much impressed by this film. There were a few laughs here and there, and there were a few in the audience (including several of the girls from the film) who gave several whoops and laughs as it went on (although many more sat there as straight-faced as me), so I guess the number of laughs you will get out of it will be proportional to how good you are at desciphering the words through the accent, and how funny you find swear words said for the sake of it. 5/10