Film Movement is an interesting experiment in film distribution. This company buys the rights to independent and foreign films, and then releases them theatrically and on DVD at the same time. The DVDs are available through the Film Movement web site, either individually or through subscriptions. Most of the movies that they select have won awards at film festivals around the world but lack the appeal of a mainstream film. Since these are small art house films that not everyone is able to see, it distributes them to a wider audience. In addition to the feature, each DVD contains a short and often other extras.
This month Film Movement's DVD doesn't have a main feature, instead the disc is devoted to six shorts. Though there are one or two films that I didn't care for, this is still a splendid collection of short movies, one of the better collections to have been released recently.
The movies included on this disc are:
Inja: In South Africa, a white landowner becomes jealous of a young black boy who had gained the love of a puppy. In order to make the dog loyal to only himself, the landowner has the boy put the puppy in a bag. The man then beats the dog, and has the boy then let him out. The dog assumes that the boy was the one who hurt him and now fears the lad. This event comes back to haunt all three people years later when the boy and dog have both grown up. A nice film with an interesting twist.
Sangam: Two Indian men meet on a subway in New York. One has only been in America fora couple of weeks and doesn't have a job, while the other one is a computer technician who has lived in New York for years. These two men share a lot in common, but have very different views on many things.
This was a very good film. The film maker was aptly able to illustrate the factors that tie these men together, as well as the things that separate them. The story is mainly set in a subway car, though the director weaves images of India itself as well as clips from Indian movies together with the film of the two men to create real three dimensional characters. An outstanding effort.
Mt. Head: An experimental animated short from Japan. A stingy man picks some cherries off the ground and decided to eat the pits, since throwing them away would be a waste. He soon discovers that a cherry tree has started to sprout from his head. It grows to a few inches in height, and in the spring when the blossoms are in bloom people crowd on his head to picnic under the beautiful tree. An odd little film, it wasn't really funny, and it wasn't dramatic. It was worth watching, but I doubt I'll every watch it again.
Das Rad: Two rocks, Hew and Kew, are perched on a hill top and watch civilization bloom in the valley below them. An amusing stop-action animated short.
The First Three Lives of Stuart Hornsley: Clocking in at almost half an hour, this is the longest film on the disc, but also the best. Stuart Hornsley is a brilliant physicist who is so caught up in his research into the nature of time that he lets his life slip past him. He traces the problem back to one day, several years ago, when he was in grad school and a simple mistake caused his life to turn out differently than he had planned. With the help of a local middle school student, he builds a time machine in his New York City apartment so that he can go back and set his life back on track. Even though the machine works, putting things right is harder than it sounds.
This was a very enjoyable film. The concept of a small event in the past having a dramatic effect in the future isn't new or novel, but the film makers were able to take this trite concept and make it into a fun film. Director Leigh Dana Jackson did an excellent job with a small budget. The opening sequence that runs while the credits are rolling is a wonderful little segment that really caught my attention. The close up look at a young child's diorama had some great visuals. Jackson has an impressive eye when it comes to making the mundane look exciting. Not only that but she (I assume) was able to take an overused film device I actively dislike, the linking of the first shots in a film with the last, and work it into her film in a way that actually made the film better than if it had been left out.
Star Tunde Abebimpe, who is also lead singer for the band TV on the Radio, does an impressive job as the befuddled genius who is convinced that he's living in the wrong world. He was able to project Stuart's awkwardness in life while also making the viewer empathize with him, and that's what really makes the film succeed. A really good film.
Deathdealer: A Documentary: Henry Rollins plays a traveling salesman in this mockumentary. The difference is rather than taking orders for office supplies or furniture, this person is an angel of death, and he receives lists of names of people to kill. A darkly comic short, Rollins does a great job in his role. He looks the part of a salesman in his cheap suit and five o'clock shadow. Complaining about his job and the stress he's under, just like any other person who's working for the man, he really instills the film with humor and wit. A cross between Spinal Tap and the Maysles' film Salesman, this was a fine way to end the disc.
Many of the selections are in foreign languages and these all have burnt in English subtitles, which was unfortunate. I would have preferred it if the subtitles had been optional. Aside from that the two channel audio tracks sounded appropriate for the films. While the audio wasn't brilliant or outstanding, there weren't any major defects either.
Though some of these films are presented in widescreen format, this disc isn't anamorphically enhanced, which is a shame. Other than that, these are recent movies, and all of them look fine. Many of these are low budget productions but none of these films are grainy or have abundant digital defects, the latter problem often plagues independent movies short on digitally. A solid looking disc.
There are no extras.
This was easily the best Film Movement disc that I've seen. There were several stand out films included in this collection, and only a couple that were just mediocre. I especially liked Sangam and The First Three Lives of Stuart Hornsley, movies these movies alone are worth the price of the disc. While I was sorry to see that this disc did not offer optional subtitles and wasn't anamorphically enhanced, the is still one of the better compilations of short films that I've seen. Highly Recommended.