More than likely only a few years ago The World According to Shorts, a collection of six short films by independent filmmakers practically unknown in the US, would have had a next to zero chance of being released on DVD. In fact, to this day plenty of the shorts that enter competition at such prestigious festivals as Cannes and the Berlinale, are impossible to see once their short lived trips to stardom end. Unless, of course, you are keen on exploring the not so legal "sharing" networks. Fortunately enough, New Yorker Video have picked six shorts whose originality gives me plenty of hope that film directors are indeed looking to create rather than imitate. Something each summer I have a difficult time believing.
In La Perra up-and-coming Chilean director Hugo Maza reveals the strange fetish games of a wealthy, sexually frustrated, couple obsessed with their new maid. We Have Decided Not To Die, an Australian project by Daniel Askill, offers a contemporary vision of transcendence with an ultra-chic, bordering industrial minimalism, look. Things come back to normal in the political satire United We Stand, an impressive jab at Norway's once powerful Labor Party, directed by Hans Peter Moland. Next, my favorite short in this medley, is Adam Guzinski's Antichrist about a group of young Polish boys who can not stop experimenting with death. The Old Woman's Step by Brazilian helmer Jane Malaquias tells the story of an old woman leaving her village behind and heading to the big city to sell a chicken and buy her son a present. Finally, Andreas Hykade's Ring of Fire, an animated feature from Germany with a distinctively zesty flavor, proves that cowboys and sex is always a potent topic to entertain.
What one would make out of six shorts from unknown international directors is up to one's expectations prior to seeing them. At least this was my experience after seeing The World According To Shorts - I entered this collection knowing absolutely nothing about its content and exited with a great deal of admiration for the talent of those who contributed to it. For a limited amount of time the directors addressed adequately anger, political bigotry, prejudice, religion, and humanity in a manner few mainstream filmmakers could have.
Aside from the meaningful messages the shorts also reveal an impressive technical execution. We Have Decided Not To Die is a powerful concept piece with near mind bending visuals fans of the Wachowskis will find incredibly appealing. The grittiness of the Antichrist on the other hand is proof that effective horror stories do not always necessitate gallons of red paint. And the punchy humor of United We Stand more likely than not will capture the attention of those who find Lars Von Trier's dry and to-the-point cinematic language to be worthy of their time.
Finally, The World According to Shorts isn't a pretentious, devoid of imagination exercise in originality. On the contrary, each short, perhaps with the exception of the slightly ambiguous Ring of Fire, is notably stimulating granting the viewer the opportunity to experience a whole new vision of cinema where style and substance are inseparable.
How Does the DVD Look?
I do not know what the original aspect ratios for these shorts are. I have never seen any of them before. What this DVD by New Yorker Films offers is a mix of 1.33:1 and letterboxed 1.78:1 presentations mastered from what appear to be different sources. The actual quality of the presentation(s) varies - some of the shorts look detailed, with acceptable contrast levels, and semi-accurate color-schemes. A few however reveal occasional dust specks here and there which do not affect the viewing experience at all. I do believe that it would have been great if the distributor would have enhanced the 1.78:1 for widescreen TVs but I am willing to accept the disc as it is considering than it is a small miracle that these were released to begin with. I am content.
How Does the DVD Sound?
DD tracks in Spanish, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, and German with forced English subs is what we have here. The actual audio treatment is quite good with dialog very easy to follow and without any disturbing issues to report here.
There aren't any supplemental materials to be found here.
This is a top-notch disc. At least as far as content goes. I enjoyed every single short here and if not for the mixed video treatment(s), which I am willing to accept given, well, the reality of our market, this disc would have earned the DVDTALK Collector Series. If you are in a mood for something different, willing to experiment a bit, give The World According To Shorts a try. I am certain you will end up being enormously impressed with at least one of its features. Highly Recommended.