Features: Color, Black & White, Widescreen, Fullscreen. Scene Access, Interactive Menus, Production Notes. English:
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
The first batch of Warner's Short Cinema Journal DVD releases featured radical menu designs, a magazine like approach to the material and collections of award winning shorts selected to conform to an overall theme. As more discs were produced Warner seems to have lost sight of that original vision. Short 9: Trust is the widest variation to date. Short 9 has much more static and intuitive menus than its predecessors, the Trust subtitle is applicable in only the loosest of terms and the magazine metaphor is almost completely gone. Though the anoying advertisments are also gone (previous releases made viewers sit through ads for Nissan, Coke and others) much of the compelling nature of the product seems to have evaporated too. Each of the shorts on this disc is interesting in its own right but there doesn't seem to be a single break out film here that would make the disc attractive enough to purchase. Of course any collection of films from diverse sources has a difficult task ahead of it if it seeks to satisfy every viewer. I don't think Short 9 lives up to the reputation of some of the other titles in the series but your milage may very.
One consistent flaw in the Short line is Warner's refusal to present the films in anamorphic format. The original aspect ratios are maintained throughout but anamorphic transfers would really enhance the viewing experience. Because these films come from a wide variety of sources including 8mm, 16mm and digital Hi-8 you'll see a lot of variation from film to film. In general the transfers are good with little appearent edge enhancement, nice contrast and consistently saturated colors. When there are flaws in the image it's appearent that the source material is to blame.
One improvement in the Short series of late is the introduction of Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks. Each and every film on Short 9 has a 5.1 mix. Warner has taken great care to ensure consistent levels across all the shorts and the tracks are mainly free from hiss, clipping and other problems. None of the tracks are especially agressive so don't expect to give your home theater a workout with this disc. The surrounds and LFE chanels are used sparingly for subtile enveloping effects.
This is probably the most pollished title on Short 9. Love Bites stars Kevin Corrigan (doing his very best Christopher Walkin impression) as a suspicious boyfriend bent on revealing his lovers infidility. The brisk dialogue and tightly directed scenes are fun to watch but the result is, how shall I say, less than filling. Included with Love Bites is a brief and funny behind-the-scenes featurette and an informative audio commentary track with the directors and actors.
Der Rabe (The Raven) is a singular animation by renoun German artist Hannes Rall. It's a very loose enterpretation of Edgar Allan Poe's poem made in stark black, white and red images that are evocitive of expressionist woodcuts. Der Rabe is kenetic and fluid all at the same time and though Poe's lines are essentially abandoned the dark and disturbing feel of his poem remain. The short includes audio tracks in both English and German, a second angle with storyboards and a brief commentary from Hannes Rall
This dry commedic effort finds two clowns stalled out in the middle of the desert with nothing to sustain them but the contents of their tiny (but magically voluminous) clown car. I didn't get much out of this film but if you subscribe to a very low key form of humor you may find it entertaining. Clown Car comes with a director commentary, a second angle with original storyboards and a few pages of production notes.
Filmed on digital video and then transfered to film, Sidewalkers has a unique look and a whimsically charming story line. The plot revolves around two childern and the scam they run at a local grocery store to secure some cash. I was particularly impressed with the performances of the two child actors, both of whom underplay their roles to satisfying effect. This short includes an audio commentary with the director, a second angle with the original digital video cut and a photo album of production images
My Beautiful Me:
The directors of My Beautiful Me set out to make a sympathetic film about 'New Agers' in southern California but somewhere along the line the piece morphed into a biting satyre. Our heroes are a couple who can't have children by normal means. Their only hope is artificial insimination but they can't afford the procedure. In a fit of desperation they turn to their gold digging right wing step father for help. Chaos ensues. My Beautiful Me comes with director/producer commentary, the original poster art and brief production notes.
Maestro is a gritty story of an entimidating old card shark and his latest mark. The plot is sort of a 'who's cheeting whom' but unless you're a poker player you may miss the salient points. The action all takes place around a card table making for a static and uninteresting experience. The dialogue is interesting though and the end of the film seems to redeme much of what went before. This title includes an audio commentary track with the director.
This is my personal favorite film on Short 9. Bloodlock is an Australian film made in the Quintin Terentino mold. A group of brothers get involved with dangerous gangsters and when guns are drawn only dear old dad can save the day. The entire film was shot on a handy cam but you'd never know it by watching. Bloodlock is beautifully filmed and edited, contains several outstanding performances and has enough car chase footage to get any action fan's heart pumping. Oh, did I mention that Bloodlock was produced for about $10,000? This title has an audio commentary track with the film makers and a small collection of deleted scenes and outtakes.
I'm a fan of hand colored photographs. I like the dreamy, surreal nature of that kind of image. Tiny Sunbathers uses hand coloring on the frames of an old Japanese propiganda film to convey a hidden message in bold streaks and pleasent pastells. The only extra with this title is a handful of production notes.
Back at the hight of the cold war, Russian artists were forbidden to work in any but the state sanctioned style. Socalist Realism was an invention of the Party and artists venturing into inpressionism, surrealism and expressionism were often jailed or worse. In post cold war Russia artists are now free to express themselves in any way they like and many of the men who sculpted gargantuan bronzes of Lennon and Stalin are now canabalizing the bronze from the obsolete statues for use in works that would have been considered subversive just a few years ago. Alernative Head is a long winded but interesting documentary about just such an artist. An alternate audio track contains brief comments from Professor Ivan T Beren on contemporary Albanian art.
Photography and Jazz fans will love Vertical Air. This fascinating short fuses the music of Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith with the stunning imagry of filmmaker Robert Fenz to create an experience that's greater than the sum of its parts. Each image and each sound informs the other and a compelling dialogue results. A second audio track offers an interview with Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith.
Back Stage with Heather Woodbury:
Heather Woodbury describes herself as a stand up novelist. In her one woman show she takes on the personalities of hundreds of characters and plays out dialogues that draw the viewer in like quicksand. Back Stage is a documentary about the artist featuring interviews and clips from her show. Unfortunatly, the documentary isn't very engaging. Of more interest is a second video track featuring an exerpt from the show called 'what ever.'
Warner's Short series is a hit or miss proposition. I don't recomend buying them sight unseen. Rather, rent first and if you feel the quality of the offerings on a particular disc is up to your standards you can shell out the money to add it to your collection. Because the overall quality of the series is quite high I'm giving Short 9 a rating of Recomended.