2.10.2010

Double Shorts: Two Reviews of Two Low-Budget Shorts

"The Puzzle": For Lovers of Twists

With a modern, Saw-style approach, “The Puzzle” is a fun little short with an ideal title. A lonely woman refuses to lend her shady son money and spends the rest of her evening working on a frustrating puzzle. Suspense is erected entirely through camera movements and editorial choices. You wouldn’t think that a robed woman working on a silly puzzle could provide any form of tension, but it does a remarkable job of doing that.

While I did appreciate the energetic camera, the cinematographer’s lighting choices were obviously limited based on the budget of 300 Euros and the time constraints of a single day. My other complaint is with the lead actress, who seemed to be over-the-top at moments, particularly for her first and only line of dialogue. From a screenwriting perspective, I also wish the initial setup with the son had taken a bit more time, because it was difficult to tell what had occurred without reading the synopsis. Perhaps if the son had been more persistent and called multiple times, leaving the mother fed up, it would have been easier to understand the exposition and easier to justify the mother’s angry response.

All in all, I had a good time with “The Puzzle,” especially since it is the perfect length for a short film that is itself a bit of a puzzle. Director David Melini seems ambitious and creative. Let’s hope he has more shorts stored for us in the future.

If you would like to watch “The Puzzle,” you may do so by clicking here.
  
"Contact": For Lynch Fans with a Heart

Shot in black and white and with a Lynchian tonality, you wouldn’t expect Jeremiah Kipp’s “Contact” to end the way that it does. The film opens to the sight of an older couple, setting a table with expectant glances and careful hands. Gentle camera movements and a surrealist foggy room set the stage for an eerie movie. The energy is quickly spun around, with retro zooms, canted angles, and a funky score, as the film shifts focus to a young couple experimenting with the seedy world of drugs.

Some bizarre characters, awkward visuals, and nonlinear editing leave “Contact” lingering on the edge of experimental film, but it never fully jumps into the Lynch zone of complete bewilderment (thankfully). Instead, we get a poignant story of the fragility of the innocent human brain, hinting at redemption beyond the temptation of psychotropic substances…at least that’s the tale I interpreted. Either way, the film clearly illustrates the alluring nature of drugs, while suggesting their potential destructiveness through superior performances by the leads.

Technically, the film stands up quite well when considering that it was shot for a meager $600. The cinematography is thoughtful, clever at times, but mostly simple, which is exactly what it needed to be. The bleakness of black and white was an excellent artistic choice, but it also serves a convenient purpose in providing aesthetic interest without expensive lighting setups. Most notably, the sound design served dual purposes as well. It acted as a suspense mechanism, as well as an insinuation of what is occurring inside the characters’ minds. The minimalist, unnatural sound design also saved time in post-production by reducing the amount of foley, ADR, and detailed sound work that probably needed to be done. Kudos to Kipp for making the most of a modest budget through his creative tools.

If you’d like to watch "Contact," you may do so by clicking here.

3 comments:

  1. I especially like the Puzzle...very creative.

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  2. I've been reading a bit about Contact and I'm very interested in checking it out.

    I enjoyed the Puzzle. Very nicely done short.

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  3. Im with Chris, tons of excellent press on Contact lately, will be checking them both out... NOW!

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