“One Last Coin” (2016), from writer-director Skip Shea, is achingly beautiful. The seven-minute and fourteen-second short film, a case of neorealism that would fit perfectly alongside the associated developments of such masters of Italian cinema as Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini, is especially gorgeous in its profundity. More precisely, that which it derives from everyday simplicity. For example, the endeavor is content to merely showcase the breathtaking natural elegance and allure of the streets of Rome (where Shea recorded the article entirely on his iPhone 6). Such occurs as we follow an individual who decides what to do with his title object. This is right before Christmastime.
As the wordless tale unfolds, the piece speaks emotive volumes. This is largely a courtesy of Shea’s indelible imagery. Such a facet becomes collectively brilliant when glimpsed through the marvelous black and white cinematography he incorporates into the labor. These triumphant qualities are made increasingly potent by Shea’s decision to score the exertion with a single lovely and evocative piece of music. It plays to grand consequence throughout the undertaking. The gentle sound of water heard in the final moments enhance the Zen-like sense of calm and first-person perspective which ultimately courses throughout the production. These touches also spectacularly augment the previously addressed notion of authenticity and finding poetry in the commonplace.
What also strengthens the piece, and further helps it to become such an unforgettable opus, is that Shea offers no background information about his unnamed lead character. Is he homeless? Is he merely a curious visitor in Italy’s capital city? Maybe he could be a bit of both. Either way, the audience is forced to relate. In so doing, we see the lovely vistas Shea stunningly brings to the screen through the visage of our own thoughts and experience. This also makes the haunting sights spied along the way, such as a few instances around the mid-section where we spy crowds of people walking past those who appear lifeless on the ground, evermore effective. These quick bits, as well as the unique storytelling elements Shea integrates into the affair, make for an illustration of moving art that is as credible as it is unforgettable.
Another item that is equally astonishing, aside from the high-quality of the chronicle itself, is that Shea is a one-man moviemaking crew on this venture. In turn, the narrative has the sharp focus and radiate intimacy of a passion project. Shea’s editing is stalwart. Additionally, his sound work is crisp and incredible. It compliments the components of realism and quiet splendor that are in perfect symmetry through every frame of the effort.
“One Last Coin” is a masterpiece. It is impossible to not be moved.
“Undatement Center” (2017), a nine-minute short film from writer-director Chris Esper, is effortlessly charming, consistently humorous and always likable. It carries on the same seamless marriage of upbeat and hopelessly romantic tones that made his prior inventions Please Punish Me (2015) and The Deja Vuers (2016) such an incredible success. This Stories by the River and Stories in Motion co-production is also a fantastic showcase of Esper’s ability, which has been ever-present throughout his career, to project fully fleshed-out, relatable characters. Such transpires in a heartwarming and enchanting, yet undeniably human, manner. This detail is made increasingly admirable with the incorporation of a pace that is as breakneck as view of the world of dating that is the focal point of Esper’s endeavor. Yet, none of the sequences, even the laughter-fueled montage that takes over the mid-section, feels rushed or superficial. There is a breezy demeanor to the proceedings that even makes the most familiar beats of the plot triumphantly sing. This is apparent in the relationship that forms between our twenty-six-year old lead, Jack (in a phenomenal turn from Trevor Duke), who turns to the title corporation in hopes of finding love after a twelve-year hiatus, and Lindsey (in a depiction by J.D. Achille that is consistently marvelous, engaging and authentic). The opening and concluding notes are also evidence of Esper’s mastery in this aforesaid department. Yet, these segments ring with a sweetness, an earnest simplicity and lack of pretension that is genuine and captivating. Despite its often-modern attitude (reflected most readily in the intriguing plot itself), the project feels wonderfully old-fashioned. Such only increases its amiability. Randy Veraguas’ depiction of the quirky desk clerk, Shelley, as well as Shandy Monte’s enactment of the similarly positioned Jennifer enhance the agreeable nature of the picture. Christie Devine is also stalwart in her quick role as Annie. Acei Martin, in a brief part dubbed “Urine Sample Woman”, is also stellar. When combined with the masterful moviemaking and deftly constructed literary contributions Esper incites herein, with his ear for often clever dialogue being another high-quality trait, it’s becomes immediately evident that the Secaucus, New Jersey born maestro has delivered another all-around winner.
This Quincy, Massachusetts recorded endeavor is also graced with illustrious cinematography from Mikel J. Wisler. Such a veneer reiterates the sunny atmosphere of the piece fantastically. Wisler’s seamless and sharp editing fares just as well. Also, assisting matters is Steven-Lanning Cafaro’s cheery and deeply cinematic music. Dominic Kaiser’s sound issuance is spectacular. J.L. Major and Rich Simpson’s assistant camera work is equally proficient.
Esper intends to comment on how intimate associations have become more akin to a business transaction, a one-sided meeting that is based on quick facts and reams of paper, than a personal experience. The conclusion, which hints at the latter method as the more beneficial, is evidence of this bitingly brilliant, but undeniably true, observation. In less capable hands, this is a storyline akin to this could’ve become a bitter, somber experience. But, Esper keeps the jokes cracking and the smiles brimming on our faces throughout. This is without ever diminishing the impact of his thesis statement. Such is, like the totality of “Undatement Center” itself, a tremendous accomplishment. Esper’s latest, an extension of many of the themes present in his earlier photoplays, is an all-out confirmation of his continually broadening talent. It is also a testament to his exceptional skill as a photographic craftsman. The result is side-splitting and deeply transcendent; an endlessly entertaining, quietly emotive must-see!
Premiered on April 1st, 2017.
(Unrated). Contains brief language and some sexual humor.
Stories in Motion’s page for the film can be found here.
“Wicked Conclusions” (2016), a twelve-minute and forty-four second short picture from resident Pennsylvanian and co-writer-director Phillip G. Carroll, Jr., is a tense, taunt and thoroughly satisfying horror entry. It tells the tale of Amber (in an always captivating and credible turn from Chloe Hendrickson) and Henry (in a masterful portrayal from Boy-Yo Korodan that treads effortlessly on the line of child-like naivete and unsettling menace). They are imprisoned in the basement of their captor, Ben (in a well-rounded depiction from Erik Searle that conveys the conflicts of his imagined persona in a way that colors him brilliantly as both possible protagonist and antagonist for the bulk of the piece). Such instantaneously garners our attention by opening with a disarmingly light set-up. This includes an unseen individual putting up a sign for a lost dog. During this time, a surprisingly upbeat number pours from the soundtrack. The next scene carries on this impression. Such transpires in a bit which involves Ben making pancakes while casually conversing with an unseen entity. This arrangement is interesting because of the immersive and magnificent angle in which it is shot. It is one which only shows the side of Ben’s face and focuses in mainly on his mouth. Because of this, Carroll immediately defies our expectations. Yet, when Amber and Henry are introduced in the next scene, the invention becomes increasingly engrossing for far more grim reasons. This is as Carroll smartly tackles the afore-mentioned question of Ben’s true intentions. He also engages spectators in a nail-biting tug of war. This is until the rousing, if ultimately predictable, climax. All the while, we attempt to figure out who to root for. This is by mentally reiterating the tagline of the labor: “Who’s the real monster here?”
This is as much a courtesy of Carroll and Roman James Hoffman’s breakneck paced, smartly-written screenplay as it is Carroll’s claustrophobic, stylish and accomplished direction. Carroll seems intent on taking a familiar arrangement, such as the one inherently held in his narrative, and making it rise. This is from its endlessly empathetic shifts in perspective alone. Such twists in viewpoint are administered triumphantly. Carroll and Hoffman’s dialogue also helps matters. This is by being both believably straight-forward and powerfully delivered by those on-screen. Consequentially, the illusion of watching the ghastly scenario that is unfolding before the eyes of the audience is never broken. These items, along with the clues that are casually issued early on as to what is truly transpiring, make the endeavor more clever and easy to admire. But, what works best of all is the masterful handling and staging of the fearful elements themselves. They are beautifully, seamlessly implemented into the account. This is in a manner that never feels artificial. Likewise, it is never as if these pulse-pounding constituents exist to momentarily upstage the character-oriented focus of the exertion. This act itself is something of a rarity in cinema nowadays.
Budgeted at a mere $800, this PGC Studios, Fear Crypt Productions and Frank Horror fabrication also benefits from Sasikumar B’s sharp and assuredly effective music. The cinematography from Ryan Geffert is dark, brooding and impressive. Carroll’s editing is equally striking. Samantha Morris’ sound work is crisp and remarkable. The three-person camera and electrical department further enhance the all-around quality of the enactment.
These components all come together to compliment the unbroken atmosphere of dread Carroll engineers throughout the photoplay. With his tenth stint as behind the lens administrator, Carroll has crafted a balanced, memorable and monumentally mounted fusion of talent. It is one which, in the tradition of the best brief fictions, does not have one extraneous ingredient. Everything directly correlates with the unraveling of the yarn at hand. Most importantly, it does this while being massively entertaining. Carroll has evoked a wonderfully harrowing, haunting, vivid and visceral voyage into darkness. It is one which is also noteworthy for its restraint. This is exemplified via its ability to terrify without ever dissolving into excessive violence. For this, as well as its brash displays of bravado and storytelling prowess, the Halloween day released “Wicked Conclusions” is an unshakably solid addition to Carroll’s filmography. It refreshingly enthralls from start to finish. Simultaneously, it operates as a victorious orchestration of progressively bleak tone. In so doing, it comes with my highest recommendation to genre fanatics. Carroll is a silver screen chairman to be watched.
Often in cinema, as in life, silence is the most honest and sincere form of expression. “Fireflies” (2017), a short film of seventeen-minutes and twenty-one seconds from director Raouf Zaki and writer Charles Hall, is well-aware of the harrowing nature of such effects. It utilizes this on-screen with only the barest hint of dialogue. In turn, Zaki’s exertion magnificently demonstrates such visceral prowess. This is through many sparse, but swiftly effective, motions. For instance, a question raising glance from an employee to a customer. This arises a mere instant before the worker draws an unexplained X mark on a nearby calendar. As this bit is repeated, the meaning becomes vastly apparent. Yet, such an approach enhances audience intrigue grandly. Best of all, it also continues to project the untampered sensibility of watching life unfold. Such is pivotal. This is when maximizing the impact of a tale such as this one.
Much of the endeavor is composed of such quietly compelling and reenacted segments. Proof of this can be unveiled in a brief bit where our lead, Marwan (in an aptly honed and nuanced portrayal by Essam Ferris), wordlessly prays in a hotel room. We are also provided several cases where he appears both distant and uncomfortable. This is while being surrounded by the hushed discussion and laughter. Such erupts among others in the Boston café he frequents throughout the presentation. Zaki, via his brilliant and meticulously nuanced direction, wisely intercedes these serene circumstances. This is with a sudden terrified scream, a cry of pain or a sharp, attention-garnering explosion. These haunting flashes stem from the tragic flashbacks Marwan intermittently endures, unbeknownst to others, throughout the arrangement. Because of this, the piece becomes a rousing statement on an even larger topic. This is how the horrors of the past can shatter the presumed peace that surrounds our current state. It is also a masterclass on an entirely different plane. This is in its ability to delve intimately and authentically inside the mind-state of our protagonist. Simultaneously, the configuration operates on as a timely assessment of another psychological condition. This is that which, sadly, courses through a small fraction of the American mentality. Such is unveiled in its plotline. This concerns the suspicions cast from a headwaiter (in a terrific depiction from Mitch Fortier) towards our reserved, Middle Eastern central figure. Such transpires as he finds himself repeatedly returning to the aforesaid coffee bar.
It is a bold theme. But, it is treated organically and respectfully. Moreover, the brief exercise spellbindingly accomplishes an incredible balancing act. This is by dealing with the topic of judgment from others. Such transpires without ever becoming disapproving or overly critical itself. Such only augments the sobering, intelligent and mature traits inherent in the proceedings. This is as a courtesy of Hall’s beautiful, hauntingly penned and delicately structured screenplay. It is also just as much the consequence of Zaki’s stupendous behind the lens involvement. The result is a smooth, naturally paced endeavor. It is one that never abandons its human, character-oriented center. All the while it effortlessly culminates an emotional resonance. This is without ever being overly melodramatic or manipulative to do so. A great example of this would be the heart-wrenching, bittersweet and exuberantly made climax. The imaginative and eye-popping concluding acknowledgments section which follows only augments the wonder at hand.
These components are made even more elegiac and profound. This is when combined with combined with the cinematography from Kenn Gonneville. The editing from Paul Stamper, Steven Kaldeck and Zaki is equally proficient. The visual effects from Stamper and Kaldeck are seamless. They are also as persuasive as the meticulous manner of storytelling issued herein. Correspondingly, the sound work from Kevin Daggett and Jeff Majeau is also rousing and impressive. Kelton Vuilleiumier’s set decoration and Chirin Ashkar’s costume design is fantastic. The same can be said for Lori Grenier’s hair and make-up contribution. Outstanding input is provided from the camera and electrical crew. The art direction from Laurel Cunningham-Hill and production design from Hana Zaki are just as sensational.
This RA Vision Productions release, recorded in various areas of Massachusetts, also boasts magnificent acting all around. Nour Bittar as Syrian Mother and Rina Hassani as Syrian Daughter orchestrate top-notch representations. Their scant turns are nonetheless memorable. Kevin Daigneault as Unemployed Man, Harry McGuire as Bartender and John Melczer as Refugee Man generate a similarly terrific influence. The nine individuals credited as Restaurant Patron, Logan Raposo as Businesswoman and Brian Douglas Young as Guitarist #1 and William Bento as Guitarist #2 continue this striking trait. Additionally, Brooke Farrington as Refugee Young Girl, Christine Nordstrom as Refugee Woman, Christine Hunt as Mother and Judy Nadel as Daughter are also exceptional. Maurice Viteri as Buff Man, Yasmine Sabrah as Lead Singer Restaurant and Vanessa and Natalie Garnhum as Selfie Girl #1 and #2 respectively are also remarkable.
The outcome of these shining facets is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most impassioned presentations of 2017. This is a triumph of artistry and of inward peering life. Zaki takes imagery from the everyday, such as the constant hum and crackle we hear from a glowing red vacancy sign or a woman incessantly uttering “Check” into a microphone, and makes them perpetually mesmerizing. There is a semi-detached, thinly hallucinatory quality to these episodes. Such establishes a magnetic illustration to bystanders. It is a skillfull rendering of the way Marwan himself might be mentally perceiving such manifestations. This is as he evaluates his own existence as well as the world around him. Ultimately, this is one of the various reasons why “Fireflies” works so uncommonly well. It is because it yearns for us to look both inward and outwardly. Not only does it do this with restraint and dignity, but it does so with an unshakable, melancholy power. Such makes an already profound chronicle more insightful. Relatedly, the symbolism revealed in the appearance of the title insects heightens this factor immensely.
Zaki has a lot to say about the human condition. He transfers these ideas in a fashion that is clear and direct. This is also done without coming off as artificial or detracting from the unveiling fiction. Such makes this even more of a gripping triumph; a rousing tour de force. For both the cinephile interested in seeing an exhibition of sheer craft as well as those who want to perceive existence through someone else’s eyes: This is mandatory viewing.
“Defarious” (2016), the eleven-minute and sixteen-second debut short film from writer-director Chase Michael Pallante, is gloriously moody. It plays like the collaborative brain child of horror masters Dario Argento, John Carpenter and James Wan. Moreover, the maniacal demon whose name graces the moniker of the tale, in an undeniably deft representation from Jason Torres, is phenomenally honed. Such accrues to the degree that such a body language based exhibition as that which Torres incorporates here instantaneously calls to mind a time-tested giant of the genre. This is Max Schreck’s iconic portrayal of the menacing title vampire in German auteur F.W. Murnau’s silent masterpiece, Nosferatu (1922). Much like Schreck’s character, who is also referred to as “Count Orlock”, Pallante’s villain is a memorably designed vision of terror. Correspondingly, he seems to appear from the shadows as easily as he becomes one. Yet, they are both distinctly their own article. The apprehension Torres’ entity resonates is immediately noteworthy. This is especially evident in the bone-chilling moment when we initially spy him in full. Such transpires at the midway mark. With a sinewy frame and wide, emotionless, grey alien-like eyes, which appear to be glaring from the fiery depths of hell itself, the alignment to Pallante’s antagonist with Murnau’s unholy monster is complete. Best of all, they match one another in their ability to effortlessly unnerve.
Pallante, who also produced, chronicles the young Amy (in a consistently harrowing enactment from Janet Miranda). Plagued by nightmares, and disturbing sights of her deceased mother, the line between reality and the dream world has been blurred. Such is made more so when a terrifying figure breaks into her home. His intentions are clearly conveyed from the onset. He wants to take her life. The creature will stop at nothing to do so. With no one to help her, she must escape the fiendish clutches of the merciless madman who wants her dead. But, to do so, she must face the both the sight and understand the symbolic meaning of her greatest qualms and uncertainties. This she must do by facing them headlong.
It is a plot that would be considered thin and ultimately routine, a general recycling of the events of Shant Hamassian’s intriguingly retro “Night of the Slasher” (2015), in lesser hands. But, with the occasionally Lynchian, imagery-laden manner Pallante utilizes to guide the project, the presentation shatters such fundamental limitations. In turn, Pallante makes of such a rudimentary palette a compulsively fascinating account. It is one which is nonetheless robust, refreshing and endlessly engaging. This is largely because of Pallante’s aforesaid aesthetically driven decisions. Additionally, Pallante keeps the pace confident and enduring throughout the arrangement. Likewise, the intensity, which is deftly mounted and engineered, is ever-culminating. We notice this with a genuinely unnerving, and appropriate, quote from Matthew 10:28. Such is distributed before the yarn even begins to unfold. This nail-biting characteristic elevates to a surely satisfying, if predictable in hindsight, finale. More than anything, this climactic stretch greatly underlines the merciless nature of Pallante’s endeavor. Such creates a masterclass in generating continued suspense. It is one which is augmented as grimly illustrious, macabre and foreboding. This is via Jorge Canaveral and Christian Reyes’ eye-popping and wholly immersive cinematography. Further helping matters is that the arrangement is almost entirely cast in a hazy blue veneer. Such is another bold, ingenious choice. It makes Pallante’s configuration ever more menacing and surreal.
Wisely keeping dialogue, motivations and exposition to a minimum for maximum impact, Pallante, who also wrote the smart and enigmatic screenplay with developer Zay Rodriguez, paints a mercilessly taunt nightmare on celluloid. The result is an unwaveringly bleak and masterful tone piece. It is one that pays homage to 1980’s and 90’s slashers traditions. This it does by staying within the rules, motions and general arc held within the traditions of such a beloved sub-genre. Never once in its runtime does it break out of them. Yet, the project operates just as successfully as a meditation on sleep paralysis. Such is unveiled in a beautifully constructed post-credits sequence. This brief segment slyly stays within the aforesaid murderer-oriented story boundaries. In so doing, it is conveyed from the perspective of our lead. She, we than learn, suffers from such a condition. Relatedly, Pallante’s affair is also brilliant in its quiet critique of the medical world. The result is a truly multi-layered narrative. It is one that mechanizes as well on a surface level as it does on the myriad layers beneath.
Because of these herculean details, Pallante triumphantly delivers a raw, primal, but cerebral, experience in unrelenting fear. Such is vastly punctuated by a purely cinematic use of sound. This arrives courtesy of Fernando Frandy Castillo, Jose Julian Santiago and Pallante. It is one of the best issuances of its type I have encountered in such a venture. The atmosphere laced score from Jonathan Martinez brilliantly reinforces such a factor. Correspondingly, Lou Cannizzo and Martin Hayward’s visual and Jessica Hayward and Reyes’ special effects are similarly captivating. The five-person camera and electrical as well as the same said make-up department offer terrific contributions in their respective arenas. Maggie Stapleton’s wardrobes are exceptional. Pallante’s editing is sharp and skillfully administered. This Long Island, New York recorded opus, a Rhythm and Flow Entertainment Inc. co-fabrication, also boasts spellbinding and unmistakably eerie voice work from Shanae Harris. Alim Ali and Pallante’s stunts are magnificent. They grandly amplify the quality at hand.
“Defarious” was made for only $25,000. Yet, it looks and feels like a multi-million dollar Hollywood exercise. In its brief span, Pallante tells a comprehensive fiction in a post-modernist fashion. The outcome is envy-inducing to say the least. Yet, this tour de force, shot from August 29th through September 4th of 2015, is exciting in another arena. It is jumpy without ever resorting to cheap gimmicks to accomplish such a task. Astoundingly, it also has the unpredictable internal logic of a waking dream; an unshakable night terror. This is one of the strongest attributes of the exertion. Such a distinguishing influence fluently puts us into the often-confused psychological state of our heroine. This is provided with fervent gusto. Such makes it easy to see why this incredible labor won the coveted Best Film award at The Northeast Film Festival Horror Fest. Pallante has delivered one of 2016’s greatest entries in celluloid apprehension. I highly recommend seeking this one out.
“The Deja Vuers” (2016), an eight-minute short picture from director Chris Esper and screenwriter Jason K. Allen, is a charming, frequently funny and endlessly engaging experience. It is ingenious in the way it takes a commonplace set-up, a man approaching a woman on a park bench, to comically absurd levels. This is without it ever becoming too over the top. Simultaneously, Esper and Allen inject trademark components of fantasy and science-fiction, time travel and dreams, into an undertaking that is consistently fresh and exciting. This is while maintaining its commonplace relatability. Likewise, it never once utilizes humor that isn’t naturally born from the unfolding circumstances of the plot itself. With these un-related items, a balance of the mundane and the fantastic is seamlessly created. It is one that is built on dialogue. The articulations heard throughout are rich in everyday observations, exchanges and quiet insights. Furthermore, Allen’s penned characterizations are accessible. This is without coming across as archetypical or lacking in dimension. Such is certainly a tremendous feat unto itself.
The attribute apparent in the writing of the protagonists is amplified by the herculean strength of the lead performers we follow on-screen. Christie Devine is outstanding in her enactment as Morgan. Kris Salvi is phenomenal in his portrayal of Chuck. Yet, even the comparatively smaller roles, such as Craig Capone as Elias and J.P. Valenti as “Repairman”, offer well-rounded and memorable depictions. Adam Miller as “Teenager” fares just as well.
The potency of these qualities is vastly a courtesy of Esper’s masterful administrative hand. It is just as evident in Allen’s sharply designed and intelligent authorship of the material. The duo immediately establishes, via their respective contributions, a quietly whimsical tone for the piece. It is propelled in the opening moments by the smoothly upbeat music of Steven Lanning- Cafaro. This can also be said for Evan Schneider’s sumptuous, vibrant and suitably cheery cinematography. Schneider’s influence also benefits from taking full advantage of the natural beauty of its budding fall backdrop. The result is a smartly penned and honed, effortlessly enjoyable production. It is one that visibly triumphs from both a technical and narrative stand-point.
Esper, who also produced, and Allen chronicle Chuck coming across Morgan in a chance assembly. He has never met her before. Yet, a reverie Chuck had from the night before, where Morgan is sitting in the precise location she is at that initial instant and with an identical expression of the confused look that overtakes her countenance, makes him come up to Morgan and address her in conversation. While the explanation of such an act itself could easily be perceived as a pick-up line, it is immediately conveyed that Chuck and Morgan both find each other “repulsive”. But, Chuck states, in one of the many efficaciously guffaw-inducing bits herein, that the mutual unattraction between the two doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be intimate. This is just on the off case that a bizarre fate is bringing them together. Soon after this smirk-inducing gag is administered, a chain of circumstances, often built around loose connections and clever ironies, amusingly unfurls. This begins with something as small as a container of fruit cocktail. Soon it evolves into an assortment of individuals from bygone eras and lives. Included in the mix is a personality who could well be conjured from a vision induced through slumber itself. It isn’t far into these episodes before Morgan and Chuck realize that there may be more to this sense of de ja vu than a vague sense of familiarity. It is than a portal unveils. Such an incidence threatens to pull Chuck and Morgan apart from their moment together. In so doing, it promises to bring them to a place and time more matched to their personal desires.
This Stories in Motion production, budgeted for $2,000 and shot in Attleboro, Massachusetts, further benefits from this truly original plot. The single position found in the piece is also impeccable for a celluloid invention such as this. Moreover, it activates intriguingly and ends much in an equivalent fashion. This is on a wildly satisfactory note of paradoxical enigma. This stretch is also striking in that it seems to express the general outlooks of the personalities viewed in this pre-closing acknowledgments succession. This is through decision over exposition. Best of all, it incorporates this without being obvious about its intentions. The construction is just as confident in its pacing as it is in its sly execution of such happenstances. Such an affair issues a commencing and concluding credits segment that is as quaint, stimulating to the eye and proficient as the sequences these portions bookend. Correspondingly, Esper’s editing as well as the optical effects from Robert L. Lopez are outstanding. Andrew P. Marsden provides deftly issued sound. Danielle Schneider’s make-up is expertly fashioned. These ingredients are eye-catching on their own. When combined, these details illuminate and augment splendidly the effortlessly admirable appeal of all we encounter herein.
Esper’s latest accomplishes an incredible amount in its brief run time. It efficaciously juggles a multitude of genres and ideas. All of which are difficult enough to pull off individually. Yet, with all these various foundations at play: there is an undeniable air of gentle romanticism to the proceedings. This is fitting and welcome. The composition is much like Esper’s “Please Punish Me” (2015) in this respect. This is also accurate when pondering its ability to explore human interactions and regressed passions. Such occurs in a package that operates equally well as both an unexpectedly cerebral character study and as a witty comedy. In turn, “The Deja Vuers” is a wonderful display of talent and wise storytelling moves all around. It continually exhibits Esper’s as a craftsman of the photoplay at every turn. The work also serves as perpetual evidence of the equally deft capabilities of his cast and crew. More than anything, the exertion reminds us of the illimitability and experimental nature inherent in arrangements such as these. Because of this, Esper and company have erected a must-see; another fantastic addition to his increasingly spellbinding filmography.
Writer-director Christopher Di Nunzio’s four minute and forty-three second short film, “Kinnari” (2016), is a powerful, gripping and abstractly eloquent meditation on the harsh, yet wondrous, journey of life into death. The latter of which is occasionally referred to throughout the affair itself as “the great nothingness”. Di Nunzio’s composition is just as adamantly concerned with how the boundaries of these two oft addressed subjects intermingle. It is as apt to ponder how these opening and closing portions of our being are frequently blurred. This is especially true when spied through a retrospective lens. Particularly, the viewpoint of a man who may be mentally peering at such sights amid his final moments. Such is illustrated as a dream-like trek to enlightenment. This overtakes the bulk of the narrative. It is sewn with a plethora of poetic wisdoms and long pined over inquiries. In turn, Di Nunzio provides an adventure of self-discovery. It is one which is steered by time cemented perspective and experience. A knowingly anti-corporate and media outlook, the basis of an enthralling monologue around the one minute mark, pushes such perceptions to tremendous effect. This emanates intriguingly from our ruggedly engaging narrator and lead, David (in a brilliant, unflinching and always watchable enactment from David Graziano). These traits he has acquired during his singular voyage through the planes of existence.
Such is perpetuated by a fateful meeting. This takes place in a stark and gorgeously realized instance near the mid-way point. It involves the rediscovery of the title entity (in a portrayal by Jamie Joshi which is quietly striking and consistently mesmerizing). She is the crucial persona in David’s illumination. Her name also shares that of a topically proper noun, largely used to describe a half-human and half-horse or half-bird hybrid, in Buddhist mythology. This is of an archetypical lover. Such is consistent with the story Di Nunzio paints. The same can be articulated for the paradigms that are encountered upon her arrival.
Our hero describes her as a “goddess”. In a manner befitting to such consecrated figures, David moves with Kinnari through a surreal landscape. These are a collection of beautifully structured, yet appropriately earthly, set-ups. They all hypnotically personify the stages of David’s physical span. As she pulls him deeper into this realm, the sum becomes progressively complex, abstract and cerebral. A staggeringly staged, near-climactic arrangement oversees David shadowing Kinnari up a winding, ostensibly endless flight of steps. Such personifies both the photographic and demonstrative core of the entire effort.
Additionally, there is a character to audience discourse which builds the foundation of the project. Such is triumphantly carried on throughout. This is a whispery, yet friendly, source of personal development. It victoriously aids in conveying a well-rounded glimpse into the inner-workings of our protagonist. Such heightens the intimacy, honesty and profundity at hand immensely.
Likewise, this fascinating plotline is given meticulous, pensive craftsmanship. Such is via Di Nunzio’s smartly paced screenplay (supervised by Christine Perla). His dialogue cracks with ingenuity, credibility and mature observations. It is also remarkably introspective. All the while, it comes across as deceptively casual. Such is much in the way of a stream of spoken conscious. Given the general format of the article, this approach is undeniably operative. This stands as an obvious signpost of Di Nunzio’s outstanding capacity for authorship. It is just as much a marker of recognition for the natural relatability inherent in Graziano’s outstanding delivery of his interchanges. Such qualities align themselves in the spectacular custom Di Nunzio displayed with the modern noir, A Life Not to Follow (2015). It was also at the at the forefront of his avant-garde horror invention Delusion (2016). In both cases, Di Nunzio scripted as well as served as administrator.
Much in line with these prior presentations, the story is smartly and smoothly paced. It is guided by Di Nunzio’s Lynchian sensibility for haunting, yet memorable and alluring, imagery. Correspondingly, the entirety of the exertion is slickly designed. This is so easily evident that even early, close-up shots of David’s coffee seem to be a mirror image of the bleak places in his soul. There are other relatively commonplace segments, such as a bit involving David walking on a presumably abandoned train track with a brick wall of graffiti looming closely behind him, that appear just as much like a grim visage. Such aspects appear as if they are taken directly from a waking nightmare. This is only amplified by Di Nunzio’s masterful framing. Such fashions an undeniably arresting style. It is one which makes the labor even more immersive and remarkable.
Such appeal is also punctuated by Di Nunzio’s seamless editing. His gently used, yet incredibly melodic and mood-setting, music also aids this factor outstandingly. Similarly, Nolan Yee’s cinematography, offered in the standard 16:9 HD aspect ratio, is somberly atmospheric. It is also elegant and thematically apt. Christopher Hallock’s astonishing assistant camera contribution is fabulous. Such augments the phenomenal nature of Di Nunzio’s expertly staged sequences. This is in terms of their stark believability and dazzlingly skillful construction. The culmination of these attributes make the sheer artistry which resonates through every frame of this Somerville, Massachusetts recorded drama increasingly palpable.
Di Nunzio issues a somber, intellectual tone that never once wavers throughout the duration. What establishes this atmosphere so immediately is the implementation of a monochrome title card. It is held on-screen for seven seconds. A single, thunderous chord is distantly heard in the background. The simplicity of this arrangement is the first of the many wise decisions and courageous moves Di Nunzio orchestrates. The final credits scene, proceeded by David’s harrowing realization that “Only me and beauty exist”, succeeds in the same arenas as those discussed above. These two sections evoke perfect bookends for the tale this item uncompromisingly and attractively tells. Moreover, Di Nunzio has an instinctive knack for what is to be glimpsed as well as left away from the eyes of onlookers. Such makes the proceedings progressively captivating. It is also proficient and enigmatic. The outcome of which makes the chain of events as unpredictable as they are perpetually enchanting.
Such creates an arc for that account which is impeccable. It is akin to a cinematic puzzle. Di Nunzio has gifted his spectators with a tour de force on all fronts. This Creepy Kid Productions release soars as an exhibition of temperament, moving picture bravura and intellectual yarn-spinning. It is also a standout performance piece for Di Nunzio’s recurrent collaborator, Graziano, as well as newcomer Joshi. Di Nunzio’s latest further astounds with the questions it poses as well as the answers it commands us to form. This is a rare work of celluloid prowess. It is one that will unveil new wonders and insights with each accruing sit through. Di Nunzio has formed an absolute bulls-eye; one of the best configurations of its type I have witnessed all year.
Trouser Snake (2016), the third short film from director and co-writer Alex DiVincenzo (2014’s “The Horrors of AutoCorrect” and 2016’s “Cybershock 1999”), plays as if the overblown “science” and informatory threats fashioned as lesson learning which made Refer Madness (1936) such a cult gem were repackaged as a deliberately uproarious 1950’s style creature feature. This is with the subject diverting from the purportedly “violent” dangers of marijuana. Such was the case illustrated to great comedic effect in the abovementioned Louis Gasnier directed and Arthur Hoerl penned presentation. DiVincenzo makes literal the idea of the “monster” that rises from the male anatomy. This is when said individual is confronted with an apparently unanticipated hormonal and sexual control. It is one which augments the naïve confusion of the teenage years. Such becomes the plight of our perplexed protagonist, Thomas (in a spot-on portrayal by Alexander Gauthier). All of this surfaces consequently to an extended bout of making out in a car with Thomas’ girlfriend, Lucy (in a phenomenal turn from Jamie Lyn Bagley). Such ensues at that notorious place in celluloid where such events always seem to stem from: Lover’s Lane.
DiVincenzo employs a variety of wildly triumphant jokes that pinpoint the outdated nature of Thomas’ gullibility. Most noteworthy of which is a brilliant sequence at nearly three minutes into DiVincenzo’s four minute and forty-nine second undertaking. This is from what can be perceived as a modern perspective. Such is derived during a family dinner. In this episode, Thomas tries to have an open discussion with his family concerning his current plunge into adulthood. It is at this point his much younger sibling, credited simply as “Sister” (in a terrific depiction by Morgan Walsh), says in a matter of fact manner: “Even I know about the birds and the bees, Thomas.”
This gag is undoubtedly amusing. Yet, it is a number involving the sudden slanting of a table that comes immediately after Sister’s words that is the centerpiece of the entire segment. Such also endures as one of the most successfully hilarious instances visible throughout the runtime. Another thematically linked highlight arrives both before and prior to a spectacularly issued, black and white post-credits sequence. This latter stated item concludes with the announcement, which I sincerely hope DiVincenzo makes good upon, that the “Trouser Snake will return in ‘Bride of Trouser Snake’ “. These already mentioned guffaws are exceedingly clever. They are also among the best uses of the amorous parallel DiVincenzo utilizes with the presence of the antagonistic fiend of this enterprise spied throughout this Grimbridge Productions release. Such instances are as cringe-worthy as they are, in various usages of the term, climactic.
Made for a mere $100, DiVincenzo’s invention is boosted by another outstanding, gleefully tongue-in-cheek performance. This is from Michael Thurber. He enacts Thomas’ specialist, Dr. Mason. Thurber bends the character in the ways of many associated clinicians from both the decade and genre DiVincenzo models his tour de force after. Such is orchestrated both readily and engagingly. He delivers exposition, most of which the audience is already informed of, with a merry, knowing wink to his unseen spectators all along. Such makes the scenes he is in sing with a heightened layer of underlying wit. This matches the tone of the piece beautifully. William DeCoff as Thomas’ father, Hugo, and Monica Saviolakis as Thomas’ mother, Joy, also offer similarly astounding depictions. The result is a herculean effort that is made incredible by the stalwart essence of those on-screen.
The brief affair is also graced with an appropriately cheery, splendidly done veneer. The look of the endeavor is like that of a classic, monochrome motion picture. Particularly, one that was colorized before being broadcast on late night cable television. Such cinematography, courtesy of Jill Poisson and DiVincenzo, further enhances the B-movie correspondence DiVincenzo proudly strives for throughout the exertion. DiVincenzo’s editing, script (co-authored by James Cilano) and general guidance of the project is sharp and masterful. The story is conservative, but fulfilling, in its construction. Such transpires as DiVincenzo and Cilano tell the tale through several connected sequences. These are often exited and quickly returned to at seemingly random intervals. Such fleshes out the saga as satisfactorily as any full-length fiction. It also provides a non-linear, artistic streak to the proceedings. Such intensifies the well-rounded sum of the attempt. The same can be spoken of Cilano’s musical influence. Such is an endlessly enjoyable mixture of antiquated terror and melodrama. Furthermore, Adam Parchesky’s sound is tremendous. Jordan Pacheco’s puppeteering of the title entity, and other effects, are skillfully orchestrated. Like all the other technical elements we encounter in DiVincenzo’s latest, with gaffer John Mosetich and his leadership of the proficient camera and electric work chiefly among them, these articles jump out at us and demand our attention.
But, what is most charming of all is how easy it is to see droves of youth lining up to see “Trouser Snake”, and its promised sequel, as part of a weekend double feature at the drive-in. When reflecting upon the epoch the account is set in, the illusion cast by this ardent homage is smirk-inducing and complete. This is nostalgia of the best variety. It stays true to the trappings, the general arc and stereotypes of related outings. Still, it wins us over. This is, primarily, with the obvious affinity for the early Roger Corman/ Ed Wood Jr. brand of cinema DiVincenzo has attached to his narrative. With the support of an intriguingly designed beast, a wonderful and apt cast, a fluent pace and an entertainment level that never wavers: DiVincenzo has crafted a genuine knockout.
“Araf” (2016), an eight-minute and forty-five second collaborative short from writer-directors Fidan Jafarova and Tofiq Rzayev, is a masterful meditation on pain and suffering. It is also a heart-wrenching example of moving picture art beautifully evaluated through the lens of human tribulation. Such is phenomenally expressed through the underlying theme of the incredible tolls of war on mankind. This is signified by several distinctly woven personalities. The Angry Student Films, Synaps Production and Fidan Jafarova release, made for 1,000 AZM in the Eurasian country of Azerbaijan, also brilliantly elucidates echoes of Swedish cinematic auteur Ingmar Bergman’s tour de force, Cries and Whispers (1972). This is especially evident in its mature, sobering handling of grave subject matter. These are all articulated unflinchingly, yet respectfully. Such transpires with the topics of disease and dying at the forefront. Furthering this correlation, is the concentration in both endeavors on the measures and sentimental outcomes such unavoidable trials brings about on the family members which dominate each singular tale. Given that the term “araf” is often utilized to reference the Muslim borderlands between heaven and hell, instituted for neither the wholly good or wicked, there is also a religious constituent to the proceedings. This connects Bergman’s material with Jafarova and Rzayev’s latest in this respect as well. Likewise, the character-oriented emphasis is credibly etched in these accounts. This technical component is so well formulated that this quality alone carries each corresponding composition to greatness.
Additionally, the performances in each item are exceptional all around. This is with the incorporation of a superb balance between the photographic, the everyday and the theatrical. Also, the cinematography in each respective entity, with that in “Araf” stemming from Rzayev and that from Bergman’s construction from Sven Nykvist (who won an Academy Award for his work on the aforesaid invention), is gorgeously grim and appropriately bleak. There is a brooding, meditative color palette shared between these undertakings. Such is undeniably striking and ambient throughout. Yet, in Jafarova and Rzayev’s brief effort, the general veneer arises as more shadowy, stylish and thriller oriented. The constant rumble of thunder and the highly demonstrative sights of the rain hammering outside, which creates a breathtaking image which opens and closes the piece, spectacularly heightens this attribute. Thus, when the fabrication slides into an unanswered question of actuality, ghosts or delusions, all through the eyes of daughter Feride (in a captivating enactment by Konul Iskender), the progression is simultaneously natural and complimentary. This transpires to alluring consequence in the second half. There is also a countless deal of symbolic imagery laced into practically every frame of these presentations. At the heart of this is a focus on feminine strength, vulnerability and courage amid nearly impossible circumstances. Enduring this representative correlation, there is a concentration on inner-wars. This is noticeable, in one manner or another, through every disposition dominating these already addressed exertions. These are both unspoken or verbalized. In “Araf”, this figure is physically embodied. This is via an unnamed combat with an unspecified menace. It is frequently discussed but never seen. Yet, we ceaselessly impress upon ourselves the unnerving ideology that this brutality is inching ever closer to the treacherous mountains our protagonists call home. In so doing, the incorporation of this abhorrent item akin wonderfully increases the previously mentioned allegory. It also makes it all the easier to delve into the uncertain psyches of those we follow within the chronicle.
The story, credited to Rzayev, concerns a son, Ali (in a phenomenal turn from Adil Damirov), who becomes caught up in the previously addressed violence. Early on, the plot oversees the young man’s Mother (in a gripping, quietly commanding portrayal from Basti Jafarova) tending to her sickly husband. He is credited here simply as Father (an emotionally gripping turn from Sabir Mammadov, which triumphantly communicates his anguish largely through tormented grunts and groans). Enhancing the strain upon Mother and her kin is that her blood relations are all nearing starvation. It is also an ever-present fear for Ali. With this in mind, Mother braves departing her nearby loved ones. This is after defiantly declaring to Feride: “My other child…is out there fighting against the enemy and has nothing to eat. I cannot accept them both suffering hunger. You just don’t be afraid.” Such brings Mother on a quest to uncover a source of nourishment for those she is leaving behind. Feride than takes up Mother’s position. Almost immediately, the anxiety stemming from the unseen confrontations outside is personified in increasingly unique ways. This occurs as the situation around her instantly begins to deteriorate.
Such is a genuinely intriguing premise. It is one which requires much insight into both the psychology and attitude of those living under the persistent threat of real life terror. This is to be as successful as it obviously strives to be. Jafarova and Rzayev offer exactly that with their intelligent and richly constructed screenplay. They concoct personas, situations and dialogue that are as fully-realized, elegiac and memorable as any Bergman production. Regardless, their use of deceptively straight-forward discourse is meticulously sharp and profound. For instance, the commencing narration pronounces that “In these mountains…it always rains a lot. It’s unfortunate that we cannot hear it anymore”. Such a sweeping declaration draws us in instantly. But, when contemplated in retrospect, this line exemplifies tremendously just how far-reaching the apprehension is that our leads are under. Continually, the arc is largely unpredictable. This is without ever becoming implausible. Jafarova and Rzayev also unveil a perfectly even, cerebral pace for the brief opus. It is one that compliments the atmosphere splendidly. This is without weighing down the overall progression of events. Such is an astonishing feat itself.
All of this is made progressively encapsulating and hypnotic by Gergo Elekes’ remarkably emotive, piano driven score. Simuzar Aliyeva provides fantastic costume design. Shahmal Novruzlu and Kamil Ismaylov evoke a sound department contribution that is illimitably crisp and undoubtedly attention-garnering. The same can be said for the seamless visual effects from David Kislik. Jafarova’s editing is just as stellar. Similarly, Mitch Davies’ use of premiere stock footage is thoughtfully delivered.
At only twenty-two years of age, Rzayev has reflected his big screen heroes Andrei Tarkovsky (1975’s The Mirror, 1986’s Sacrifice) and Stanley Kubrick (1971’s A Clockwork Orange, 1987’s Full Metal Jacket) with deft precision. Such is seen in the plethora of unique camera angles, the experimental nature of his celluloid catalogue and in the sheer prowess in guiding the project at hand. “Araf” is no exception. Prior depictions, such as “In a Time For Sleep” (2016) and “Nihan: The Last Page” (2016), only re-enforce this factor. With sixteen scripting and directorial recognitions already to his name in only a five- year span, he is incessantly re-affirming that he is a talent far beyond his years. The same can be spoken of twenty-one-year old, Jafarova. This is her third such labor. The $500 budgeted documentary “Nagillar Alemine Seyahet” (2016) and the autobiographical “Fidan Jafarova Film Portrait” (2016) arrived previously. Given the evident might between these moviemaking forces, and the all-around excellence of this first alliance, I sincerely hope that the ingenious “Araf” marks the commencement of many future pairings among the duo. What they have created here is enlightening, profound and engaging. It is indisputably one of the best entries in its genre of the year.
Thirty-something Marta (in a commanding, beautifully formed depiction from Katie Alexander-Thom), the heroine of “The Girls Were Doing Nothing” (2017), has a sharp retort concerning the debut title of writer-director Dekel David Berenson’s short film (the twenty-one minute work in progress “press preview” cut of which I base this review upon). It comes while Marta regales her similarly aged husband, Jake (in a quietly stalwart turn from Malcolm Jeffries), with a yarn from her youth. In this tale, the boys in her school would go out to play football. She goes out of her way to affirm that they would engage in such an activity in even the harshest snows of winter. While watching them busily go about their sports, Marta’s teacher would pose a question to the young ladies of the learning institution. This was why they “weren’t doing nothing.” Here the thesis statement of this slyly enigmatic, deeply meditative and highly symbolic production arrives. This is when Marta, with agitation visibly growing in both her voice and eyes, declares: “We weren’t doing nothing. We were watching”.
Such directly explains the hypnotic, subtle and clandestine tone of this erotically charged tour de force. Previously titled “The Vacation”, this presentation calls to mind Stanley Kubrick’s underrated masterpiece Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and Lars von Trier’s same held Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 and 2 (2013). This parallel is visible in the sheer craftsmanship on display. It can also be spotted in its mature handling of carnal subject matter. In retrospect, Berenson is providing the audience the opportunity to tread in the footsteps personified by the young ladies in Marta’s chronicle. Yet, this accrues in an undoubtedly adult world. We view the measures of Marta’s daily life, whether she is going through photographs or trying to quietly provoke her husband’s sensual passions, without the component of clarifying precisely what is transpiring at every narrative twist. Given that this element is far too prevalent in cinema nowadays, the decision to excise what most would deem pivotal makes the proceedings even more riveting. It also comes across as refreshing and natural. Keeping true to this structure, the credible and gorgeously penned dialogue (which was partially inspired by psychologist Carol Gilligan) is kept to a minimum. Such makes the results increasingly voyeuristic and addictively appealing. The concluding sequence, which wordlessly proposes what is too come, is especially brilliant and captivating.
Despite this brave stylistic approach, another telltale sign of Berenson’s incredible risk-taking capabilities, the engaging plot thread is never lost. Even when we find ourselves unsure of why some sights are unfolding, Berenson forces our imagination to fill in the blanks. Moreover, our interest, our glimpse into Marta’s world of luxurious restaurants, private gyms and high-paying professional positions adds to the fascinating rhythm of the demonstration. All of this is punctuated further by the Marta’s inner-struggles to overcome the commonplace motions of her marriage. It makes the piece as much an exhibition of routine as it is a meditation on how to break out of such a monotonous extension of events. Marta and Jake find it in their charismatic neighbor, Andrea (a well-rounded, extraordinary enactment from Jolie Sanford). This occurs when she asks the couple to do a favor for her while she is on vacation. Such an invite becomes an unexpected chance to add both variety, spontaneity and intimacy to their lives. Yet, they soon learn the paradox of this meticulously paced fiction. This comes in the form of a quote from psychotherapist Esther Perel, which is exposed in the opening moments of the invention. This is that “Love longs for closeness, desire thrives in distance. And therein lies the rub”.
Adding to the sheer excellence at hand is the highly representative imagery. For instance, there is a shot near the commencement which also closes the effort. This is of a sugar cube absorbing. It is ultimately spied as a perfect mark of Marta’s bland, imprisoned outlook on life slowly wilting away. Additionally, it declares her willingness to find the exhilaration in being by seizing new prospects when they arise. There are several sequences involving Marta’s blood which are powerfully indicative of feminism. Aside from this, the undertaking is further graced by sensational editing from both Fabrizio Gammardella and Berenson. Phillip Quinton’s sound issuance is spectacular. The camera crew, consisting of Pete Blakemore, Melanie Jansen and Tom Blount, provides a spellbinding contribution. Elizabeth Hedley’s make-up design is stellar. Lem Lawrence’s visual effects significantly enhance the authenticity radiating from every frame. Kamil Lemie’s scant appearance in a role dubbed “1920’s Guy” and Samantha Whaley’s bit as a retail assistant are both deft and intriguing. The costumes by Britt Seel are superb. Such an ingredient fits the contemporary impression of the sum grandly. Music consultant Heather Hadar Gallar incorporates an operatic soundtrack. This only strengthens the overall imprint. It also impeccably reinforces the attitude of the exertion beautifully. Likewise, Berenson’s screenplay and guidance of the project is proficient and carefully constructed. The cinematography by Ruaraid Achilleos-Sarll is sumptuous and sweeping. These greatly piqued qualities aid mightily in making Berenson’s latest an absolute knockout. This is guaranteed to be a surefire hit with spectators once it begins its run at cinema festivals.
“The Girls Were Doing Nothing” is the first of three similarly brief, unified compositions. All of them deal with intense notions of fondness, lovemaking and personal bonds in one manner or another. These are collectively known as The Eros Trilogy. The next two labors, continuations of the account set forth with this initial undertaking, are “Borderlines” (2017) and “The Surface of All Things.” No due date has been given for the final segment.
This is more than a reason for excitement. The characters in this initiating episode are genuinely etched. Berenson is unafraid to paint real people on his celluloid canvas. Everyone we encounter, Marta and Jake especially, have flaws and likable traits woven in equal ration. Yet, the air of mystery in this 168 Wardour Filmworks, Bekke Films and Radiator IP Sales release is palpable throughout. It suggests many different directions that Berenson can pilot the opus in upcoming episodes. This is so much so that one cannot help but anticipate seeing where he takes the fabrication. What elevates this anticipation is that Berenson’s latest affair is among the most memorable and outstanding concoctions of its type I’ve witnessed all year. Berenson has an undeniable knack for storytelling. Such is boosted by his gifted team and their respective donations. These essentials fill the screen with ongoing resonance and awe. Rich in mentality, emotion and subtext, Berenson has evoked a winner on all fronts.