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Short films are a medium in their own right, so where can we go to see them besides the odd festival? Filling a big
gaping void in the short film world, Future Shorts have stepped in to save the scene so to speak, and provide anyone
with some kind of cinematic appreciation with a regular night of fresh and interesting visuals. I attended such a night
at Too 2 Much (aka Raymonds Revue Bar) located down a seedy side street in Soho. Once inside and armed with an
alcoholic beverage, I seat myself on a plush red leather couch near a candle lit table. Here, I face the projector screen
and a scantily clad usherette serving popcorn. Certainly very different and I decide this is about as pleasent as it gets
for one thrown out of their usual cinematic comfort zone.
We were shown a variety of short films, evoking a wide range of emotions and intellectual responses within a short
Marc Isaacs documentary ‘Lift’, stood out as a well captured, touching piece, needing no more than 20 minutes to give
VJ’s Exceeda added an interesting slant to the evening, with their improvised mix of visuals set to music. All round this
Tarnation is the most intense film experience I have had to date. A voyeuristic insight into the obscure depths of
Jonathan Caouette’s life left me feeling disturbed and touched, but still unable to grasp all that made up this
enigmatic yet honestly portrayed character. The film is the true story of director Jonathan Caouette’s life from age
11, when his grandfather first bought him a VHS camera. The magic is in the editing, and the story is pieced
together using photos, narrative subtitles, VHS, super 8 film and DV (digital video), most of which are snippets of
his life, involving other people close to him, namely his mother and grandparents.
At age 13, Jonathan was given 2 joints by a drug dealer friend of his mother, after taking them home and
smoking both consecutively, it was learned that they were laced with formaldehyde and PCP, an experience
which left Jonathan hospitalized with a dissociative disorder. In a dream like way that is true to his dissociative
condition, the film relays his life through the eyes of his camera (himself), among other things taking a certain
focus on his mother and the side effects of her past and present experiences with mental illness and its
prescribed treatment. I have never felt so uncomfortable in a film before, as this raw, honest material spilled
onto the screen in front of me. Even more unusual was the Q&A with the director himself at the end of the film,
which was abruptly cut short with an extremely exhausted almost incoherent Jonathan placing the microphone
on the table mid-question, and in a strong American accent announcing ‘I can’t do this interview’ before walking
This film is an urgent must for anyone interested in the evolution of digital video recording and the effects it may
have on film as we know it. DV is a relatively cheap and easy way for everyday anybodies to be able to make a
film, without the training or big budget that film makers of the past –and present– possess, placing film making
into new hands. Supporting DV, the Metropolitan Film school will also run a competition to shoot a short film on
digital, regardless of one’s experience behind the camera. The winner’s film will appear as a bonus feature on
the Tarnation DVD, due for release later this year. The winner will be judged by the man himself, Jonathan
Caouette. Interested? http://www.lovefilm.com/static.php?tpl=tarnation
By Michelle Hughes
TARNATION BY JONATHAN CAOUETTE
DARK HORSE – BFI FILM FESTIVAL
French-Born Icelander Dagur Kari’s second feature, Dark Horse has an other-worldly feel to it.
Similarly character driven to Noi the Albino, Dark Horse draws us into the world of Danish slacker-
come graffiti artist, Daniel (Jacob Cedergren) and his rather eccentric co-habitants.
We view his passage through Copenhagen’s less scenic streets through a veil of thin black and
white celluloid as if it were the negative for a life-lived underexposed. For years he has lived
beneath the radar, eking out a meagre existence from knocking out graffiti-murals as gifts for
young lovers. However, we join his passage at a point where the generosity from the family
and friends upon whom he has relied on for years, has dried up and the anarchic freedom his
charm and luck has brought him is slowly being eroded. The system is catching up and he doesn’
t see it coming.
Daniel falls in love with the beautiful but similarly flaky Franc(esca), (Tilly Scott Pedersen)
following a chance encounter instigated unwittingly by his best friend, ‘Grandpa’ (Nicolas Bro) at
the bakery. Their passion blossoms despite Daniels continual downward spiral. However, with
this new love comes new responsibility which he treats with suspicion. Initially overwhelmed,
Daniel spurns it for the threat it poses to his insulated existence and flees.
The interactions between the members of Kari’s collection of mildly eccentric characters are at
times hilarious and provide a humorous counterpoint to this low-fi tale of realisation. However,
the distractions they provide can’t cover for the fact that ultimately, this film doesn’t go
anywhere. When faced with the realities of adult responsibility for the first time, Daniel
experiences a pre-life crisis of sorts, the resolution of which is never fully developed. It is
visually unremarkable, however the plainness of the urban streetscapes is borne out by the
simple black and white camera work which is similarly vacant of style or expression.
The Iconic Cowboy.
I never knew just how familiar I was with the classic ‘cowboy’ movie, until I visited Tate Britain
recently…I made the trip especially to see Suky Best and Rory Hamilton’s latest collaborative
animations based on the stereotypical ‘western’ genre of film, and was surprised by what I saw.
The four short films; ‘Village Gunfight’, ‘Stranger in Town’, ‘Interlude’ and ‘Train Hold-up’ don’t
submit to the style of animation that we are used to seeing on the silver screen; they are much
more basic – which has to be commended as it really works in their favour.
The artists play on what we already know about the genre, and as I’ve never seen a cowboy film
from beginning to end I was surprised at how easily I could identify the scenes depicted – even if
all you see are the silhouettes of the main characters with their obligatory horses. The style of
production is minimal and acts almost like a book where you create the scenes in your head
around the central character – which in this case is the iconic cowboy.
It is extremely effective. The artists’ have chosen to use a method called ‘rotoscoping’, a style that
enables us to see layers of imagery in front and behind of passing silhouettes, which is something
that our brain remembers as a visual imprint.
The music also plays an integral part of each story line, and further assists us with visualising the
I have never seen this type of animation before, it challenges our perceptions of iconography and
perspective in a playful way. Exaggerating shape and form to depict silhouettes that simply come
to life before your very eyes…
Sulky Best & Rory Hamilton – 19th November – 2nd December
Village Gunfight, Stranger in Town, Interlude, Train Hold-up
Tate Britain – 020 78878888
Mountains of Memories…
It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I approached Tate Modern last week – no I didn’t plan to
steal an expensive piece of art; I planned to visit Rachel Whiteread’s latest installation ‘Embankment’.
Now first things first, Tate Modern is a vast structure, and it’s one of my favourite buildings in London. The
gallery within compliments the space without erasing the history; it blends with the surroundings creating
an ambience of new and old. The most prominent feature of the Tate is the Turbine Hall, and this is where
Whiteread’s sculpture is situated – never an easy space to display art. As I approached the hall I instantly
felt overwhelmed by what lay beyond; a mountainous terrain consisting of 14,000 white casts taken from
the inside of different sized boxes. I couldn’t wait to explore the icy labyrinth.
Whilst walking amongst the boxes I felt a sense of sadness; as the piece was inspired by a battered old
box found in her mother’s house shortly after she died. As I weaved through the work I imagined that each
box held a memory, something so personal that it had to be sealed and piled high so that no one could view
the contents. I felt a sense of Whitread’s childhood, and I also felt a sense of what she was trying to
achieve, she’d utilised the space and created an awe inspiring, industrial looking structure tainted with the
last fragile memories of her mother. I will never look at a cardboard box the same way ever again.
‘Embankment’ is at Tate Modern until 2nd April 2006.