Slash 2022 Review: Melies d'argent Shorts, A Mosaic of Story Delights
As readers know, I'm a champion of the unsung gems of any film festival - the shorts. It's not just about filmmakers' calling cards, it's a film form too often forgotten. Given how we're inundated more with shorter forms via platforms such as Youtube and TikTok, maybe we need to all take more time with shorts - it's arguably harder to make a story work in a shorter time, when you need to get your ideas across faster. This can spark great ingenuity and creativity. The Slash filmfestival is on now in Austria; the Méliès Competition highlights some of the best short films in Europe, and below you'll find reveiws of the festival's selections for 2022.
Blood Rites (UK). Directed by Helena Coan.
Three teenage girls go to a village in the English Fens, to begin their journey to becoming supernatueral creatues. Or perhaps they already are? Their cannibalistic tendencies seem fresh and new. Based on a short story by Daisy Johnson, Coan's short evokes a 70s-style horror roughness, provoking these girls as they try to find their rhythm and power. They falter with each other and with their prey, as they figure out which of them might be the leader, how they will evade capture, and what they will do with their burgeoning power. With minimal dialogue, Coan gives us what could be seen as a prequel to the lesbian vampire film, and a brief peek into the emotional turmoil of teenager girls on the cusp of a different kind of womanhood.
Censor of Dreams (France). Directed by Leo Berne & Raphaël Rodriguez.
Dreams are some kind of purging of our unconscious and subconscious, a way for those moments, people, items from our days that somehow unleash upon us when we don't expect (or often want) them. What if, inside your mind, there was some kind of team set up to help or hinder how the mind forces us to remember during these dark hours? Censor of Dreams starts out as humourours, imagining the bureaucracy behind this organization, but as that unconscious mind forces forward that which we most wish to ignore, it becomes harder to restrain. Berne and Rodriguez's short packs a lot of emotion and dread into its story, taking us down those dark corridors which make us rethink all the things we have yet do dream about, for better or worse.
Fledge (Israel). Directed by Hani Dombe & Tom Kouris.
A stop-motion animation film, this is a tale that we've seen before: a teenage girl discovers she's something other than human, and rejects her strangeness, as she knows will reject her. She balks at the confinement and isolation it brings, even as her grandmother (who has the same condition) encourages her to embrace it. While the animation is good, the story itself never quite gets off the ground, stopping short of its potential, never going beyond what we expect to something new or different in its perspective.
From.Beyond (Norway). Directed by Fredrik S. Hana.
We think we know what to expect from, and how we would react to, the arrival of extraterristrials on our planet. But even if we know they are out there, the surreality of such an occurance would likely leave us in confusion, in a strange nightmarescape of ecstasy and horror. Such is the scenario Fredrik Hana brings to his new short. With faux archival footage strung together into an experimental tale, we're asked to imagine what it would be like to share our planet with creatures about which we know nothing, cannot imagine even in our darkest tales, and what that would mean for our existence. A haunting yet unforgettable short.
Hideous (UK). Directed by Yann Gonzalez.
A young man tries to find a way to understand (and possibly embrace) what he perceives as his ugliness. The short presents what likely we've all thought about when we're alone: ourselves as the star of a music video, as the focus of a talk show, on display for anyone to love and loathe. While it starts to lose its steam in the second half, the short does accurately portray how the human psyche can wander as it contemplates its deep drives and fears, with our identity and its public presentation at the centre of those fears.
Hold Me Tight (Belgium). Directed by Leoluna Robert-Tourneur.
Animation gets sexy in this haunting tale, of two creatures - humans? vampires? animals? who find each other in forest and begin a chase that becomes a hunt and then sex. With superb use of colour, in just the right parts - and yes, I mean that literally, with tongue, teeth, genitalia - as the beings transform into their wildest desires for themselves and each other. It's hard not to feel your own blood begin to pulse with longing as you watch. Animation for adults is too often neglected, and this short proves it's easy enough to make your audience hot under the collar in a short amount of time.
Letter to a Pig (Israel/France). Directed by Tal Kantor.
This is quite a haunting and in no small way disturbing film. A young girl hears a Holocaust survivor tell his story, his feelings and perspective, even decades later, (understandably) hitting several nerves. With a combination of drawn animation and some great works with showcasing eyes, Kanton puts us in the girl's proverbial shoes as her own nightmares increase as she imagines an altered scenario where she is both the hunted and the hunter. It's designed to and successful at making the audience uncomfortable as we still deal with the ramifications of one of our worst human tragedies.
Phlegm (Switzerland). Directed by Jan-David Bolt.
Do you ever have a memory of a seemingly mundance or unimportant moment that you relive over and over until it consumes you? It seems this mild-mannered suited man on his way to his office is living out just such a moment, as he inexplicably keeps stepping on snails that seem to appear out of nowhere. Part bizarro dream, part commentary on the rat race, part existential dread come to life, this short leads you down a twisted path of dark humour and inadventent animal behaviour. The final shot is masterful in its simplicity and satisfaction as a conclusion to a deceptively complex story.
Spell on You (France). Directed by Sarah Lasry.
Salomé is used to being Daddy's little girl. Until one day, a few small warts appear on her nose, and suddenly her father can barely touch her. This strange in-between world she's forced into allows her to see what her father, mother, and nanny get up to, and unable to process the situation or her emotions, Salomé turns to black magic. It's not easy to have a slow-burn short, but Lasry succeeds, as we watch Salomé both sink into madness, and, on being taught a bit of magic, start to use it to explore her own growing power.