Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #12: The Woman in the Room (2010)

US / 7½ minutes / color / Sleeping Dog Dir & Scr: Christen Kimbell Pr: Sean David Jenkins, Rich Brusatori, Christen Kimbell Cine: Scott Ballard Cast: Maren McGuire, Phillip M. Meyer

Despite the title, this isn’t based on the 1978 Stephen King story that has inspired a whole string of shorts including one that was previously covered on this site, The Woman in the Room (1983).

Peter (Meyer) wakes up in the morning after a one-night stand with Alexa (McGuire) to discover she’s having some kind of seizure. His first instinct is to bolt, but he thinks better of it and stays to help her get through the crisis. Could this be the start of something greater for them?

Maren McGuire as Alexa

My enjoyment of this movie was severely hampered by the difficulty I had Continue reading

Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #11: Glove Compartment (2015)

UK / 13 minutes / color, opening sequence in bw / Major Zeus, Zoetic Films Dir & Scr: Dan Allen Pr: Dan Allen, Charlotte Rose Palmer, Jamie Weston Cine: Tom Allen Cast: Jon Campling, Andrew Coppin, Libby Braidwood, Louise Ann Munro, Nik Kempsey

Two hitmen, who go under the noms de guerre Frankie (Campling) and Jacob (Coppin), have been contracted to kill Mr. Peterson (Kempsey) and Mrs. Peterson (Munro).

Jacob, the younger of the two killers, does the deed, but spares the Petersons’ cute little daughter Abigail (Braidwood), bringing her with him from the death scene.

Frankie’s appalled: their contract was for no survivors. But Jacob prevails, persuading the older man that, Continue reading

Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #10: Pitch Black Heist (2011)

UK / 14 minutes / bw / DMC, UK Film Council, Film4 Dir & Scr: John Maclean Pr: Gerardine O’Flynn Cine: Robbie Ryan Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Alex Macqueen

Shot in glorious black-and-white—and for a chunk of its running time in just glorious black—this enigmatic UK short won a 2012 BAFTA as Best Short Film and was nominated as Best Narrative Short at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

The opening credits play the 1955 Roger Williams version of the classic French song Les Feuilles Mortes (1945) over a scene of stacked boxes in a vault. The song, with music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by Jacques Prévert, was first used onscreen in Marcel Carné’s Les PORTES DE LA NUIT (1946; vt Gates of the Night). With English-language lyrics by Johnny Mercer, the song reappeared in the Joan Crawford vehicle AUTUMN LEAVES (1956) dir Robert Aldrich. The Roger Williams version is apparently the only piano instrumental to reach #1 in the US Billboard charts, which it did in 1955, remaining there for four weeks.

Ahem. Apologies for the digression.

 

Alex Mcqueen as Isaac briefs Michael (Fassbender, left) and Liam (Cunningham)

The use of the piece here has, thanks to the tune’s countless cinematic and other incarnations, the effect of gearing us emotionally to anticipate a UK noir of the 1940s/1950s, which is more or less—despite the numerous uses of the f-word (you’d not catch upright, pipe-smoking Ronald Howard saying that in public!)—what’s being homaged in Pitch Black Heist.

Two thieves, Liam (Cunningham) and the far more taciturn Michael (Fassbender), are brought together to pull off a bank job in the City of London. The significant problem they face is Continue reading

Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #9: Mute (2009)

US / 19 minutes / color / Ryan Lough, Hassan Said Dir & Scr: Hassan Said Pr: Ryan Lough, Hassan Said Cine: Jordan Ashton Danelz Cast: Daniel Higgins, Vanessa Donley, Jesse Mueller, Jessette Indrieri

A powerful movie that’s riveting to watch and that yet somehow left me with something of a sour taste. There’s a line between exploitation, on the one hand, and harrowing depiction of human anguish, on the other, and I’m still not sure in my own mind on which side of that line this movie lies. I accept absolutely that the intentions of the movie’s makers were good; where I’m less confident is about my own reactions to the piece.

Oliver (Higgins) is the elderly single father to Anna (Donley), who’s a mute: her hearing seems okay, although the sound editing might seem to indicate she hears things a bit muffled-like, but all she can manage by way of vocalizations are whimpers and wails, sometimes loud wails. Although she seems not unintelligent, and clearly has a creative spirit, there’s obviously more going on than merely her muteness: she habitually holds her fingers in an odd, crooked conformation.

Vanessa Donley as Anna

One day Oliver gets home from the store to find Anna lying on her bed in distress, Continue reading

Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #8: Katchem Kate (1912)

US / 11 minutes / bw / Biograph, General Film Company Dir: Mack Sennett Scr: Dell Henderson Cine: Percy Higginson Cast: Mabel Normand, Fred Mace, Jack Pickford, Vivian Prescott, Anthony O’Sullivan, Frank Opperman, Sylvia Ashton

An early Mack Sennett silent that’s of interest because it can be read as a precursor of the Keystone Cops comedies and because it offers one of the first onscreen examples of the trope of the female detective outwitting her male counterparts. That may not seem like such a big deal today, but remember that in 1912 women weren’t considered intelligent enough to be entrusted with the vote.

Fed up with her dreary job at a dry cleaner, Kate (Normand) comes across a newspaper ad for a detective school, the Alert Detective Agency, and decides this is the future for her. The school, in the event, turns out to have Continue reading

Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #7: Memoria (2013)

Denmark / 6½ minutes / color / Animation Workshop Dir: Elísabet Ýr Atladóttir Production supervisors: Anja Perl, Michelle Nardone Story supervisor: Uri Kranot Story consultant: Michael Valeur Animation supervisor: Sean Ermey Voice cast: Shilo Duffy, William J.J. Nielsen, Michelle Nardone, Robert Bennett, Sue Hansen-Styles

Vincent

Vincent finds himself in a devastated—and devastating—environment. At times it seems like a long-abandoned house. At others it seems like the dilapidated corridor of a deserted hotel where all of the room doors are locked. The objects he touches are prone to hurting him—gashing his hand or giving it an electric shock. And all of the time his experience is shattered by fragmented memories of the family he had as an adolescent: his kindly parents and his little brother Benjamin.

The younger Vincent (in doorway) with little Benjamin and their parents

So, what happened to take him from there to here?

The answer to that question is Continue reading

Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #6: The Lie (1955 TVM)

US / 25 minutes / bw / Four Star, First Run Syndication Dir: Alvin Ganzer Pr: Warren Lewis Scr: Frederic Brady Story: Kathleen Norris Cine: George E. Diskant Cast: Dan Duryea, Beverly Garland, Jo Gilbert, Mack Williams, Ted Bliss, Salvador Baguez, Nancy Matthews

Beverly Garland as Laura

This was shown as Season 1 Episode 3 of the relatively short-lived (two seasons) syndicated TV show The Star and the Story (32 episodes, 1955–6). Each episode was hosted by Henry Fonda, but otherwise they were standalones—in effect, short TV movies. A few actors appeared in more than one episode. This was the only episode to feature noir great Dan Duryea but one of three to feature another noir great, Beverly Garland.

A long time has passed since Kane Madison was beaten to death, a long time during which Jim Ripley (Duryea) spent fifteen years of a twenty-year sentence in the penitentiary for the murder, only to find himself now, Continue reading

Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #5: No Chaser (2010)

US / 22 minutes / color plus some sepia / Raw Canvas, True Films, Creative Words & Pictures Dir & Pr & Scr: Mark H. Howard Cine: Robert McEwen Cast: B.D. Mason, Darren Jones, Giovanni Pauletti, Aiesha Dukes, Dwayne Branch, Bill Merker, Vince Sartini, Rhonda Marie Bynum, Mark H. Howard, Ace Funches, Tre’

B.D. Mason as Junior (left) and Darren Jones as Stan

An ambitiously and by and large superbly made short movie whose narrative, with its constantly chopping and changing chronology, might seem confusing to the point of obtuseness were it not for the qualifier displayed during the opening credits:

“Nearly a month ago, after searching the internet, Zach Tucker, Jr., started having a recurring dream about something that happened . . .”

Zach Tucker Sr. (Branch) seems to have been a legend of the Chicago underworld, but he died (we’re not told how) many years ago. Ever since, Zach Tucker Jr. (Mason)—known almost universally as simply “Junior”—has been living in the shadow of his father’s reputation. Meanwhile other gangsters, like Continue reading

Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #4: The Woman in the Room (1983)

US / 30 minutes / color / Gregory Melton Dir & Scr: Frank Darabont Pr: Gregory Melton, Frank Darabont Story: “The Woman in the Room” (1978 Night Shift) by Stephen King Cine: Juan Ruiz Anchia Cast: Michael Cornelison, Dee Croxton, Brian Libby, Bob Brunson, George Russell

John (Cornelison), a lawyer and loving son, is being torn apart by the plight of his mother (Croxton): in the final stages of terminal cancer, she’s been given a cordotomy to relieve the agony, but the pain still persists. John knows an overdose of her old painkillers would put her over the edge into merciful oblivion, but can he really contemplate killing his own mother?

Without revealing his motives, he picks the brains of a multiple murderer (Libby) he’s representing, but is hardly reassured: the prisoner tells him the only killing that ever hit him hard emotionally was the mercy killing of a buddy in Vietnam who’d had his legs blown off and was falling prey to gangrene.

Michael Cornelison as John

Once again John must wrestle with his conscience . . . Continue reading

Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #3: SLR (2013)

UK / 23 minutes / color / Driver, Lighthouse, Stigma, BFI vt The Photographer Dir & Scr: Stephen Fingleton Pr: Matthew James Wilkinson Cine: Luke Bryant Cast: Liam Cunningham, Amy Wren, Richard Dormer, Ryan McParland, Jasmine Breinburg, Charlotte Lewington, River Hawkins, Matt Alexander Kaufman

A beautifully made short movie that generates a surprising amount of sympathy for its main protagonist, superbly played by Liam Cunningham, even though the character concerned is an exploitative creep. The movie was born out of the British Film Institute’s Lighthouse scheme, which funded a number of up-and-coming UK directorial talents, of whom Fingleton was one, to create short movies.

Elliot (Cunningham) is a divorced middle-aged man who, in his loneliness, is dedicated to taking “candid” photographs—“upskirts,” “downfronts,” and so on—of young women in the street, in the park, on the bus, in changing rooms, wherever, and posting these to the online forum he haunts, The Voyeur’s Den.

Liam Cunningham as Elliot

His teenage daughter Alexa (Wren) comes to visit for a few days before heading off to her first term at university. Relations between the two are a bit strained, partly since—although Alexa doesn’t tell Elliot this for a while—she’s Continue reading