Short Film Review #64

“Hope and memories go together”

A hotch-potch of video clips for your pleasure!



The Lion King gets a new ex-rugby playing Kiwi Simba.




The latest short film in the Young Vic’s series is Astoria, supporting their newly announced strand of work around refugees.



Anthony Neilson’s new play Unreachable at the Royal Court is going to be trailed by a series of shorts, hopefully making the most of the interesting casting of Matt Smith.



An audio play rather than a film but I’m sneaking this in anyway, a prologue of sorts to the Gate’s The Iphigenia Quartet, written by Clare Slater and read by the endlessly sonorous voice of Hattie Morahan. You’ll be careful about putting together the guest list for the next party you hold after this.

Short Film Review #63 – The Roof


“That’s how it is with Peter”
The Young Vic has released the latest instalment in their intermittent YV Shorts series, filmic responses to the shows they’re producing, often attracting some of the more luminary names in their Rolodex. This time, we have The Roof, a comedy in brief by Nigel Williams and directed by Natalie Abrahami. It is neatly conceived and wittily done, though it does feel very much more targeted at theatregoers than the others, full of self-referential in-jokes as it is.
Beginning in the offices of the Young Vic where Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s admin bod passes on the message to David Lan (Artistic Director of the venue, should you not be sure) which gets a little bit lost in translation (with years of admin experience under my belt, this rang particularly true) and results in a mammoth misunderstanding of mixed identities at the very time a noted theatre director is showing up for a book signing, with a phalanx of fans eager for the chance to get close to their hero.

The director is Peter Brook and the fans include the likes of an affected Rory Kinnear, a wonderfully dry Ian McKellen, incoming Hermione (and woman-of-the-year designate) Noma Dumezweni and a breathless Jude Law and Natalie Dormer. And it’s all rather good fun, Sinéad Matthews’ farcical French assistant and Hugh Skinner’s always-adorable nerdiness winning the day for me. Abrahami keeps the tone gently parodic which may mean that the humour won’t travel too far outside a certain clique but that just makes it all the more special for us theatre fans.


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Short Film Review #62

Last year, I made a weekly feature out of short film reviews (if you explore the film tag, you can find them all) but in the name of reclaiming some semblance of a normal life, I’ve put them on hold. Things still pop into my awareness or my inbox though so I thought I’d flag these up. 
Not quite a short film but an interactive video game, 5 Minutes features newly-announced Beowulf Kieran Bew (and it’s good news, he’s a bearded Bew in this one) as a father trapped in a zombie nightmare with his teenage daughter. You can select three levels of difficulty to help them through their journey to try and escape the zombie curse (I’ve managed medium, just about) and it is all rather well done. I’m no expert at all in this kind of thing though so make of it what you will!
And Pet Shop Girls is a delightfully surreal sitcom in the making, full of off-kilter characters and wryly amusing dialogue as we follow a day in a high street pet shop. Written by Kirsty Woodward, Luke Norris and Ed Hancock and directed by Ben Aldridge, it really is rather good, you could imagine it slotting into BBC3’s schedule quite easily. 

A little behind the times here – The Departure saw Gillian Anderson reprise her award-winning role as Blanche DuBois as Andrew O’Hagan’s short film imagined a prequel to Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. It acts as a kind of prologue to Benedict Andrews’ production, taking place in the modern day and in the days before she arrives at her sister’s home. Directed by Anderson herself, it offers intriguing layers of backstory to events and places merely mentioned in the play proper and has a darkly theatrical feel to it.

Short Film Review #59

Toilets from Gabriel Bisset-Smith on Vimeo.
Gabriel Bisset-Smith’s Toilets is a great twist on your average rom-com, focusing on the people that just pop into your life every now and again but leaving such lasting impressions that one always wonders what if… For George, it is the American Fee who is his recurring theme, always appearing when he’s in the middle of something with his almost-out lesbian friend Link, and these fleeting moments are brilliantly conceived. Centring these encounters around conveniences is a neat way of linking them and the common threads of sex, drugs and dance music add an entertaining edge to this almost-love story.

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Review: Off the Page – Microplays 1-3 from the Royal Court and the Guardian

“I smoke fish…all the time”

The Guardian have partnered with the Royal Court to create a series of what they are calling microplays (short films by any other name, and I assume they’re trying to differentiate this from the short films that are being done in collaboration with the Young Vic…) on a range of six subjects. Each one – food, fashion, music, sport, education and politics – has seen a Guardian journalist work with a playwright to gain inspiration to create a minutes-long microplay which is then rapidly brought to life by some high-class directors and actors and hosted on the Guardian’s website.

The most recent of these is Death of England, written by Roy Williams and directed by Clint Dyer after a discussion with the Guardian’s Barney Ronay. It features Rafe Spall in scintillating form as a grieving working-class son at his father’s funeral who makes an ill-advised attempt at a eulogy which quickly degenerates into a rant about football and race, conflicted ideas about English identity and the state of the national team and notions of what loyalty really means. It couldn’t be a more hot-button topic if it tried (due to the efforts of my hometown team) but it is Spall’s captivating performance of Williams’ insightful script that really grips.

The first film to emerge was Britain isn’t Eating, Laura Wade and Carrie Cracknell collaborating with food writer Jack Monroe to delve into the politically contentious world of food banks and food poverty in the UK. Playing with the predilection of modern politics to be seen to be getting stuck in, Katherine Parkinson’s dismissive MP is challenged to a live mystery cooking test, the catch being that these are items from the back of the cupboard, the very things she said “these people” are being wasteful of. Wade nails the condescension that characterises so much dialogue around food banks and the alleged doubt about whether they’re needed, a point Parkinson and Cracknell reinforce in the sucker punch of the closing image.

And last but by no means least, in this first trio of microfilms, is Groove is in the Heart, probably my favourite as its particular focus has a special resonance with me and indeed will do for many others of a similar age. Robin French’s writing, from John Harris’ inspiration and Bijan Sheibani’s direction, centres on the beautiful – and lost – art of making a mixtape, and the memories that it can evoke even after many years have passed. From Ruby Ashbourne Serkis in the 80s to present-day Tobias Menzies, the connecting tissue of Neneh Cherry’s ‘Buffalo Stance’ creates something just beautiful. (But it’s still a short film and not a microplay.)

Short Film Review #57

 

Roger Allam as an ageing rocker called Quentin with stagefright? Yes please. Danny Stack’s Trading Licks sees him at a particular low point as unable to play, there’s no money coming into the house and his wife has just had to call the plumber to fix a broken toilet. The issue of payment, in kind as it turns out, sets Quentin off on the route to potential salvation but it being Allam, there’s much surliness in the old rocker which means it isn’t quite that easy – an entertaining bit of fun, not least with Justin Edwards’ cheeky plumber in support.


Short Film Review #56

 

Almost unbearably sad, Hope Dickson Leach’s Morning Echo captures the suffocating resentment that can build up in families when caring for a loved one who’s terminally ill. Here, Franny Moffat didn’t think she’d live for another Christmas so her family held a Christmas Day for her in October. Fast forward to 25th December and she’s still alive but her family are crumbling around her under the strain and it is agonisingly compelling to watch. Kerry Fox and Peter Sullivan are just fantastic as the embittered parents and an assortment of other children play out their dysfunction in a range of disarming ways. Even as they’re all eventually brought together in the end for Franny, the melancholy note on which it finishes has lingered long in the mind. Hauntingly good.


 

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