Short, Sharp Shock Treatment

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Short, Sharp Shock Treatment
When I was told that I was invited to see a festival about short film makers, I at first thought it would be an event celebrating the digital revolution’s impact on midgets, and I looked forward to seeing a lot of little guys with cameras and mega-phones, all falling over each other and throwing pies and stuff. But I was wrong. The insane stereotyping of people with enough problems to begin with aside, I didn’t think I would be impressed by the showcasing of international video music-clips and musical short-films, but I was wrong, and the evening’s barrage of shocking, amusing, innovative and often surreal merging of image with music gave me some short, sharp shock treatment, courtesy of Canadian film-making talent.  Invited along by PR honey, Julie Rheaume, and her boyfriend, Canadian film-editor Neil Churchill, I was geared up to witness a lot of pretentious tosh whose only redeeming feature would be its shortness, and concentrated my energy into preventing myself from giggling at the bits that the intellectuals would recognise as poignant or awe-inspiring; then I mapped out the quickest path from the exit of the auditorium to the free food area and settled into my seat, ready to spring out of it again as soon as the lights came up. The Cinésong Festival took place at The Forum des Images, in the Forum des Halles in the 1st Arrondissement between Wednesday, 20th and Sunday, 24th October. An incredible feat of organization by Cinésong’s Anne Grange, it opened with a hugely ambitious four-hour feast of music and image centered on French music video dating between the years 2002-2004. Split into four thematic programmes, the opening comprised a staggering fifty or so videos, ranging from song, rock, electro, hip-hop, short-fictions, animations, documentaries… with everything from the openly commercial to the blatantly experimental. It was a case of starting as Cinésong meant to go on. From an open-to-all debate on the future of music-video and musical short-film (opinions coming from professional artists, musicians, producers, directors, representatives of the music industry, etc.), to a demonstration of a machine that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an episode of the original Star-Trek; designed like a fifties juke-box, with a screen attached to the top, the ST36 dates back to the sixties and basically gave birth to music-video. Past and future covered, the festival started its international sweep with a celebration of Finnish films and clips, jumping from there to a celebration of Germany’s efforts. OH, MERDE! LOOK WHAT I MISSED! A celebration of innovative producer Michael Shamberg, showing samples of his work with various directors and TONS of creative magic with legendary Brit band New Order, as well as artists including Grace Jones and Patti Smith. MERDE ALORS!  But I was present at the celebration of Canadian talent, supported by Bravo!FACT and MaxFACT (Foundations to Assist Canadian Talent), and by CHUM TV, in the presence of Cinésong ‘s Anne Grange, Bravo!FACT and MaxFACT Executive Director Judy Gladstone and film-makers Alexandre Franchi and Andrew Hayes. The problem with subjecting oneself to a deluge of music and imagery is in trying to separate all the individual pieces afterwards. Looking at a list of names and titles and trying to put sounds and images to them after they’ve been cooked into mush in the emotional department of the brain is no easy task, so here is a slap-dash attempt at just a few: Roaches, directed by Aaron Woodley, with music by Philip Sayce, made a strong first impression: set in a (very) seedy apartment block, a cool young man in a dark room starts blasting his guitar as the roaches come out to play: a deranged neighbour starts screaming; his insane wife sits laughing to herself; a sexy, rubber-clad dominatrix dances alone. About as cool as cool is, it brings home the fact that both cinema and music are as much about mood as they are about emotion. Fata Morgana, directed by Alexandre Franchi, with music perfomed by Natalie Choquette, got the audience laughing with an excellent depiction of the intensity of childhood imagination, cutting between shots of a young boy playing with a couple of dolls, to live action shots of the way the game is playing in his mind. The beautiful female heroine sings opera as she slays all evils and makes her way to him. The film ends with the child standing alone, holding the doll. Only at this point do you realize who the female probably is, and that the boy is lonely. It is very moving. A little masterpiece, in fact. Spare Change, directed by Andrew Hayes, with music by Blue Room, was a masterful mood piece, utilizing the jazz song to heighten the paranoid, splintered mind of a man in a situation that is never explained. The piece of film and the song don’t just compliment each other, they are each other. From the slick surface of the music and the fast city people, to an underlying threat that nobody is really sure of what might happen in the next breath, edgy music and cutting-edge imagery are a marriage made in heaven, depicting hell. Tooth-paste, directed by Larry Weinstein, with music by Alexina Louie, this is already a cult classic and a personal favorite, inspiring me to announce loudly: ‘I want that one!’ Having once seen an arts show about an English language opera based on the movie ‘Rebecca,’ Tooth-paste is a movie I wish I had made. Using the power of operatic emotion to express a seemingly innocuous (and hilariously Pythonesque domestic squabble over a tube of toothpaste), it slyly demonstrates the powerful, hidden emotions behind the fight, as the squabble quickly transforms itself into a total melt-down of the relationship. A modern classic. Sissy Boy Slap Party, directed by Guy Maddin, music by The Zani Drummers, this is the gay communities answer to The Three Stooges, showing a disgruntled older man standing amongst a lounging crowd of posturing, semi-clad men, he announces that he’s off to buy more condoms and tells them they’d better…
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