here come the girls 1
This is the first short film collection I've reviewed but (full disclosure) the nice folks over at Peccadillo Pictures were kind enough to send this over so I thought I'd give it a shot.
Most of these short films are not obscure - three of them I'd seen previously at various film festivals, and four have won awards of some kind from gay and lesbian festivals worldwide. The collection features such high-powered lesbian names such as Roberta Munroe (who programmed the short film section of Sundance for five years) and Guinevere Turner. A close reading of the credits of each film shows many of these filmmakers thanking each other, the lesbian filmmaking scene is fairly close-knit and this collection has street cred.
As an overall collection the film has strengths and inexplicable weaknesses. For instance, the films are generally well made, with nary a camera wobble to be seen, but I can't for the life of me figure out why the person collating this DVD would start with one of the weakest films first. It starts off the collection in the worst possible way. Luckily it picks up (with one notable exception).
A Soft Place - Dir Suzanne Guaci - 1 Star
Yeah, this one really had no place being in this company, or on this DVD. What we have here is a one-trick wonder, and the one trick it has doesn't play very well. The camera sits as still as the characters and there's little in the way of story development. My overwhelming reaction at the end of the film wa a desire to slap the cheating wife for whining, and to slap the lesbian lover for listening. A very long 11 minutes.
Private Life - Abbé Robinson - 3.5 Stars
The thing about short films is that they're great, because if you hate a film, it only goes for 10-15 minutes. If you like it however, what sucks is that it only goes for 10-15 minutes! Bummer. I could easily have watched a feature film starring these characters. In fact, I really wish I had, because if I have one strong criticism of this film it is that it packs too much into 15 minutes.
The period detail was fantastic, so much so that every now and then I found myself getting too hung up on some small thing and missing some of the dialogue, so I had to rewind. I loved the joy in the ending, and I loved the attempt at mixing humour and angst. Perhaps a little artificial in feel, but very nice work.
Dani and Alice - Roberta Munroe - 3 Stars
Gosh, if I'd known what was coming I'm not sure I would have pressed play. There's a moment early in this film when your blood runs completely cold, because no lesbian in the world wants to admit that we are every bit as capable of inflicting violence upon each other as men are to women. Absolutely chilling.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film does not hang together as nicely as it might have. The actors have been given one emotion each, and they play it hard. Again, this is a one-issue story, but the issue is important and relevant and needs to be told. I'm torn between disgust and amazement (and that's just about Guinevere Turner's bad acting!). A strong piece, but you'll only watch it once.
Below the Belt - Dominique Cardona & Laurie Colbert - 3 Stars
This one is kinda sexy. The boxing scenes are full of energy, the lesbians are obviously into each other, and the temerature is running hot enough so that when the inevitable interruption to the passion becomes (because what's a story without a twist?) you're genuinely annoyed.
An interesting take on family relationships. I like the dynamic with the mother and daughter, and I liked the defiance of the teenagers. It was just enough to be real, but not so much to be overblown. Loses points for the weird Romeo and Juliet references.
Fem - Inge Blackman - 0.5 Stars
Huh? Here's an odd duck. It's more like a PowerPoint presentation with music than a film. Should not even remotely be here. Commits the cardinal sin - it's boring.
Wicked Desire - Angela Cheng - 3.5 Stars
A young girl, painfully out of place in her midwest town and persecuted by her mother, seen through the eyes of a younger sister who doesn't quite understand. Picture the young girl as Boys Don't Cry in miniature. The photography is excellent, probably the best on this collection, and the story is as deep and subtle as I think short film allows.
I think the only place this fell down for me was the tendency to rely on what was essentially caricature to make a point, but the point was a good one, and it rang out loud and clear. Rewards multiple viewings I've found, to look for the nuances in the expressions of the children. Nice stuff.
Congratulations Daisy Graham - Cassandra Nicolaou - 4.5 Stars
Fantastic. Just wonderful. Harrowing, beautifully shot, utterly devastating. It's like all your worst nightmares about growing old brought to life before your eyes, condensed into 15 minutes. This is a treatise on ageing, on love, on commitment and utter faithfulness.
The brief scenes where we flash back to the women's youthful love and passion are gorgeously presented, and when the camera came back to the present with the music no longer playing I found I was crying. The end is both appropriate and frustrating, and both times I watched it I flinched at the final scene. Easily the best of the collection, and possibly one of the better lesbian shorts I've ever seen.
Late - Guinevere Turner - 2 Stars
An interesting idea that falls short in execution, which describes so many of Guinevere Turner's projects unfortunately. The central conceit is interesting - in this day and age of phones and social media, would you notice if someone you loved went missing for days, and even if you did, would you wonder about their safety, or would you just complain about how it inconveniences you that they're not there?
The idea of simply panning around the room to piece together the mystery is OK, but the faked low-pitched voice of the "date" done by Guinevere Turner made me laugh once, and then cringe for the rest of the film.
Happy Birthday - Roberta Munroe - 2.5 Stars
Despite the presence of usually hilarious Julie Goldman, this attempt at couples humour falls a little flat, but it does have moments of downright funny. Such as the curious incident of the backwards dildo harness, and the attempts by Goldman to inject humour into awkward situations.
However, I did not even remotely believe the two couples were in love, I did not believe the young butch's angst about being "topped", and I totally didn't believe one of the women was even gay - and I'm not even sure why. (BTW - it was the short-haired one I did not believe). This looks like a movie that was made on a weekend by a group of friends who had a thoroughly good time making it, and improvised half of it, but who the hell cares anyway. Not terrible, but not great.