The relevance of short films grows in the structure of what they represent. Usually they function as a business card but more and more, if it can show an inherent basis for an ongoing story, it has the possibility of becoming a series. The Palm Springs Shortfest highlights this art form in an area which is known for its Hollywood ties.
Opening Night percolated through with “Laughing Matters”. The short with the most visceral impact was “The Pledge For Mr. Bunny” which functioned more as a Terry Zwigoff ode than anything else where the inherent dialogue because a kid egregiously wants to go through a car wash (even on his bike) spells the answers for the medical prayers of his young sister’s plush toy. “Penny Dreadful” brings to mind if Wednesday Adams was raised by a normal family and then was kidnapped for ransom. There is a bit of “Raising Arizona” in the mix as the bumbling husband trying to make his wife happy is not unlike Nicolas Cage’s Hi. While “Killing Vivian” tries with interest (especially with the always creepy Missi Pyle) as well as “Chopper” (with a little too much wanton CG), they never quite live up to their possibilities.
“Amazing Animation” takes more of an international approach but its wares actually dictate the differences which refer and motivate traditional values. “The Banquet Of The Concubine”, oddly enough made in Canada, is an interesting progression of Chinese etiquette from the form of a mistress. The fluidity and texture (like it was drawn on a panel) is quite indicative. “Cicada Princess” shows the romantic cycle of life and death through a type of beetle. The imagery is quite scaled in a wonderful sort of way while the sense of depth really gives a feeling of elegance. “Kiki Of Montparnasse” is the most ambitious by far incorporating all sorts of different animation processes to create a triptych of this woman’s life with a distinct amount of lurid poignancy. “Waterwheel”, dark in its intonations and hailing from Mexico, shows an inherent reflection of death in a father’s eyes but the resolution that betrays him very much reflects in the puppet’s watery eyes.
“After Hours” tries certain penchants for shock that sometimes work, though at other times, is seen as trying too hard. “The Cyclist” starring a nearly unrecognizable Shannon Sossamon (looking more like Mary Elizabeth Winstead in “Scott Pilgrim” than herself) plays a girl searching for a bike. It plays a little bit too fable-based despite its obvious tongue-in-cheek quality. “Follow” definitely works in its “Twin Peaks” imagery, even down to the red curtains. What sells it is the lead actress who takes on a kind of succubus role without ever quite explaining its full meaning. “Likeness”, by the cinematographer behind “Babel” and “Argo”, is a little too self indulgent in reflecting its portent about the beauty myth even if it does feature metaphorical posing of models against what they represent. Elle Fanning speaks volumes with her face but it comes out superficial which likely is part of the point. “Honk If You’re Horny” is just a jolt of pure fun despite moving to the lowest common denominator with a cabby who just doesn’t quite know when to quit.
“Seven Deadly Sins” hits many aspects on all cylinders. “ The Finnish entry “Do I Have To Take Care Of Everything” (which also played Opening Night) is just a farce of many things going wrong with a family on one day, mostly due to a mother who is overcompensating in the most loving way. The slapstick banality of how everything goes wrong from the kids party outfits to her broken shoes to the wedding gift just percolates back to an essence of love (and the audience loved it too). “Hotel” takes its progression from “Beetlejuice” in many ways (as does “Sweet Mosquito”). Both have been seen at past film fests but do not lose their pertinence or hilarity. “Hotel” attacks the form of gluttony with a man supposedly in a desert who is actually a pest in an insect household being dealt with accordingly. “Mosquito” reflects a sloth with a man , who being neglectful in his past life, when he is reincarnated, becomes that of a mosquito.
“Crimes & Misdemeanors” closes out on a decided structure because the incidents they extract should either require point blank honesty or a mask that must be hidden behind. While “The Cleaner”, utilizing an interesting protagonist rebelling against its expected norms, has its strengths, it is “Junkyard”, using a conceptional anime principle, about two friends that grow apart in a town littered by trash, that really hits a nerve with its dark colors and manipulating tone. “The Charlatan” is an interesting play on the con man function though it tends to overplay its hand while “Red Velvet” creates a dexterous set up but the follow-through is a little too over-dramatic.
Palm Springs Shortfest continues to percolate with a sense of knowing within different genres as its creative functionality, especially on an international level, continues to blossom.