(Also published on GreenCine Guru blog)
One of the few consistent DVD series devoted to short films from around the world, Cinema16's DVDs showcase everything the fascinating early works of some of the world's greatest directors to award-winning films from its most exciting new filmmakers, but the problem for those of us in the States is that their discs have previously been unavailable in region 1 format. This new two-disc collection focusing on European filmmakers changes that - it's actually region 0, or "all-region" but will play in US machines - and may be their best yet. Roy Andersson's WORLD OF GLORY, a contemporary classic, is certainly one of the most important films to come from Sweden in the past twenty years but only one of many highlights from this stellar collection by the UK-based Cinema16.
Andrea Arnold, the actress turned startlingly good filmmaker whose feature film Red Road gained her quite a bit of notoriety this past year, directed the short WASP included here, which merely won an Oscar for best short film in 2004. The story's basic: a poor single mother with four young children, wants to have a life, meet a bloke in a bar - her first date in years - while also keeping on eye on her kids (and keeping them hidden from him). Life is bloody hell, basically. But Arnold has such a keen visual eye and the performances are all so heartbreakingly real it scarcely matters. Watching the kids suffering from neglect is a bit hard, but again, Arnold's eye for detail - the insects that grab the kids' attention (and the titular bug making a frightening appearance in particular), their starvation causing them to pick up discarded food. It's stark but unforgettable stuff. Other highlights include: the extremely clever Austrian short COPY SHOP, which ingeniously uses a photocopying method as a sort of animation to tell the story of, yes, a photocopying clerk who copies himself ad infinitum (I saw this film previously at a film festival and hadn't forgotten it). It's almost too clever for its own good, but still quite remarkable; Run Wrake¹s animated RABBIT, a highly memorable morality tale about greed; GASMAN, by talented British director Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar), whom I wish was more prolific, won her her second prize at Cannes. DOODLEBUG, the short Christopher Nolan did before his feature debut Following, is a bit gimmicky and obvious, but interesting for fans of the director's work wanting to see a genesis for his subsequent features. As Nolan says in his commentary, it was the last film he'd made that was purposely technique driven, and in retrospect he finds that rather annoying. But the B&W short is still pretty captivating and darkly funny.
Quite a few of the shorts include director commentaries, too, which are all worth a listen. A collection this large and varied is bound to have a few klinkers - and yours may differ from mine - but overall it's a pretty remarkable collection, one of the finest shorts compendiums in years. It really is like a film school in a box. More detailed information about each film can be found on Cinema16's web site.