Short Film Sunday #3: La Jetée


Sometimes it’s fruitful to take a step back from the flash and sparkle of modern, CG-laden movies in order to see an old concept from a fresh perspective. “Fresh,” in this context, refers to a French short film from 1962 entitled La Jetée. In stark contrast to the whiz-bang excitement of this summer’s recent time travel film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, this week’s Short Film Sunday candidate takes a more thoughtful, quietly intensive path.

Shot in black and white and mainly consisting of a compilation of still images, La Jetée is a micro-budget production that nonetheless captures the imagination with it’s melancholy imagery and genuinely unnerving presentation. The story follows an unnamed man who has been chosen to undergo experimental time travel tests wherein his consciousness is sent back through time in order to forestall the imminent apocalypse via nuclear holocaust.

Clocking in at a modest twenty-eight minutes, the film shifts from the grim, bombed-out ruins of Paris to the relative peace of the nonspecific pre-war era, in which our protagonist engages in a romantic relationship with a woman he remembers from his childhood, much to the displeasure of his captors. Still, director Chris Marker manages to craft a compelling love story between the woman and the time traveler in such a short time, much more so than many other feature-length movies. And the relationship between the two is still only a single facet of this thematically dense and beautifully realized work. The shocking bleakness of the ending, for instance, may help to explain why this film has survived so long in the collective psyche of critics and the movie-watching public alike.

While originally in French, La Jetée is available online with both English subtitles and a English language dub, both of excellent quality.

The English dub can be found here:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Short Film Sunday #2: Six Shooter


Hello, one and all. Today I bring you lovely people a short film called Six Shooter from the Irish master of dark comedy, Martin McDonagh. It tells the story of Donnelly, played by the incredible Brendan Gleeson, and his train ride to Dublin the day after learning of his wife’s tragic death. On the train he meets an amusing asshole of a kid, Rúaidhrí Conroy, who’s mother just died the previous day and two grieving parents who’ve just lost their infant to a cot death.

From here the film devolves into the usual incredibly dark yet hilarious tragedy that we’ve come to expect from a Martin McDonagh film. However, this movie in many way is about much more than a macabre train ride to Dublin. It’s about death and how we deal with it in a godless world. Donnelly, a man who’s just lost his wife, is completely at a loss as to how he should react to the death around him. Should he morn loudly and passionately like the young married couple do, or should he detach himself from it with cool humor like the boy does? It’s a difficult question to attack, but McDonagh does it with aplomb. He’s able to address the question with biting dark humor without losing the emotional connection to his characters and their central tragedy. This is in no small part due to the brilliant performances by both Brendan Gleeson, who will later co-star in In Bruges, and Rúaidhrí Conroy who bring a tremendous emotional current through out every minutes of the film. It’s really a beautiful film that achieves so much and acts as a great precursor to the incredible films McDonagh will later deliver. Please check it out above.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Short Film Sunday #1: Lily and Jim

Hello once again, people of the internet. After a long day mostly filled with the compulsive and unhealthy watching of far too many short films, I came up with the brilliant idea of spreading the beauty of the medium to the unwashed masses via a weekly column on this humble website of ours. This incredible art form has been undercut for too long, and I plan to give it some long overdo exposure. So, with this noble goal in mind, I bring you the first ever Short Film Sunday.

I’ve found that in the modern era of the internet and any number of other newfangled contraptions there’s a pervasive problem with forming actual connections. We may be in the same room or even sitting across from one another, but it seem like it’s harder than ever to actually build up the courage and put yourself out there to form an actual link with another human being. It’s this ever present idea that Don Hertzfeldt attacks with his brilliant short film, Lily and Jim.

Presented in a low budget style akin to the doodles and scribbles that are no doubt familiar to any high schooler who’s ever been bored during math class, Lily and Jim presents the story of the world’s most awkward blind date, ever. The titular characters are so immobilized by their own insecurities and fears that they are unable to connect in any real way, instead spiting out meaningless and really quite awkward small talk. They’re just trying to find someone to be with, but they’re just so incapable that it all at once becomes hilarious and tragic. They both sit there wanting the same thing, just to connect, to not be alone, but they can’t, none of them will take that first step and really put themselves out there. Instead they soak in their own self loathing and neuroticism and end up where they started, alone.

In may way this kind of thing is exactly why I love short films. In these short 13 minutes Don Hertzfeldt is able to build an illuminating microcosm of modern relationships, showing us how much we vie for human contact but tragically sabotage ourselves in a vain effort to not be hurt. It achieves something that most films can’t even get close to in their lofty 120 minute run-times. By simplifying and shortening he’s able to deliver a clear picture without any of the bloat inherent to many feature length films. It really is quite amazing and something that people shouldn’t underestimate for its short film moniker.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5