Review: Bristol Encounters Film festival

By October 17, 2015



John Cassavetes once said, “I have a one-track mind. That’s all that I’m interested in – love. And the lack of it when it stops”.

Last month I attended a programme of eight short films at the Encounters film festival entitled “Pillow Talk”. The programme consisted of three animations and five live action shorts all focusing on the multitude of emotions that come from forming and breaking relationships.

Sexlife The first in the programme, Sexlife follows Dan and Mia who have been unable to have sex since the birth of their son. Dan attempts to seduce Mia by dressing up as Tim Curry during his role in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Hilarity and earnest conversations on the pitfalls of marriage and parenthood follow. While the film boasted one of the most even uses of both drama and humour out of the 8 films, much of the acting seemed both over and undercooked.

Modern Love: Breaching The Seawall Modern Love is a short animation (2 minutes 58 seconds to be precise) that uses a striking and creative visual language to tell the story of a relationship that blooms in a foreign city. The story is told through the voice over of our central focus, Laurel. This, in combination with flourishes of colourful symbolism and abstract interpretation, helps guide us through the events that lead up to a modern relationship in a modern city. Manila is our backdrop, it is presented as vibrant and diverse and lends to the endearing nature of such a sweet tale.

Stutterer This short follows a man with a severe stutter, he communicates using sign language and rarely speaks. The film explores the character’s internal conflict that arises when his exclusively online girlfriend decides she wants to meet. This piece featured some of the most articulate cinematography out of all of the live action shorts. It handles its character’s debilitating speech impediment creatively and feels current, relatable, and life-affirming. While it’s ending is questionably unambiguous, the films clever pacing and warm insight into such a disorder makes it a forgivable conclusion to a well made short film.

Sofia Sofia was the second animation in the programme and it would be wise to describe the film as the programme’s most abstract. Unlike most animations our titular Sofia and everything around her appears to be made of felt. Sofia is featureless and crudely animated, every night she drifts into a sleep with dreams of her perfect mate, unfortunately she is rudely awaken and finds herself in bed alone as before. The mumbling piece is punctuated by a crescendo of jazz instrumentation that clutters and falls and just as abruptly stops, this was my favourite use of music in the programme by far.

Love is Blind This film felt too comical to be taken as an intelligent lament on the pitfalls of adultery. Comic timing and likeable characters make the film breezy viewing but it lacks an emotional core and any definitive message.

Carapace One of the three French films in the programme (the other two being Sofia and Bachelorette), Carapace introduces us to Lili, who cannot have sex with her partner for an undisclosed medical reason. Its key themes are desperation, sexual frustration and fear of abandonment. Carapace boasts incredible visuals that are digitally augmented to appear as an oil painting. The colours slosh and swim across the screen presenting us with an interpretation of our character’s universe, which is askew, abstract and without consistency. The performances are subtle and well executed, the dialogue is poetic and at some points tragic, the direction sustains the energy of being both stylish and intense.

Bachelorette Party The last French entry, Bachelorette Party follows Judith who is soon to be married. Before the day of her wedding Judith wants to have sex with a woman, something she has been considering for some time, she choses a high-class escort. Unfortunately, despite it’s interesting premise the characters are unbelievably dull, there is no room for development just lots of empty dialogue that leads to an anti-climatic kiss and you know what. While the film is stylishly shot and transcends amateur status through its technical execution, it cannot make up for its many pitfalls, one of them being its 15 minute running time which feels like an eternity.

Ernie Biscuit Ernie Biscuit is rich with beautifully bleak Claymation, silly slapstick, mute characters and a perfectly Parisian score. It’s also wonderfully dark. Though the 20-minute animation is heavy handed with its absurd themes, it’s surreal and woeful tone becomes too much to resist. Told entirely through an omniscient narration, Ernie Biscuit manages to capture the hearts of its audience, make them laugh, and miraculously still says a great deal about spontaneous relationships, long-lost loves, and loneliness.