Short films have the capacity to cram more ingenuity and creativity into forty minutes, or less, than most features manage in 120. In spite of this they remain largely overlooked and difficult to find.
But for the past eight years Magnolia Pictures and Shorts International have attempted to solve this problem, by releasing the previous years Oscar nominated shorts in cinema's across America, Canada and the U.K. So, from February 2013 it will be possible to see each of last years selected featurretes in a cinema near you.
In honour of this, here's three of the best short subjects of all time.
A Wonderful Love - Fabrice Du Welz - 1999 - 20 Minutes
From the director of The Ordeal", a film that included an inbred barn dance, bestiality, forced cross dressing and male rape comes a movie about love and relationships. Well, Sort of. A Socially inept woman played brilliantly by Edith La Merdy hires a male stripper for her non existent birthday party before killing him and keeping the corpse in her bed. She then proceeds to advertise for an adventurous couple willing to join them in a foursome. Fabrice Du Welz brand of horror, whilst shocking, grubby and unflinching never slips into Hostel and Saw style exploitation.
A dark sense of humour underpins the film keeping the gory weirdness palatable and there is a real sense that whilst the content might be horrific the director remains interested in the personal struggles of his disturbed and lonely protagonist. Shot with typical care and attention by long time Du Welz collaborator Benoit Debie, who also acted as director of photography on the equally challenging Irreversible and most recently The Runaways. A Wonderful Love has been described as an episode of your favourite soap, directed by Mike Leigh and written by Eli Roth. Not one for the faint hearted but well worth a watch for all horror fans. Can be found as a bonus feature on The DVD release of The Ordeal.
La Jetee - Chris Marker - 1962 - 28 Minutes
Set in post apocalyptic Paris, In the aftermath of world war three, a prisoner of war (Davos Hanich) is forced by scientists to travel through time to the future and the past in the hope of rescuing the present. A film that defies explanation. Chris Markers La Jetee influenced an entire generation of science fiction cinema and has acted as the aesthetic and thematic foundation for pretty much every time travel movie since. Terry Gilliams 12 Monkeys is particularly indebted, borrowing its central premise directly from Markers film. Apart from one moment of motion the film uses black and white still images, non-diegetic sound and a singular narrative voice over exclusively to tell its story.
Whilst La Jetee is formerly experimental it manages to keep a simple story of lost love at its heart, with the prisoner using his journeys through time as an opportunity to meet a woman he doesn't know but seems to recognises. La Jetee is at its best when it asks questions about the medium of film itself, discussing filmic and narrative time, memory, temporality and motion. Even questioning how we as an audience process and understand the images we see. La Jetee shows that while a film may be short in length it does not have to be slight or low on ideas. La Jetee was released on a double disc in 2011 combined with another Marker masterpiece, Sans Soleil.
Ray's Male Heterosexual Dance Hall - Brian Gordon - 1987 - 18 Minutes
Bryan Gordon's film won the Oscar for best short feature in 1987 and follows Sam Logan an unemployed business man waiting to be interviewed for a new job. He bumps into a former colleague who explains the secret to business success. Spending your lunch hours at Rays Male Heterosexual Dance Hall. Tangoing, both in the literal and metaphorical sense with your peers whilst talking in a non committal manner about "Business", all the while hoping to be asked to strut your stuff in the limelight with one of the clubs big players.
A meditation of the manoeuvrings of the corporate world in the 1980's, the film satirises the lifestyles of the ostensible successful in a nation obsessed with Gordon Gecko style business moguls. Full of brilliant lines that highlight the duplicitous nature of the board room and its meaningless double talk, all delivered whilst middle aged men in suits dance hand in hand. Gordon has gone on to direct episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office but thanks to the wonders of the internet its possible to view his only film project in full on YouTube. It also features a cameo from Fred Willard if you needed further convincing to go and watch it immediately.