Musco (1997, Michael Smith & Joshua White)
A fake 1984 infomercial for a music-oriented lighting equipment company. I don’t get it. It was part of an art installation, and I don’t get those in general, maybe because I don’t live in New York.
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Flash Back (1985, Pascal Aubier)
Two-minute short – soldier is killed in combat, life flashes before his eyes represented by photos going back in time until to the earliest baby picture. Guess Pascal had to find an actor with lots of family photos for this.
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The Apparition (1985, Pascal Aubier)
A guy’s bathroom light makes the Virgin Mary appear in a church across town. Aubier ought to be at least as popular as Don Hertzfeldt.
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Un ballo in maschera (1987, Nicolas Roeg)
Things I like:
1. That the king is played by a woman (Theresa Russell) with a mustache
2. That the action takes place in an ellipsis (“…but”) between the opening and closing text (“King Zog Shot Back!”)

Nice piece, set to music by Giuseppe Verdi. First segment of the anthology film Aria, which I must watch the rest of when I’m not so tired (next segment put me to sleep in a couple minutes).
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Universal Hotel (1986, Peter Thompson)
“1980, I have a strange dream. Between the fortress and the cathedral is the universal hotel.” Slow, calm analysis of photos and reports about a nazi experiment where prisoners were frozen then revival was attempted using boiling water, microwaves and “animal heat.” “I make statements about the photographs which cannot be proven. I speak with uncertainty.” Increasingly intense, with narrated dreams illustrated with photography tricks, a murder-mystery without an ending. Last line: “they come while I’m asleep.” Scary, and I would not have watched this right now had I known nazis were involved, but now I’m glad I did.
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Universal Citizen (1987, Peter Thompson)
Now in Guatemala, Peter talks with a concentration camp survivor who told himself he would move to the tropics if he survived. He did, so he does, laying in a hammock, floating in the warm water, working on the sun roof of his house, listening to Armenian records and refusing to be filmed. Mayan ruins. This time the dream/nightmare scenes lack narration. Ends with a joke (and a shot from the beginning of the other film). Oh wait, no it ends with depression after the credits. I preferred the joke.
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Bunker of the Last Gunshots (1981, Jeunet et Caro)
There’s an insurrection inside the bunker. A timer count backwards, people have gas masks and eyegear and prosthetic limbs, there are shootings, eletroshock, cryogenics, there is complicated machinery, tubes and wires and hidden cameras. Possibly they are Germans, it is possibly post-apocalyptic, and the soldiers possibly go crazy and kill each other. I am not entirely sure of the politics, but it’s a neat little flick, definitely full of the clutter style of their later features.
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Opening Night of Close-Up (1996, Nanni Moretti)
That’s just what it’s about. The nervous cinephile (Moretti himself) who runs an Italian theater is opening Kiarostami’s Close-Up and wants everything to be just right.
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World of Glory (1991, Roy Andersson)
“This is my brother. My little brother. I suppose he is my only true friend, so to speak. [both look away uncomfortably]” I just checked and yeah, Roy Andersson is the acclaimed deadpan comedic filmmaker who made Songs from the Second Floor and You, The Living. I’d believe it, and be almost excited to see those two after viewing this short, a guy grimly introducing us to his sad life, with he and others looking slowly into the camera as if we’re to blame for all this – except why did it start with a mini-reenactment of the holocaust? The whole rest of the movie I’m wondering that… he won’t let go of the “blood of christ” wine pot at mass and it’s supposed to be a funny scene but I’m thinking “the holocaust?!?”
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Reverse Shot explains:

World of Glory locates a society — ostensibly the director’s native Sweden, but easy interchangeable with any modern European country — so paralyzed by ennui, anxiety, and desperation that its inhabitants are apparitions. The main character is a thin, pasty man who takes us on a guided tour of his life — his loveless marriage, his stultifying job, his pathetic day-to-day activities. It was not until the second time I saw the film that I realized that this character had been present in the first shot: dead center of the frame, turning away from the proceedings every so often to fix us with his gaze. His meek, self-effacing misery in the later scenes thus comes into sharper relief: a person who does not act to avert tragedy endures beneath its weight.

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Je vous salue, Sarajevo (1993, Jean-Luc Godard)
“Culture is the rule, and art is the exception. … The rule is to want the death of the exception, so the rule for Cultural Europe is to organize the death of the art of living, which still flourishes.” This two-minute piece is a montage made from a single photograph, with voiceover. Directly to the point, I like it better than almost all of Histoire(s) du cinema.
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Origins of the 21st Century (2000, Jean-Luc Godard)
A bummer of a film, montaging footage from news videos and feature films (The Shining, The Nutty Professor, Le Plaisir) over quiet music with the occasional commentary or block lettering, war and death, pain and happiness and a few plays-on-words.
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If 6 was 9 (1995, Eija-Liisa Ahtila)
Sex, split-screens and supermarkets. More people looking into the camera confessionally, but all about sex this time, not too similar to Today.
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Can’t figure what a full hour-long Ahtila film would be like, but she’s made two of them so I’ll find out eventually.
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Zig-Zag (1980, Raul Ruiz)
Ruiz had adapted Kafka’s Penal Colony ten years earlier so surely he knows he’s making another Kafkaesque film here. A man named H. “realizes he is the victim of the worst type of nightmare: a didactic nightmare” when, late for an appointment, he finds himself part of a global board game at the mercy of pairs of dice. The game keeps changing scale, zooming out, so H. has to travel further distances more quickly – from walking to taxi to train to plane. Rosenbaum (who says it’s Borgesian not Kafkaesque) says it was made to promote a map exhibition in Paris, which to me just makes it more strange than if it was promoting nothing at all. “The history of cartography [is] the business of labyrinth destruction.”
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Either H. or the mysterious gamer was played by Pascal Bonitzer, cowriter of some of Rivette’s best films. “We now live in the pure instantaneous future.”
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Apparently not the best starting point for Katy on Kiarostami’s cinema. She thought it was too simple and repetitive, didn’t see how a realist sketch like this could be considered a film masterpiece. I tried to bring up the italian neorealists and put this movie in context of other late-80’s movies and point out that a simple & straightforward foreign movie will often appeal to americans who like to think of foreigners as simple and straightforward. That’s an extremely unsatisfying thread of an argument, especially since this “simple” film has been championed by Jonathan Rosenbaum and ranked in his top 100 ever, but I don’t know what to tell her since I didn’t see the masterpiece here either. At least I liked the movie, but I’d say the next two in the trilogy (Life and Nothing More / Through the Olive Trees) or the trilogy as a whole may be a masterpiece, not this one by itself.

The setup: Nematzadeh has been warned three times to write his homework in his book, and not on scraps of paper – next time he will be expelled. Ahmed takes Nematzadeh’s book home by mistake and wants desperately to return it. Defying his mom (who completely does not listen) and grandfather (who chats to a neighbor about discipline, saying kids need to be beaten without cause), Ahmed goes off to a neighboring town, asks around, and looks for his friend. Ultimately unsuccessful, he goes home and does the homework twice in both books, sneaking Nematzadeh’s book back in time to avoid punishment. Besides the grandfather bit, there’s another slowdown sidetrack with an elderly man who leads Ahmed to the wrong house while bemoaning that the townsfolk are replacing the wooden doors he made them forty years ago with new iron ones. I think the grandfather/disciple and old man/wood doors bits come together into some grand meaningful theme with the accidentally stolen book, but I don’t know what that would be, exactly, so it just struck me as a cute happy movie with slow bits, recalling the short Two Solutions To One Problem. Maybe the still-in-print book on Kiarostami co-authored by Jonathan Rosenbaum would help me figure it out. Wow, it’s under $14 at amazon, and me with a birthday next week…

Site of the schoolbook mixup… Ahmed helps, while Nematzadeh checks the camera:
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Ahmed explains the situation:
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Ahmed listens patiently to his elders:
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Kiarostami’s signature shot:
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Anthology films are never great, but are usually at least interesting, so I was surprised when this one started out great. But of course it was just front-loaded, and got less great as the other episodes appeared. Didn’t realize at the time that the great one was by Ermanno Olmi (a director who, like Ronald Neame yesterday, has done a couple criterion-dvd-released movies that I know nothing about). Was less of a straightforward story than the other two – an important-seeming older guy leaves business meeting and boards train with this woman’s help, then sits in the dining car thinking about writing the woman a letter, thinking about falling in love with her, all the while surrounded by other passengers incl. a bunch of army and security guys. Doesn’t sound like all that, but I really dug it, balancing the tense (because of the army guys) train ride with the flashbacks and an almost-love story, seemed very beautifully done.

In the third part, Loach lowers the class level a few more notches (after the woman in Kiarostami’s piece had already knocked it down a little) portraying three excitable young men with shit jobs who have been saving up to see this soccer match in Rome. On the train, one shows off his soccer ticket to a refugee kid, who takes the opportunity to swipe his train ticket. The soccer kids realize what has happened – do they demand their ticket back themselves, have the train personnel mediate, or let the cute kid and his poor jail-threatened family keep the ticket then run away from the cops at the station while fellow soccer fans run interference? The latter, and valuable lessons about humanity are learned by all. Actually I found it pretty lame, a crappy version of the triumphant ending of Offside. A valuable lesson about humanity is learned at the end of the first segment as well, the man getting a glass of milk for the mother of a baby in the standing-room section – not the highlight of that segment, but still less hacky than this one’s ending.

In the center slot, Kiarostami shows a kid assigned (through some community service program) to assist a general’s widow, a horrible woman who steals one man’s seat but does not steal another man’s cell phone, and gets into unbudging arguments with both of them. Meanwhile our kid is trying to have a surreal conversation with a young girl who remembers him from his hometown – he never noticed the girl before but she’s a friend of his younger sister. The conversation seems like she’s telling him about someone else, as if he doesn’t remember his own past, but maybe she remembers his past from a different angle; she only knows the parts he had been ignoring. We don’t get much about this guy in the present, what he’s like, but finally the widow gets to be too much and he hides from her somewhere on the train, letting her exit confused without him (with baggage help from the cellphone-argument man, a minor version of the Valuable Lesson About Humanity).

An alright movie – not much innovation in story or composition or anything else, but I’m glad I watched it, and I might make Katy check out that particularly moving first segment sometime if she’s got a half hour to kill.

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On the DVD: a 40-min behind-the-scenes doc where we learn that it took a while to come up with the transitional segments to join the three main pieces. That’s something I could’ve been told in under forty minutes, thanks.

Gymnopedies (1965, Larry Jordan)
An egg floats around on different backdrops interacting with various objects, all cut-out animation a la Gilliam or Borowczyk, set to calm piano music. Feels more like a proof of concept than anything else – if there was a narrative present, I didn’t catch it. Cute, though.
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Lipstick (1999, Pascal Aubier)
Single 6-minute shot beginning under a bed, unsubtitled. Family is getting ready to leave for a trip, the mother is briefly visited by her lover who comes in through the window. Aubier was assistant director on some French New Wave classics in the 60’s, now an actor and a director of (mostly) comic shorts. Liked this a lot (and not only because of the naked dancing), will have to check out more of his stuff.
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Ark (2007, Grzegorz Jonkajtys)
Iffy-looking 3D animation tells apocalyptic story with a twist ending. Our guy wasn’t really the lead scientist onboard an ark of the last surviving humans searching the oceans for new land, just a crazy old man in a convalescent home. Ha! Bah.
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Happy-End (1996, Peter Tscherkassky)
Found footage of a couple sitting down for dinner, toasting the camera, drinking… and drinking and drinking! Dancing, drinking, sitting, more drinking. Different days, different clothes, edited together, eventually with scenes superimposed atop each other, a haunted distortion of a French pop song as the soundtrack.
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Two Solutions To One Problem (1975, Abbas Kiarostami)
Very short with narrator, two kids get in a fight over a torn book. We tally the damages then rewind, and instead of starting a fight, they help repair the book and remain friends. Nice.
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Blah Blah Blah (2006, Dietmar Brehm)
Liquor bottles. Close-ups of objects with strong textures, overexposed porno, an action film in extreme-fast-forward, long pause on an ashtray, back to the liquor bottles, etc. Audio is a quietly rainy/windy day with a metronome hit every three seconds. Looks like old 8mm or 16mm color with some monochrome sections. Pretty alright, probably better in a theater surrounded by like-minded shorts instead of following up a cute Kiarostami piece.
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A Girl, She is 100% (1983, Naoto Yamakawa)
Wow, that wasn’t very good at all. They must’ve thought it’d be the simplest Haruki Murakami story to film. Straightforward, with some good still photography and some bad acting by our IMDB-unknown hero, closing with some rockin’ 80’s music.
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Foutaisies (1989, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
Young Dominique Pinon with 80’s hair tells us about the things he likes and does not like. Very Amelie-feeling, with Delicatessen opening titles (and Deli‘s lead actress).
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The Hitman (2001, Ruben Fleischer)
Mary Lynn Rajskub decides to be a hitman, but her first mark (Paul F. Tompkins) decides not to go through with it and asks her out instead. Just your typical indie comedy short. From the director of Girls Guitar Club, whose film career didn’t take off, I guess.

What Is That (2001, Run Wrake)
Buncha funny animated business involving insects and meat and ringing sounds. Cute, but only three minutes long and pretty inconsequential… not up to Rabbit level. Guess it’s an early work.
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Film Noir (2005, Osbert Parker)
Awesome, very short. Like Fast Film but slower. Some After-Effects-lookin’ animation combined with models and lots of cutouts – not trying to tell a story, just cool visuals/mood. Ahhh, the internet reveals that it was all created in-camera – impressive!
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Banquize (2005, Claude Barras)
Boyer’s French Dictionary: “banquize – heap of floating ice frozen together in close masses.” Might be called Banquise, actually. Simple animation, fat kid wears his snow clothes in summer, dreams of living on banquize and playing with penguins. One day trying to hitchhike there he drops dead from heat/dehydration. Hmm.
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Herakles (1962, Werner Herzog)
Herzog’s very first film, six years before his first feature. This was really good, and not like anything else I’ve seen by WH. Pretty simple structure so I’ll let wikipedia take it below.
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The film relates to six of the twelve labours of Heracles. The film starts with shots of young male bodybuilders working out in a gym, posing on a stage and flexing their muscles. Each of the labours are then announced by on-screen text in the form of a question, followed by related scenes of modern challenges intercut with the bodybuilders. The audio track of the film is saxophone jazz and sounds from a gym.

The question “Will he clean the Augean stables?” is followed by scenes of a garbage dump, “Will he kill the Lernaean Hydra?” is followed by a huge line of stopped traffic on a motorway and people walking around outside their cars, “Will he tame the Mares of Diomedes?” is followed by scenes of car racing and several race crashes including a crash into the spectators and shots of the subsequent disaster and piles of bodies, “Will he defeat the Amazonians?” is followed by scores of young women marching in uniform, “Will he conquer the giants?” is followed by shots of rubble of a destroyed apartment building and men in uniform searching the wreckage, “Will he resist the Stymphalian birds?” is followed by jets flying in formation, shooting missiles and dropping bombs on training targets. The last shot of the film is of a bodybuilder’s buttocks as he goes off the stage through the stage curtains.

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Matta (1985, Chris Marker)
“What I am showing here is no exhibition. It is an appeal: Come and play with me! It’s a very lively game, but nothing happens.” Simple interview with Chilean artist Matta (not surprisingly an Allende supporter), an original member of the surrealist group, talking coherently about his art and all art, human beings, dimension and meaning. Would be nice to get/make a transcript. Would be even nicer to have been able to see the Matta paintings that Marker frames him against, but my video was too low-quality to make out much visual detail.
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Thought I’d watch some shorts tonight, starting with the Guy Maddin shorts listed in the previous post. Unintentional theme: none of them had any spoken dialogue!

Film (Emend) by Deco Dawson
Crazily-edited scratched, grainy black-and-white silent footage of hands? If I hadn’t already known that Dawson was involved with Guy Maddin (as editor and camera op on Dracula and Heart of the World), I easily would’ve been able to tell.

Film (Luster) by Deco Dawson
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Same thing, except now it’s a boy shining shoes instead of a woman sewing. Some peephole photography and scary closeups of the bootblack-mascaraed boy. As far as falsely-aged avant-garde films go, this is thankfully closer to Maddin than Merhige, although it’s less captivating than it means to be. Good music.

Din of Celestial Birds by E. Elias Merhige
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Some Begotten image manipulation meets the time tunnel from 2001: A Space Odyssey accompanied by minimalist music and too much MPEG artifacting. Merhige fans may ask “HOW does he do it?” but I’d like to know “WHY does he do it?” Did jobs dry up after Suspect Zero? Some cool time-lapse of plant life for a second there. Made in collaboration with Haskell Wexler’s grandson. There was a “visual philosopher” involved, ha! The actor who played “son of earth” in Begotten (the dude who gets dragged around by druids through the second half) played “son of light” in this (seen above).

Begone Dull Care by Norman McLaren
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Handpainted film cut to jazz music, excellent in every way. I could watch this all day. First half is full explosive color, multiple layers, second half starts out all slow white scratch lines and finally gets crazy after a couple minutes.

Bread and Alley by Abbas Kiarostami (his first short)
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Opens with a prolonged shot of a boy kicking a can down an alley to the Beatles “ob-la-di, ob-la-da”. Boy can’t figure out how to get down the alley without being chased by a dog. Puzzles it out for a long while, follows an old man but he only goes halfway. Finally braves it by himself and accidentally makes friends with the dog by feeding it. No dialogue. A very happy little movie.

The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film by Richard Lester & Peter Sellers
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A jolly bit of madness out in a field. Not the funniest ten minutes of cinema I’ve ever seen, but worth watching. Some of these guys had a radio program called The Goon Show, which I’ve heard somehow led to this film which somehow led to Petulia and Strangelove and Steve Martin’s Pink Panther remake.

Second half of shorts listing from Cannes 60th anniv. celebration (first half is here):

It’s A Dream by Tsai Ming-liang
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Occupations by a hatchet-wielding Lars Von Trier
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The Gift, more weirdness by Raoul Ruiz
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The Cinema Around The Corner, happy reminiscing by Claude Lelouch
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First Kiss, pretty but obvious, by Gus Van Sant.
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Cinema Erotique, a funny gag by Roman Polanksi with one of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s large-faced actors.
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No Translation Needed, almost too bizarre to be considered self-indulgent, first Michael Cimino movie since 1996.
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At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World by and starring David Cronenberg, one of his funniest and most disturbing movies.
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I Travelled 9,000 km To Give It To You by Wong Kar-Wai.
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Where Is My Romeo? – Abbas Kiarostami films women crying at a movie.
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The Last Dating Show, funny joke on dating and racial tension by Bille August.
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Awkward featuring Elia Suleiman as himself.
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Sole Meeting, another gag, by Manoel de Oliveira and starring Michel Piccoli (left) and MdO fave Duarte de Almeida (right).
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8,944 km From Cannes, a very pleasurable musical gag by Walter Salles.
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War In Peace, either perverse or tragic, I don’t know which, by Wim Wenders.
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Zhanxiou Village, supreme childhood pleasure by Chen Kaige.
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Happy Ending, ironically funny ending by Ken Loach.
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Epilogue is an excerpt from a Rene Clair film.
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Not included in the DVD version was World Cinema by Joel & Ethan Coen and reportedly a second Walter Salles segment.

Not included in the program at all was Absurda by David Lynch (reportedly he submitted too late, so his short was shown separately). I saw a download copy… some digital business with crazed sound effects and giant scissors.