The Venice Film Festival posted 70-ish short films online to commemorate their 70th anniversary. I watched them gradually over the past year. These are the ones I especially liked. Least favorites are here and the rest here.

Shinya TsukamotoAbandoned Monster

A giant robot vs giant monster film that handily beats Pacific Rim, co-directed by a kid (his son?)

Athina Rachel Tsangari24 Frames Per Century

Two film projectors on an island aim picture over the ocean, running only a frame per few seconds, and as the reel runs out a woman appears to insert the new one and switch over.

Paul Schrader

Paul wears a harness of cameras pointing at himself, walks the city giving a monologue about cinema which is worth transcribing in full.

Paul Schrader on the High Line, May 29th, 2013. When I first came into the film business it was a time of crisis. Society was in upheaval. There was a drug revolution, sex revolution, gay rights, women’s rights, civil rights, anti-establishment, and the times required new heroes, new themes for movies, and we had about fifteen years of interesting film. Motion pictures are again in a time of crisis – only today it is a crisis of form, not a crisis of content. We don’t know quite what movies are. We don’t know how long they are. We don’t know how you see them, where you see them, how you pay for them. Feels more like 1913 than 2013. Everything is being made up on the fly. The idea of filmed entertainment is undergoing a systematic change. Every week brings another change. No one knows for sure what it’ll be like. It won’t be a projected image in a dark room in front of an audience – that’s 20th century. I also know that content is character, story, theme. Form is delivery systems. Content is the wine and form is the bottle. There is no content without form. There is no wine without the bottle. When the form is changing, content can’t stabilize. You can’t make a revolutionary film in the middle of a revolution. My concern is that this period of transition we’re going through may not in fact be a transition at all, but a new status of permanent technological change, which never stabilizes, will never resolve itself to the point where content can again reign supreme.

Yorgos Lanthimos

A proper drama with full credits. Two girls have a pistol duel.

Yonfan

Costume dance!

Salvatore Mereu

Young goat herder is watching movie on his phone that starred older goat herder many years ago – presumably something by Vittorio De Seta, since the short was dedicated to him.

Catherine Breillat

Hilariously self-deprecating – a café monologue about cinema’s ties to money and power is interrupted by some kids on their way to see a movie, but not the new Breillat because “I want something light, not to have to think.”

Walter Salles

Two photographs taken minutes before new popes were announced, while a woman tells a story of her absent mother who sent her a letter. “I keep you inside of me, like a film I watch and watch without ever tiring.”

Abbas Kiarostami

Laughing kid directs a remake of The Sprinkler Sprinkled.

Samuel Maoz

Hilarious digital representation of “the death of cinema”

Milcho Manchevski

Ironic piece about people engrossed in their portable devices – one girl watches a video about people on the street failing to notice some tragedy, ponders the video while walking right past another tragedy everyone is failing to notice.

Franco MarescoThe Last Lion

Hammy gangster type sings happy birthday to the festival in front of a giant cake and two silent twins, then devours the golden lion cake topper.

Aleksei Fedorchenko

Close-up split-screen faces of people dreaming movies (with sfx)

Ulrich SeidlHakuna Matata

Three guys say “Hakuna Matata” mantra-like, four times. Then three guys in a different setting, standing together in the same way, same action. Finally two of the original guys sweeping the floor. I have no idea what it means but I liked it.

Based on a controversial-in-1851 novel which was apparently filmed before in 1975, though IMDB has little to say about that version. Opens in 1835 Paris, great viscount Michael Lonsdale is visiting sex queen Senora Vellini (Asia Argento playing Spanish, the best work I’ve seen from her) when he spies young Ryno de Marigny. Ryno (a large-lipped newcomer) has been seeing her for many years, but swears this was the last time, on the eve of his marriage to lovely, upright Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida, older sister of the Fat Girl, lately in Rubber and Kaboom).

Ryno moves in with his wife, her gramma and gramma’s friend Yolande Moreau (of Amelie and Micmacs) and all is well. But Hermangarde doesn’t know the depths of her hubby’s relationship with Vellini. They were extremely in love/lust, ran away to Algeria and had a daughter together who died from a scorpion sting (shot in a very classy way, painful without being graphic), and since then they’ve had an obsessive love/hate thing. So after Ryno moves his family to the distant seaside, Vellini shows up and eventually wins him back. Lonsdale gets the final word.

Wow, for years I thought I would hate this movie, but it popped up on best-of-decade lists so I gave it a shot and enjoyed the whole thing. It’s even a genre I dislike, the youth coming-of-age story, but this one’s aimed at adults (creepy adults maybe, all NC-17 for underage sex).

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Anaïs (henceforth Anais) is the fat girl (French title was something like To My Sister!) on vacation with her parents and hot older sister. After some frank sex chat (younger Anais: “If I meet a man I love I’d want to be broken in. The first time should be with nobody.”) the girls meet roguish Italian Fernando, who’s making out with older sister Elena in a restaurant within minutes. Anais barely seems to pay attention, kills time the whole movie singing and talking to herself, imagining multiple boyfriends, chanting about being bored.

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First-time sex scene follows between Elena and the boy. She tries to back out, but he counters, not about to give up. “All the girls take it the back way. That way it doesn’t count. It’s a proof of love.”

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Excellent, unique in its shots and pacing and general outrageousness. I’d watch more Breillat for sure. I get the feminist label for the most part – it’s told completely from girls’ perspectives. The ending worries me, where the older sister and her mom get killed by a maniac who then rapes Anais. Doesn’t seem too feminist, that. Maybe the very end is feminist – Anais insisting to the cops and medics that she wasn’t raped. She can’t mean she wanted it, so maybe she’s making comparisons to her sister’s experience (Anais was in the room at the time). All sex is/isn’t rape, that sort of thing.

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The most interesting part is really the relationship between Elena and the boy. He steals a ring from his mother and gives it to Elena, leading to parental intervention and the abrupt end of the vacation. The boy tricked Elena into having sex, but it didn’t ruin her life; she’s still crazy for him. The director doesn’t talk plot in the DVD features, just metaphor – pressing forth, climbing mountains, doing something that is beyond me. Film should be a tormenting experience! She presents herself as an actor-torturing sadist, but the actors all seem happy in behind-the-scenes footage. Breillat seems the stereotype of an arty Euro filmmaker, but her great movie proves otherwise.

Older sister Roxane Mesquida later starred in two more Breillat films. Mom Arsinée Khanjian is Atom Egoyan’s wife so she’s in all his movies as well as Code Unknown and Irma Vep. Dad Romain Goupil is a director, has worked with Chantal Akerman. Our D.P. Giorgos Arvanitis shot films for Theo Angelopoulos, and Breillat made the movie Romance (X), which I skipped in Barcelona to see either Wild Wild West, Happiness or Judas Kiss.