Shorts watched May 2008

Rare Exports Inc. (2003, Jalmari Helander)
One of those one-joke comedy shorts. The joke is that this elite group of skilled hunters are capturing wild “father christmases” and training them to sit at mall displays listening to children request gifts. It’s got a nice visual style (if you dig watching naked old men get captured, hosed down and beaten), and I guess besides the Eija-Liisa Ahtila short it’s the only film I’ve seen from Finland.

The Official Rare Exports Inc. Safety Instructions (2005, Jalmari Helander)
And since I didn’t like it much, I watched the sequel and didn’t like that much either. Like all sequels, it’s longer with more effects and new characters. This time the santa-hunters teach safety and behavior lessons and execute an unrehabitable santa.

OïO Cinepainting (2003, Simon Goulet)
Took over a decade to make with the participation of 100+ Canadians. Looked like gloopy claymation swamp monsters wrecking countless painted glass vases.
I liked it, would watch again.

Workers Leaving The Factory (1995, Harun Farocki)
A catalogue of scenes of workers leaving factories, including the Lumiere film shown about ten times along with Intolerance, Red Desert, Clash By Night, I think Modern Times, Man of Iron, Metropolis, some German movies, and an industrial advertisement for heavy-duty equipment to protect your factory from attackers. Female narrator tells us that there oughtta be more scenes of workers leaving factories, or that there are too many, or that we need to see inside the factories instead of staying out at the gates? I dunno, because she speaks with all the excitement of a hired narrator reading academic text from a translated script, and it put me to sleep twice – impressive for a 35-minute movie. Saves its poetic deep-thought summary for the end: “If we line up 100 years of scenes of people leaving factories we could imagine that the same shot had been taken over and over… like a child who repeats its first word for 100 years to immortalize its pleasure in that first spoken word… or like far-eastern artists who repeatedly paint the same picture until it is perfect and the artist can enter the picture. When we could no longer believe in such perfection, film was invented.” Cute, but I prefer Kaurismaki’s take on the Lumiere short, and all these shots of people leaving work make me want to see Joe vs. The Volcano again.

From the director’s article on the film:

I have gathered, compared, and studied these and many other images which use the motif of the first film in the history of cinema, “workers leaving the factory,” and have assembled them into a film, Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik (Workers leaving the factory, video, 37 minutes, b/w and color, 1995). The film montage had a totalizing effect on me. With the montage before me, I found myself gaining the impression that for over a century cinematography had been dealing with just one single theme. Like a child repeating for more than a hundred years the first words it has learned to speak in order to immortalize the joy of first speech. Or as though cinema had been working in the same spirit as painters of the Far East, always painting the same landscape until it becomes perfect and comes to include the painter within it. When it was no longer possible to believe in such perfection, film was invented.

In 1895, the Lumières’ camera was pointed at the factory gates; it is a precursor of today’s many surveillance cameras which automatically and blindly produce an infinite number of pictures in order to safeguard ownership of property. With such cameras one might perhaps be able to identify the four men in Robert Siodmak’s The Killers (1946) who, dressed as workers, enter a hat factory and rob the payroll. In this film one can see workers leaving the factory who are in fact gangsters.

The first camera in the history of cinema was pointed at a factory, but a century later it can be said that film is hardly drawn to the factory and is even repelled by it. Films about work or workers have not become one of the main genres, and the space in front of the factory has remained on the sidelines. Most narrative films take place in that part of life where work has been left behind.

The Phantom Museum (2003, Quay bros.)
Starts with John Carpenter-style music, setting up the camera and lingering too long on each shot, but it picks up the pace soon. Don’t think they were being modest with the post-title card calling this a “random” trip through the museum of medical oddities. Showing off items they thought were interesting, bringing them to life with stop-motion whenever possible. Nothing much revelatory in the hospital (except the spiked chastity belt, ooh) or the film, but it’s nice that the Quays are still out there.