Summertime Shorts

Orderly or Disorderly (1981, Abbas Kiarostami)

Like an expanded version of Two Solutions to One Problem, A.K. films some situations in two ways each: chaotic and organized, to demonstrate that ordered efficiency leads to happier results. First it’s school children, in line vs. every-man-for-himself. Then they attempt to film traffic patterns, first outside the city then inside. But the traffic cop helping them with their “organized” model is no match for city drivers and pedestrians. Each scene begins with a slate, and at the end A.K. says “cut,” but in certain situations (“disorderly” schoolkids taking forever to board a bus, multiple unsuccessful attempts to get “orderly” traffic patterns) you hear the director and crew talking, discussing their results and the purpose for the film – an early example of A.K.’s love of behind-the-scenes stories and slyly demystifying the filmmaking process (sly because he re-mystifies it in various ways, like the final shot of 10 on Ten, or most of Through the Olive Trees).

stubbornly disorderly traffic:

M. Saeed-Vafa in Senses:

What is normally non-humorous is seen and heard as humorous, ridiculous, or absurd through Kiarostami’s films. Similar to Tati’s Playtime, Kiarostami’s fantastic short Orderly or Disorderly derives its power and humor through shot composition, the use of sound, and, in particular, Kiarostami’s voice over. The high angle long shots of the children in the school-yard lining up to drink water or getting on the bus, as well as the impatient drivers who complicate traffic in a Tehran intersection, reveal the humorous nature of chaos and order in public spaces.

Rotterdam Europoort (1966, Joris Ivens)

A really strange one – you think it’s going to be a doc portrait of the city, but it goes full-on poetic instead. This makes perfect sense once I realize that Ivens is the guy who made A Valparaiso and A Tale of the Wind. I’d gotten him confused with Bert Haanstra somehow, whose movies are just as exciting, but more straightforward and focused, documentary-like. Repeated dialogue (err, monologue), talks about work, old age and youth, the nature of man. Monumental, inexplicable. I watched it twice. IMDB says Chris Marker adapted the narration for France. Shot by Etienne Becker (L’Amour Fou, Malle’s Calcutta) and Eduard van der Enden (Haanstra’s Glas and Fanfare, Tati’s Trafic).

from the Ivens site:

After more than thirty years of work abroad, Ivens was invited by the municipality to make a film in Rotterdam again, where he had shot his well-known The Bridge (1928). Rotterdam-Europoort, whose production took two years, became a layered hybrid of fact and fiction, poetry and legend: a modern interpretation of The Flying Dutchman. Not devoid of critical remarks, it was a challenging way to promote the port.


The figure of a lost soul, who is at one point addressed (by an opera singer) as “Captain,” is Ivens’s and, if we are of a certain age, our own surrogate. This elegant, mysterious, mystified man is embroiled in a scattered existence, at least partly caused by the war, the ongoing burden of its memory, and the onslaught of youth who kill time rather than people.

mysterious Captain in a skirt shows up halfway through:

I Am (Not) Van Gogh (2005, David Russo)

Thinking about Little Dizzle again, I looked up Russo and discovered he has a short I haven’t seen. I’m not crazy about the voiceover – Russo explaining the premise of his proposed short film to a skeptical arts festival council – but the visuals are just what I’d hoped for, more of the chaotic/precise stop-motion of Populi and Pan With Us, this time amongst a festival crowd, flitting rapidly behind the animation, out of time like that Orbital video. I loved the rolling clock – also great are a swimming fish on cut-out paper and an animated mouth lip-synched to David’s flustered narration.

78 Tours (1985, Georges Schwizgebel)

Better than the others I’ve seen by Schwizgebel. Nothing but excellent animation and imaginative transitions as everything morphs into everything else for four minutes, to a catchy accordian theme.

S. Katz: “For 78 Tours Schwizgebel drew out ellipses at varying angles to indicate the positioning of the characters in relations to the camera. Some of these plan views are so complex they look like technical drawings for an engineering project.”

Squirtgun Stepprint (1998, Pat O’Neill)

Black and white water-droplet (squirtgun?) patterns that sometimes seem to flow, but usually just flicker and jitter, seeming to double back on themselves (step print?).

Description by somebody who understands: “O’Neill applied film developer to film stock using a squirt gun, then rearranged the results into rhythmic repetitions.”

stills don’t really make sense for films like these:

Coreopsis (1998, Pat O’Neill)

Line-drawing (or scratching) patterns, abstract, though I tried to make them into faces, bodies, fireworks, footballs. Again with the jittery repeated patterns in the motion. Sometimes a focused bunch of overlapping figures on screen, but just as often a sparse batch of small lines in a vast darkness. The lines get thicker and fuzzier towards the end. After the previous short, I realized this would be silent and played some late Ennio Morricone over it, not to brilliant effect, turning the film into a sitcom title sequence.

Details found online: “O’Neill scratched directly on the film, then altered it using an optical printer.”