Today's Shorts: 10 Ave Maria (2011), The Matrix (1999), Footlight Parade (1933), Ménilmontant (1926)
An interesting short film by Aruban writer and director, Juan Francisco Pardo, 10 Ave Maria ambiguously explores themes of isolation and meaning with hints of surrealism.
As with another one of Pardo's shorts, Awa Brak, there is a strong reliance on pure cinema and visual storytelling that builds towards a multi-faceted exploration of our protagonist. So, despite not having a heavy punch and enduring a few technical problems with focus (that are redeemed by the beautiful landscape shots), 10 Ave Maria is an expressive and immersive cinematic experience.
Every time I return to this film, and I've seen it dozens of times, I assume I've seen it all. But... nope. There's always more to be said about, and found within, The Matrix. In such, whilst I find new faults, there's always an affirmation that this is nonetheless a masterpiece.
What really struck me today was a core problem with the script. In the simplest terms, the Wachowskis have seemingly written a film called the Matrix, and then decided to write a script about it. So, whilst it's nice to see two directors in complete control of their story and its message, for them to constantly remind us of this fact with overt symbolism, references, metaphors and exposition is quite trying.
With more ambiguity and indirect storytelling, The Matrix would probably be one of my all time favourite films. But, as is, The Matrix is a compelling film that I can't stop returning to for the insane world building and complex, far-stretching narrative.
Footlight Parade is a fun picture of two parts; there's the narrative and then there are the musical set-pieces - and they have absolutely nothing to do with one another. In such, this film builds towards theatrical performances that a group of dancers struggle to put on under the management of Jimmy Cagney's Chester Kent. With the finale, in which we see three performances put on in one night, we jump into sequences that are never mentioned, practised or even hinted at at any point during the narrative. This is a monolithic plot hole, one that is formally projected as a movie sequence, not even nearly a theatrical performance.
Does this really matter though? Nah.
The three musical sequences are a dazzling spectacle of choreography and movement - especially the water sequence, which is truly phenomenal. And the narrative that precedes this is light-hearted and enjoyable with well-constructed characters - though, not the strongest plot.
So, whilst I wouldn't say this is a masterpiece (maybe the water sequence is), Footlight Parade is a pretty good movie and lots of fun.
Ménilmontant is, in certain respects, one of the most modern silent films you'll probably ever see, but also one that's aesthetics capture the most awe-inspiring elements of silent cinema. With some of the best performances ever put to screen that easily outshine a lot of what is put out today and given awards, this narrative has an immensely powerful emotional punch as it skillfully explores themes of love, loss, brutality, family and sisterhood. Added to this is the masterful camerawork, direction and editing that impressionistically emphasise these brilliant performances at a vigorous pace - all of which come together to produce one of the most visceral and impactful filmic experiences I've ever had.
If you need any more convincing to see this film, look no further than the opening sequence.
End Of The Week Shorts #7.2
Osama - The Steps We Take (Together)
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