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FutureShorts 2006
35 mm 
By Matt Siegel
Where would we be without whimsy? Without that oh so human ability to flit and float upon a cloud weaved from our own dreams and longings? Our desire to desire and to love? The ability to distractingly anthropomorphize the purring kitten while blissfully marching past the car crash? According to the people at the British-based FutureShorts film festival, any conjecture on the subject doesn’t seem to matter, as we’ll all be inhabiting a bleak enough future to find out for ourselves soon enough.

The good news? Even if we end up like the protagonist in Juan Diego Solanas’ “The Man Without A Head,” wandering an apocalyptically post-industrial cityscape in search of a proper noggin with which to accessorize for his date, things won’t be that bad. After all, in this visually stunning short, as in UK Director Steve Smith’s “Leap of Faith, and fellow Brit Ruben Sutherland’s music video for band “The Phoenix Foundation,” the message for the aspiring neo-Luddite seems to be that while we may find ourselves lost amongst the wicked machines, we need never surrender to them our souls. A little simplistic perhaps, but probably just the right message for a world that lives to love cars, while loving to hate fossil fuels.

More important though than the focus on message was the stirring emphasis placed on visual form on display in the standout films. Hungarian entry “Before Dawn,” conveys the story of a cross-border smuggling escapade gone wrong in the murkily monochromatic hours of the wee morn. With virtually no audible dialogue the film is able to convey a sense of the life pulsing just beneath the surface of our everyday life with haunting clarity. French director Valery Pirson’s “The Pistachio,” an existential examination of the pull of modern life on our daily psyche (she is French, after all), uses a jarringly jumpy yet vivid form of animation to give birth to the internal life of man that is all at once unsettling and strangely cozy.

My two favorite films of the evening were those that, while exploring interesting technical and visual ground, were remarkable more for their subject matter than their film chops. German Jan Schomburg’s brilliant deconstruction of time and fate “Never eveN,” follows the life of a forward living man stuck suddenly in a world in reverse. His ability to find love and fulfillment speak to all of the best and most difficult aspects of love and relationships; our inability to hold on to things as they are balanced against the triumph of loving that which is fleeting daily before our eyes. On the other end of the spectrum is Run Wrake’s “Rabbit,” (incorrectly translated as “Hare”) a wickedly dark fable on the subject of avarice and the destructive paths down which it leads.

All in all the show wasn’t quite equal to the sum of its parts. While certainly entertaining and interesting, I couldn’t help but wish for more of a unifying theme or central motif to bring everything together. It felt a bit too much like a poor-man’s buffet, stocked to the brim with trifles to make up for the lack of substance. While the best among them are quite worth watching you might want to consider watching them on your laptop at home, as they are all readily available for download on the internet. The cinematic experience murdered by the convenience of the net. How’s that for a bleak future?

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