Some short films may have the lowest stakes but can also have the most emotional impact. This is true whether or not viewers are watching a couple make a baby, or someone move to a new town, or someone else starting a new job. I wish I was the third one. Those three are some of the stories we see in the last two blocks of this year’s Shorts Not Pants, where, for the most part, the fest enters their French and long era. Let’s begin.
Viewers can see the minimalist-maximalist dichotomy in Eric K. Boulianne’s Making Babies, which represents Block 7. The main arc of this short is pretty obvious but what makes shorts like this work is its cultural specificity, as a nameless interracial unmarried couple’s (Boulianne and Florence Blain Mbaye) multiple attempts to conceive may or may not drive them apart. One thing that sets this short apart is that it takes away a lot of misconceptions about beta couples. When one thinks of beta couples, one thinks of comfort, but these two are actually trying to achieve a goal that feels difficult to meet. It also manages many tones competently, from funny to gentle and more. There is, lastly, a scene juxtaposition here that’s just hilarious.
Opening Block 8 is a short that can remind viewers that cinema is emotionally subjective. Rachid Allaoua’s Yanni is, sadly, not about the Greek musician but about the titular white passing Muslim kid (Zachary Kaddouri-Champagne), the only one in his town where he lives until a darker skinned Muslim family moves in across the street. Because of this new demographic change, a group of white boys pressure him to vandalise the new neighbour’s house. The short has good intentions, yes, but it also depicts the kind of toxic masculinity that isn’t interesting to watch on screen. The same goes for the predictable way that the short ends.
Thankfully, the block gets better with Serena Robin and Florence Rochat’s Made of Flesh. It’s about a young woman, Lucie (Mara Taquin), who thinks that becoming a woman at a car show is her way into the automotive industry. Viewers have seen crazier things happen, but we all know that for 99% of the time, sadly, this is not how the world works. Flesh is proof that it’s always interesting to explore world cinema even as an anthropological exercise. I attended one too many car shows during my time, and the women and culture I encountered are different from the women here, who do their hair and dress more like either paralegals or flight attendants than car show women.
Shorts like this do show how things work in France in different ways. Nonetheless, it still echoes the fact that France is under the influence of Western patriarchy. It doesn’t matter if Lucie can school the only man in the short about cars. She still lives in a world that prefers to see and touch women than to listen to them. I see influences of Visconti and PTA here. The short, then, becomes about the one definition of anarchy that I read. That it’s omnipresent. Within a facade of conformity, there’s the fire in the eyes of someone breaking the rules in their own way.
Problematic queen Margaret Atwood once said that art is the symptom of being human. If that’s the case, I have no idea what Sequential Paintings say about humanity. But then again, part of criticism is making something up and making it seem smart. This animation short shows its viewers a gallery with paintings showing heads thickly sliced. Boats with eyeballs, shamrocks inside bubbles, etc. These are not a few of my favourite things. I disliked the two minute short during the first viewing. But the more I think of it, stuff inside of stuff is fun, at least in the way this short shows. I deserve fun.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Comedy, Drama
- Release Date: 11/19/2023
- Directed by: Eric K. Boulianne, Florence Rochat, Rachid Allaoua, Serena Robin
- Starring: Florence Blain Mbaye, Mara Taquin, Zachary Kaddouri-Champagne
- Produced by: Catherine Boily, Johannie Deschambault
- Written by: Eric K. Boulianne
- Studio: h264, Pictanovo, SPORT