The Mountain Of Submission.

Posted April 23rd, 2007 by Ben

At last!

I’ve been once again tackling my mountain of submissions for the Mobile Cinema. In the wake of the collapse of our plans to tour America (postponed not abandoned my dear friends across the water) I must admit that I rather left Submission Mountain to sit as a part of the scenery in my house, a distant peak that gave me a sense of national pride but which seemed too vertiginous to conquer. With our plans for travelling films once again maturing I have though returned to the foot of the mountain and, like all difficult ascents, the getting started was the hardest part.

I’m not going to name any names because that’s not what I’m here for but for a good couple of weeks I watched in vane. It became less like mountaineering and more like a pot-holing disaster, trapped in the darkness with no hope of escape and just desperate for some slight breath of inspiration to show that there was a way out. And what did I learn? War is bad. Love is tough. Women are horrid. All women are really horrid. And stupid. And an unconvincing zombie lurks round every bend.

But then light came in. First there was Fergus Dingle’s “Mental Health Act”, a film that does unfortunately suffer from being devised by students which has left it as more of a sketch than a finished piece. It’s overlong, theatrical in ways that don’t work and too much of the cast are really too young for their parts. But it does contain real delight, some genuinely deft comedy and most especially a brilliant performance from Poppy Kemp as a sexually frustrated mental patient who uses theatrical therapy to make a pass on her drama teacher. Over 28 minutes the problems with the piece become harder to avoid but it’s nice to see women actually having characters in a short film and actually being allowed to explore them. Poppy is a superb presence on screen with a restless, fidgety energy that gives a brilliant tension to scenes where she starts to push at her teacher’s boundaries. She is loveable and also infuriating, like a real person and unlike most women in short films…

Then I saw the bizarre but charming “Project Greenhouse” a 28 minute documentary about a man and his Dad selling a motorbike and building a greenhouse. Again it is that bit too long to sustain itself which is a shame because the oblique narrative style successfully keeps your interest even though the first five minutes mainly consists of them trying to the clean the roof with broom. There’s some great photography and some lovely editing and it’s a shame that the whole thing doesn’t quite come off, doesn’t quite hit the pathos that this sort of film needs to really live in the memory because all the building blocks are there. Also, bizarrely, having made us wait 28 minutes to find out Jack’s real motivation for the greenhouse the brilliantly eccentric scheme of generation electricity from tomatoes is dismissed in a few minutes, much less time than it took to clean the roof with a broom… still watching Jack and John struggle with sheets of polythene in the wind is beautiful and mesmeric and a vast improvement on zombie wars or angsty young men.

I approached “Amelia And Michael” with guilty trepidation. It’s creator, Daniel Cormack, has been very proactive about getting me to watch it, almost in a directly inverse ratio to my ability to watch any short film at all… consequently putting this DVD in my machine brought up memories of the literally dozens of email’s I’ve sent the poor guy explaining how I was going to get round to it soon…

Thankfully it didn’t disappoint. Sometimes in shorts it can seem like casting real actors is cheating. Partly this is just the general backwash of jealousy that we all carry with us. To be fair though it is also because for some reason nine times out of ten the actor has not been attracted by a good script or visual idea, but has got involved as some sort of favour to a friend. So usually when I see someone I recognise in a short it’s only with a growing sense of bewilderment and dismay. “Amelia and Michael” is clearly the 1 of the 10 where the cast, Natasha Powell and Anthony Head, are here because the film gives them both a chance to do something interesting.

It’s an emotional melodrama about a couple in their forties dealing with infidelity – not exactly something I’d rush to see. However this is quality stuff, great performances, a script that doesn’t go too far, beautiful photography and, in the midst of what could be very soapy, a real sense of cinema. It felt very European, like one of those films in which Daniel Auteil and Juliette Binoche fall in love and break up, one of those films that somehow, as a rule, we can’t do in this country. With this well cast, well acted, well made film Daniel Cormack seems therefore to be breaking all the rules without breaking sweat or showing off. Consequently I imagine it’ll disappear without a trace because, as a rule, short film programmers like films with a some sort of edge, films that make them feel like they’re breaking new ground… still perhaps that’s another rule this film can break…

Daniel’s Myspace

  1. Daniel Cormack

    *Amelia and Michael* has been accepted to screen at the 31st Montreal World Film Festival!

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