By Jason Wojciechowski on June 6, 2005 at 4:04 AM
A co-worker loaned me a DVD from Film Movement with six shorts on it, and I liked them so much, I thought I'd proselytize a little bit. Plus, it's a slow Sunday and it's hard to get excited about a last-place baseball team, so here it is.
Listed first on the cover was Mt. Head (Atama-yama in Japanese), an animated Japanese movie about a "stingy man" who ends up having a cherry tree growing from the top of his head. It's as bizarre as it sounds, but the narration, by Takeharu Kunimoto, is fantastically weird. As the aforementioned co-worker pointed out, the nose of the "stingy man" bears too close a resemblance to a stereotypical Jewish nose for comfort, but if you can ignore that, it's a pretty trippy little film.
Das Rad ("Rocks," in German) is also illustrated, though in a vastly different style. The idea is that rocks are watching us, having conversations, playing around and generally enjoying life, but on a vastly different time scale. The idea is fantastic, but nine minutes was a little too long for something that's essentially just a really neat idea. In the end, it ended up being cute, but not much more.
Inja (which means "dog" in, I assume, Afrikaans) is about a black boy and a puppy in South Africa who are split up rather cruelly by a landowner. The landowner's methods come back to haunt him in the end, though. This was probably the best of the six films: it was quite beautiful and obviously poignant, but did not try to reach farther than a 17-minute film should. Also notable was Thandie Newton showing up in the "thanks" section of the credits.
Sangam, the name of a spot of pilgrimage in India, is about a recent immigrant to New York who encounters a countryman on the subway. They reminisce, talk, sing, and then things get weird. Overall, I thought it was just okay, with two highlights: the editing and the performance of Sanjay Chandani as Vivek, the man the immigrant encounters on the subway. Chandani has had a minor TV and movie career, according to his IMDB credits, but I think he could be capable of more were he to be given the chance.
I also caught Mira Nair's name in the "thanks" section of the credits.
The First Three Lives of Stuart Hornsley is a time travel story starring Tunde Adebimpe, who is more famous as a member of the band TV on the Radio but who is also a graduate of NYU's film school. If this was a thesis film at NYU (it was produced under the auspices of Tisch, according to the credits), it appears to be one of those that benefits from a larger budget (and a longer runtime: at thirty minutes, it was easily the longest film in this collection) than its peers. That said, it's not a bad movie, but in the end, it was just sort of sweet. Adebimpe was pretty good as the title character, and I liked Isaac Bloch as his young protege Vitaliy, but if you've seen the Simpsons time travel episode, you've sort of seen this movie.
Spike Lee earned a "thank you" in this film.
Finally, the most superficially pleasing of the six was Deathdealer, a mockumentary starring Henry Rollins as a kind of door-to-door businessman dealing with a bit of a midlife crisis. I'm hesitant to say more about the story, though the title gives something away, but suffice it to say that I was greatly amused and thought the film quite clever. It wasn't trying for anything more than amusement, so we oughtn't fault it for not achieving more.