London Film Festival: Love Shorts Programme
Monday 13 October 2014, by
The theme was love but not the warm ’n’ fuzzy kind. Families are dysfunctional, grief is consuming, humour comes from pain. Lovely. Before the LFF reel came on screen, someone in the front row set the tone by abusing a very helpful usher and announcing ’I hate this cinema’. Nice to feel at home.
Three of the films fell short in their various contrivances, although the Chilean animation (Bear Story) was lavishly, indeed lovingly rendered. An American tale of brothers (For Spacious Sky) had subtlety and social realism that was somewhat spoiled by its state-of-the-nation designs, set as it was at the time of the Obama’s first presidential campaign. A Canadian father-and-child war-zone fable (Catching A Lion) was a bit Boy in the Striped Pajamas even as it sought to remind us that war happens in the here and now.
For a nice slab of tough love, head to Finland. Kakara (dir. Kimmo Yläkäs) was delightfully twisty and twisted yet totally human and simple, entirely set in a few hospital rooms and a car. It is customary in a programme of short films to include something a bit off-key, but Kakara was no Cuckoo’s egg, and the three other films in the programme also served us a side order of ’wrong’ with our emotional realism: family dinner, anyone?
How about the lasagna that the daughter of the house brings to the table at the end of The Kármán Line? Everything you need to know about family is somewhere in those layers. This film stars Olivia Colman, so everyone already likes it anyway, but the other family members, played by Shaun Dooley and lasagna-maker Chelsea Corfield deserve almost as much credit. To return to our theme, the film is a labour of love by Oscar Sharp but it is so bold and extraordinary in its approach that one can imagine it going quite wrong, in the bad way, without the sure hand of writer Dawn King. The Kármán Line is a double marvel: I was simultaneously caught in this triangle of family love and amazed that Sharp and King pull off a huge generic gamble with such ease. Better than any lasagna.
Why tell a story about middle aged men caring for their elderly mother using giant wall paintings combined with stop-motion (The Bigger Picture)? Firstly because it’s a story that needs to be told, and secondly because this is obviously the way to tell it. When one of the giant painted sons is cleaning up after his mother-portrait has had a bit of an accident, a flash of a real towel has a shudder effect that is both the magic of animated trickery and the sad beauty of family love. Director Daisy Jacobs has hit on a rich method to tell some of life’s more painful stories, and the result is humorous and captivating. 15 years ago Channel 4 would have given her a series. What was in restrospect a golden age in fucked up animation is now sadly gone with the budget. These days it’s Oscar nom or nothing. The Bigger Picture deserves it.
More obviously set for commercial success is Rachel Tunnard, whose Emotional Fusebox, um... sparks with sincerity and warmth. Wonderful to see such a droll and edgy dynamic between four strong northern female characters. You know, outside of Coronation Street. The writing was exceptional here, the Shrigley-esque sensibilities of the central character just the right side of quirky. Look out for the David Hasselhoff cameo. Love it.