London Film Festival 2018: First Look Reviews – Selected Shorts 2

I’ve always been a fan of films and TV series’ that depict the experience of being a teenager through the lens of horror. Being a teenager often sucks, and horror has always existed, at least in part, to help us parse and process parts of our lives we don’t like or don’t want to confront. Piggy starts in this place, with an overweight teenage girl going for a swim, only to be spotted and targeted for some pretty vicious bullying by a group of three girls. They steal her clothes, meaning she has to walk home in just her bikini. These scenes are sad and disturbing in their own right, just based on the horror of the everyday; the easy cruelty with which teenagers can treat each other. The presence of a middle aged man in a van, who gets out of the water just as ‘Piggy’ gets in adds an increasingly disturbing undertone to everything, bringing the film round to a dark ending that challenges our sympathies in an extremely effective way. It’s worth mentioning that the version of Piggy I saw had no subtitles for its Spanish dialogue (which happens mostly in the bullying scene), but context and the performances provide the gist of what’s being said, so little meaning is lost.

Sammy The Salmon
A salmon offers to break the news that Spencer (Liam Maguire) is gay to his fiance in this amusing LGBT rom-com with a surreal twist. Once you accept the setup, the gags aren’t hugely original, but they’re nicely executed, with the way Sammy breaks Spencer’s news scoring several laughs and, while I saw it coming from a mile off, Sammy’s voiceover in the last scene still made me giggle, kudos to Mark Mitchell for hitting just the right tone with the character. The puppeteering on Sammy, by writer/director Jake Shannon, is also impressive. When even shorts can afford CGI (even if it’s not always great), it’s nice to see a character like this with a real physical presence. It’s a one joke premise, but at six minutes Sammy The Salmon has enough amusing moments to be sweetly enjoyable, if not gut bustingly funny.

Vivat Musketeers
A musketeer tries to rescue a woman in a tower from being captured by Cardinal Richelieu, but keeps getting sidetracked by other problems. What I liked about this short was that it reminded me of cartoons that I used to watch as a kid – with some laugh out loud slapstick moments – and of the way kids think and play. Vivat Musketeers is easily distracted; the musketeer is almost there, but then he crashes into a witch who wants to cook him. And then. And then. The childlike drawing style is appealing and there are some lovely little gags here (watch for the posters in the witch’s house). This one’s silly fun for kids of all ages.

The opening frames of Volte have influences that stretch back as far as Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic study of the horse in motion but, beautiful as the moments we spend watching the animals in slow motion are, this film isn’t about the horses but their young riders. Set in a school for equestrian vaulters, this observational documentary focuses on Zusia and two other girls as they repeatedly try to execute a move where Zusia has to be lifted between the others, while on the back of a fast moving horse named Bill. Monika Koteka and Karolina Poryzala’s camera looks on as the girls struggle to get the move, their attempts punctuated by a painful looking fall. If the lack of commentary recalls other documentarians, the final sequence of the start of a performance, captured in slow motion, is more like one of the synchronised swimming sequences in Water Lilies. Without having its participants speak their feelings aloud, Volte suggests much underlying what we see on screen and is as striking visually as it in its depiction of the girls.

Piggy plays in the Real Horrorshow shorts programme on Sunday 14th and Thursday 18th of October

Sammy The Salmon plays in the Stop Making Sense shorts programme on Thursday 11th and Friday 12th of October

Vivat Musketeers plays in the Animated Shorts For Younger Audiences shorts programme on Saturday 20th of October

Volte plays in the What’s My Age Again shorts programme on Saturday 13th and Wednesday 17th of October

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