JWR Articles: Film/DVD - PSIFF 2019 - Face the Music (Directors: Maxime Roy, Iesh Thapar, Ernst De Geer, Cameron Quevedo, Flo Linus Baumann) - June 25, 2019

PSIFF 2019 - Face the Music

4.5 4.5

Reviewed at the 2019 edition of the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival.
Five decidedly different films

Here’s a quintet of films that all have different ways of looking at and hearing our most universal art.

Beautiful Loser
France, 25 min.
Maxime Roy
Four and one half stars

“I’ve done bad things”

After 40 years of addiction and life in a shambles (wife left her wayward husband high and hardly dry after the recent birth of their son); previous son, 18-year-old Léo (an engaging first outing from Romeo Creton) tries to cheerlead his recovering dad via shared rap, but can’t abide the lack of curtains at home…, Michel (an entirely convincing performance by François Creton) is on the brink of collapsing back into the only world he’s ever really known, when both sons give him pause…

Perhaps the finest visual image of this year’s festival is the pas de deux between 10-month-old personification of innocence and mightily tattooed, bejewelled dad as, hopefully, they escape the dance of death and embrace the minuet of life. JWR

Alien Culture
U.K., 16 min.
Iesh Thapar
Four stars

Culture much more than skin deep

Not dissimilar to Donald Trump’s War on Illegal Immigrants, the racial divide in Margaret Thatcher’s heyday was equally explosive. Standing up for basic rights in a racially charged community (virtually everywhere in the UK with one or more Southeast Asians, et cetera), was both dangerous and heroic.

In Thapar’s story, elder brother Lucky (Sagar Radia in fine pugilistic form) tries to enlist his younger brother, Sunny (living his name, yet with an ugly shiner, Reiss Kershi does an excellent job of portraying a troubled young man who may well enjoy a touch of humiliation) has a penchant for disappearing into the night, much to the joy (“You’ve been getting shagged”) or concern (some odd apparel in the brothers’ shared home, to say the least) of his “I’m-the-mother/dad” sibling.

A brief moment of shared musical joy via homeland radio, binds the pair together for at least one chorus.

At the dénouement, it is wonderfully clear that racism is only skin deep when other delights of the flesh are on offer. JWR

The Culture
Norway, 25 min.
Ernst De Geer
Two and one half stars

Counter culture

This season’s first disappointment failed on so many planes (the actual music played, the ready ability to instantly solve the wrong-bum-in-the-concert-hall-seat with both tickets and even standard public building fire regulations) that the double bar couldn’t have come soon enough. Few merits here. JWR

La Espiga
Mexico, 6 min.
Cameron Quevedo
Three and one half stars

Dare we call it “moosic”

Here’s an interesting wee documentary that lovingly explains how the espiga (a pick unitized in such music as Fandango) is crafted from cow horns. The split screen presentation artfully shows two different approaches to create this important musical implement from stem to polished stern. Now let’s have a full concert! JWR

U.S.A., 14 min.
Flo Linus Baumann
Four and one half star

Blowing without the wind

How marvelous indeed to close out this musical set with a film that celebrates the large brass instrument that needs wearing, but actually has nothing to do with it: writing of the highest order!

After retirement, Joseph (Donovan Dietz most certainly blows above his weight in terms of his acting chops), quite literally lives for his position in the local sousaphone band, ardently preparing for a concert adjacent to JFK Airport (where the cantus firmus to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” will be thunderous 747s et al), suddenly acquires blowers block. Not a note to be heard no matter how hard he tries. The distraught musician (along with his long-suffering wife) needs to find the musical equivalent of Viagra if he is ever going to be up to performing in public again.

Do take a deep breath and enjoy the ride: perhaps a chorus on the beach will reignite your life too! JWR

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