Friday, September 11, 2009

NYC Shorts '09: Program A

Raymond Carver was one of the leading American literary figures of the last century, whose stories have demonstrated an international appeal. Having been adapted in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, a multi-story tapestry of Carver’s work, and Australian director Ray Lawrence’s feature film Jindabyne, Dominika Dlugokecka now offers a Polish version of “So Much Water, So Close to Home,” now playing as part of the 5th annual NYC Short Film Festival’s Program A.

Altman’s version featuring Fred Ward, Anne Archer, and Huey Lewis will probably be the most familiar to many viewers. Dlugokecka’s Tyle Wody Kolo Domu follows the same general storyline in which a group of men on a fishing trip discover a body in the river. Rather than cut short their outing, they carry on fishing and drinking, finally reporting the body the next day. However, in the Polish version, there are hints of more serious repercussions for their callousness. However, for Rysiek, the silent censure of his wife Anna might be the hardest to bear.

Indeed, Altman’s admirers should find “So Much Water” intriguing as a stand alone film. Dlugokecka and cinematographer Malte Rosenfeld bring a nourish look and sensibility to the material, creating a sense of real foreboding. Far from idyllic, they make mountain countryside an ominous environment. While Tyle unfolds at deliberate pace, it implies much, with great economy.

In addition to the Polish Tyle, Program A features several other interesting international selections, the best of which hails from Canada. Cordell Barker’s animated Runaway (trailer here) might look light-hearted and whimsical, but at its core, it might be the most macabre film of the slate. Nine minutes of madcap humor, Runaway involves a cow, an out of control train, a little fur ball of a dog, and an engineer’s assistant trying desperately to save the day.

It all hurtles down the track to the propulsive rhythm of Benoit Charest’s soundtrack. Best known for his score of Silvain Chomet's The Triplets of Belleville, Charest’s music for Runaway has a similar vibe, sounding something like a mutated form of early hot jazz on some serious acid. Charest also brought in many of the same jazz musicians who recorded Triplets, including the drummer Jim Doxas and his saxophonist brother Chet, both of whom have played with the highly regarded Canadian jazz pianist Oliver Jones.

Runaway is an inspired act of lunacy, whereas Tyle is moody and unsettling. They represent two very different highlights of a strong set of short films. Program A screens again Friday (9/11), as the NYC Short Film Festival continues at the 92 Y Tribeca. Look for adult programming Friday and Saturday, with a special children’s program closing the festival on Sunday.