Saturday, October 15, 2011

NYFF ’11: My Bow Breathing & The Bird Spider shorts

Archery is a handy sport to take up if you want a valid excuse to carry about a potentially lethal weapon. As it happens, a young Italian woman has a strong motivation to become an archer in E.M. Artale’s My Bow Breathing (trailer here), one of two shorts with both genuine art film polish and genre movie appeal screening at the 49th New York Film Festival.

She has not been training long, but her coach recognizes her natural talent. However, the woman has weightier matters on her mind than merely winning competitions. She is out for revenge and she will have it. Played with slow burning intensity by Giulia Bertinelli, “The Archer” holds her own with “The Bride” from Kill Bill, delivering more retribution on a per frame basis than the original Death Wish. Like Chaimae Ben Acha in Sean Gullette’s Traitors, Bertinelli has real movie-star potential, but a lot of people will miss their work at NYFF because of a prejudice against shorts. Do not mistake this mistake.

Stylishly helmed by Artale, Bow looks nothing like a standard vigilante-payback film, but it can easily be enjoyed on such terms by those so inclined. Likewise, Jaime Dezcallar’s The Bird Spider is far more psychologically complex than a mere killer spider movie, but there is no denying the presence of the deadly eight-legged crawler.

If arrows are a somewhat unusual weapon for vengeance-seeking, a poisonous spider represents a downright bizarre method of suicide. Yet, a depressed man is not simply out to take his own life, but to burn away the pain of his recent break-up by enduring his worst childhood phobia, until it kills him. Buying a poisonous spider from a pet store (exotic pet regulations must be lax in Spain), he turns it loose in his apartment. Conscious the spider could strike at any moment, he willingly plunges himself into a Kafkaesque nightmare.

Bird Spider has a similar vibe as many of the recent bumper crop of creepy Spanish horror movies, but offers more than just a few good jolts (which it definitely has). The claustrophobic setting and unsettling premise really get under your skin, while Raffel Plana Honorato’s score also nicely helps build the suspense as well as a sense of melancholia.

Highly recommended, Bow and Bird are excellent short films that should satisfy snobby cineastes and genre diehards in equal measure. Unfortunately, they are not in the same programming blocks. Bow screens this afternoon (10/15) with Traitors in Shorts Program #2 at the Francesca Beale Theater, while Bird Spider screens earlier in the day as part of Shorts Program #1, as the 2011 NYFF approaches the homestretch.