Saturday, March 30, 2013

FFF ’13: Record/Play (short)

People find it counter-intuitive, but VHS tapes are far better for classroom presentations than DVDs, because you can pop them in and out already cued-up to the exact scene you need.  Analog audio and video tapes were also far more durable.  One could manually fast forward and rewind past damaged sections, but there is not much you can do with a malfunctioning disc.  That analog resiliency is sort of the underlying principle of Jesse Atlas’s time-bending short film Record/Play (trailer here), a selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, which soon screens at the upcoming Florida Film Festival.

Record/Play is the sort of genre outing that uses the trappings of science fiction, but operates as a fantasy.  More than anything, it is a love story.  A grieving man listens obsessively to the final tape recorded by his lover, a peacekeeper killed while serving in the Balkans.  When his Walkman goes on the blink, he replaces a part from a bit of NASA hardware lying about his lab.  As if by magic, when he now listens to her tape, he is transported across time and space to that fateful moment.  Naturally, he tries to change destiny.  When violently interrupted, he and the tape return to the present day, much worse for the wear.  Fortunately, those old school cassettes were darn near indestructible.

In terms of tone, Record/Play is not unlike the Richard Matheson of Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come.  Fair warning, the ending just might get to you.  For a short film (just over ten minutes) that is definitely saying something.  It is a strong calling card for Atlas, who skillfully controls what viewers see and when.  As the man, Mustafa Shakir also really seals the deal with his final scene.

Impressive both technically and dramatically, Record/Play was the best short at Sundance.  Highly recommended for mainstream audiences, it screens as part of Shorts Program 2: The Weight next Sunday (4/7) and the following Tuesday (4/9) at the 2013 Florida Film Festival.