Monday, August 04, 2014

Celluloid Dreams (short): Preserving Memory on Film

Christopher Nolan and his colleagues saved film production, at least as long as their films stay popular. Much to the relief of Rochester, New York (home of the last surviving Kodak film factory), the practice of threading film stock will not completely disappear from everyday life. It is an act that takes on significant meaning in Jonathan Dillon’s short film Celluloid Dreams (trailer here), which screens for three Academy-qualifying days this week in Los Angeles.

For decades, Robert Thompson has lived alone with his memories and regrets. He was once an avid A-V hobbyist happily married to his wife Deanna, but their wedded bliss was short lived. One day, he impulsively fixes his long broken projector, allowing him to visit their early good times together, as well as the events leading up to tragedy. As Thompson watches the flickering black-and-white home movies, he seems to be physically transported back into the past.

Celluloid immediately brings to mind films like Somewhere in Time and Peggy Sue Got Married, but it maintains a sense of ambiguity regarding its nature, whether it is an excursion into magical realism-time travel or a simple memory play. Either way, it is an effective calling card for Dillon, who nicely manages the two separate timelines taking place simultaneously within the same location.

Although the dialogue is masked by a highly sentimental soundtrack, Greg Lucey’s powerful performance as the contemporary Thompson is still eloquent without words. Cinematographer Hanuman Brown-Eagle’s black-and-white sequences look spot and perfect, while his color work has an appropriately nostalgic sheen.

Indeed, Celluloid Dreams is a great looking film and its romantic portrayal of moving pictures ought to appeal to the Academy’s sensibilities. Recommended for short film fans, it screens this Tuesday through Thursday (8/5-8/7) at the Laemmle NoHo 7.