Friday, January 21, 2011

Sundance ‘11: All Flowers in Time (short)

A French cowboy just sounds wrong—disturbing even. It turns out such trepidation is justified, but he makes interesting viewing in Jonathan Caouette’s hard to explain new short film, All Flowers in Time (trailer here), which screens tonight as part of the New Frontiers shorts programming block at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

The French Cowboy is sort of like the old MTM cat, giving the sign-off at the end of a warped Dutch children’s program. Its barrage of subliminal images seems to give kids strange ideas and red glowing eyes, sort of like the monkey spirits of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee (which if you haven’t seen, you’re not really missing much).

Those prone to obsess over questions like why and how this is happening are likely to be frustrated by Flowers. However, anyone who ever wanted to see Dutch kiddie television produced somewhere deep within the Black Lodge of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks will delight in Caouette’s bizarre visuals (no giants or dwarves, though). However, the greatest surprise in store for viewers is Chloë Sevigny’s unexpectedly likable and charismatic lead performance, especially given the macabre twist of her central scene, as well as Flowers’ overall surreal vibe and experimental aesthetic. Indeed, the let-me-show-you-a-scary-face game she plays with the young boy in her charge (relationship unknown) is an effective set-up vehicle for creepy chills, not that Caouette is really going for that (or maybe he is, who can say really?).

One thing is certain: Caouette is indulging in quite a bit of gamesmanship throughout Flowers. However, it actually builds towards something somewhat interesting, even if it leaves a ten gallon hat full of question unanswered. Strangely watchable (strange being the key word), Flowers screens tonight (1/21), Saturday (1/22), Monday (1/24), Tuesday (1/25), Friday (1/28), and Saturday (1/29) at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.