TIFF Review: Short Cuts Canada 1

O Canada.
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Prepare yourselves for the full film experience in Short Cuts Canada 1. This energetic programme of shorts contains the full spectrum of cinema with a diverse range of animated and live action shorts, fiction and non-fiction, and works from masters both seasoned and emergent. This line-up of Canadian flicks gets off to a sonorously patriotic start with the classic short O Canada (8 min.) by Evelyn Lambart, a close collaborator of animation pioneer and granddaddy Norman McLaren. This rousing experiment in 3D animation opens the programme with a swelling overture to the career of the great Canadian animator, and a loving celebration of Canadian national (short) cinema.

SCC1 also includes a short by McLaren himself, produced with Lambart, Around is Around (10 min.), which is a perfect film to mark the centennial of the filmmaker’s birth date. This new restoration of McLaren’s 1951 short, the first stereoscopic animated film ever made, is most impressive. The hypnotic animation of Around is Around dances around the screen in grand pirouettes as McLaren visualizes music and brings sound to life through the moving image. It’s a grand experiment in film form as the visionary 3D of the original gets new life with the latest innovations in the way we see and experience films. It’s also simply a fun, mesmerizing, and aesthetically pleasing piece of filmmaking!
Photo courtesy of TIFF.

Seeing these two classic works by McLaren and Lambart also gives a nice extension to theme of national cinema that begins SCC with O Canada, as the programme starts with a triple-header of films from the National Film Board of Canada. On the heels of the two NFB classics comes the animated dance Coda (Denis Poulin, Martine Époque; 11 min), a contemporary counterpart of O Canada and Around is Around. This dazzling elemental dance—somewhat reminiscent of that bizarre motion capture tango in Holy Motors—works greatly when paired with the two classic animated films, for its splashes of vibrant colour on a black backdrop are superb. The technical achievements of each of the three films remains remarkable, yet on also appreciates and situates each film as a product of its time when one views them in succession. The impressive optical rhythm of Coda feels like a fine nod to McLaren’s legacy as Poulin and Époque bring to life the finale of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” It’s a fine culmination for the animated movement of SCC1.

The programme then turns to something wild and equally brilliant as Short Cuts Canada 1 offers a hybrid piece of live action and animation with Myrnaski Death Plummet (Matthew Rankin, 9 min.). This absurdly and delightfully bizarre tip of the hat to WWII hero Andrew Myrnarski is a surreal feat. Fact and fantasy blur as director Matthew Rankin audaciously fuses silent cinema aesthetics with a pastiche of science fiction, surrealism, and experimental madness. This film is probably how the world looks when Guy Maddin drops acid.

Things then sober up a bit with a one-two punch of live action dramas, the topical The Apartment (Sarah Galea-Davis, 17 min.) and the disarming Sleeping Giant (Andrew Cividino, 16 min.). The former is a sensitive tale of hardship in today’s ruthless job market, while the latter is a taut and authentic coming-of-age tale. The programme continues with the hilariously random A Delusion of Grandeur / Un idée de grandeur (14 min.) from director Vincent Biron, who won the prize for Best Canadian Short Film at TIFF 2010 for Les Fleurs de l'âge. A Delusion of Grandeur works as an oddly amusing counterpoint to The Apartment, for both films tell stories of middle-aged men at a crossroads when they find themselves without the careers or comforts that defined them. Grandeur, however, has a bit more fun swinging and trying new things. This droll yet honest slice-of-life dramedy will have TIFF-goers looking at their neighbours in peculiar ways. It gives a happy ending (of sorts) to the programme.
Zero Recognition.
Photo courtesy of TIFF.

Finally, the utterly hilarious Zero Recognition (Ben Lewis, 10 min.) proves that the quasi-celebrity that comes with being a Canadian actor is a joke that never runs out of gas. Lauren Collins of Degrassi: The Next Generation fame pokes fun at herself by playing a kind-of sort-of famous slash ambiguously recognizable figure on the Toronto film scene. This fun and self-reflexive dating game puts the actress’s ego to the test as she undergoes the most rigorous social trial of them all—online dating—and sits face to face with a doctor for sick kids (played by director Ben Lewis, Collins’ Degrassi co-star). Egos flair—and brain farts a little—as the actress addresses the camera with playful asides to speculate how on earth this dashing young man can’t be familiar with her or, more importantly, her work. Great performances, a snappy script, and candid direction make Zero Recognition a laugh-a-minute winner. Thanks to the self-deprecating in-joke of Zero Recognition, Short Cuts Canada 1 comes full circle with a nod and wink to the dose of Canadiana that opens the programme.

Short Cuts Canada 1 screens:
-Friday, Sept. 5 at 9:15 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
-Sunday, Sept. 7 at 9:00 am TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Please visit www.tiff.net for more information.