TIFF Review: Short Cuts Canada 5

Day 40. Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Did you see Noah earlier this year? That epically bloated Biblical pic starring Russell Crowe as a wrathful Noah had religious types (and highbrow cinephiles) a-twitter thanks to its borderline blasphemous interpretation of The Good Book. Like Noah, though, Day 40 (Sol Friedman, 6 min.) tells the Biblical saga relatively faithfully, but it adds a few creative liberties. It’s a hilariously heretic take on the tale of the flood as a droll narrator reads the fable with relative fidelity and flips through fun/moderately silly sketches. Everything goes according to God’s plan until the voice-of-God narrator gets to the part where the rains come to drown out the unruly peasants. He adds the line, “Including babies, children, and the handicapped.” The editors of The Bible probably forgot that part, right?

This razor-sharp satire is one of the funniest shorts playing in Short Cuts Canada at the Toronto International Film Festival this year and it sets the perfect opening number for the scathingly funny programme that is Short Cuts Canada 5. Short Cuts Canada 5 ensures that TIFF-goers will be in stiches, hurting from laughter and maybe even just a little bit mortified. (But it the good way.) It’s hard to beat a bestial gang-bang with the first Lady of the Ark, but SCC 5 is so outrageous and funny that it probably features the only credit for a “cum mixer” at the festival.

Yes, SCC 5 even throws a cum shot at TIFF-goers when the deadpan hilarious Last Night (Arlen Konopaki, 6 min.) splooges in Frances Ha-y black-and-white. Two roommates form the male antithesis of Frances and Sophie when a gross-out scenario of a nocturnal emission (of sorts) creates the most awkward conversation roommates could ever have. The bawdy scenario plays itself out in dryly funny back-and-forth banter between the two leads, who deserves serious props for making it through the whole script with a straight face. This one isn’t for the kids!
Last Night. Photo courtesy of TIFF.
SCC 5 moves from milky tears to dry eyes when the western-comedy Del Ciego Desert (François Leduc, 12 min.) pits two crossed-eyed gunslingers in a shootout. The squinty cowboys see double as they exchange rounds to avenge their slaughtered families. Cutaways to old photos and funky montages chronicle a history of a squinty-eyed West, and Del Ciego Desert proves itself a one-note joke that never runs out of gas as the mostly-silent film lets the subtle absurdity of the image of two men who can’t shoot straight play itself out in a slow dual in the sun. It’s funny until the sun goes down with the credits.

Not quite as funny, though, is the wry Running Season (Grayson Moore, 20 min.), which uses awkward situational humour to so-so effect. Three sharp performances make the difficult business of doing trade with friends humorous enough, though, so Running Season brings a quieter hand at comedy to the funny business of the programme.

This programme brings twisted, edgy humour to the Shorts Corner at TIFF, and the hard laughs of the opening half brings the programme to an unexpected turn when it sobers up partway through. Intruders (Santiago Menghini, 10 min.), one of SCC 5’s dramatic shorts, takes the programme for a serious turn. Intruders strings together adaptations of a few comics into a trio of vignettes about three characters haunted by a presence that lingers in the suburbs in the aftermath of a strange event. It’s stylish and intriguing, but too unfocused to bring enough of a payoff to the image that arises in the final frame.

SCC 5’s other two dramas, Still (Slater Jewell-Kemker, 16 min.) and The Encounter / Le recontre (Frieda Luk, 9 min.) find power in the simplicity of their tales and execution. Still brings a trippy yet realistic doppelgänger tale to the Festival as Sadie (Frost’s Emily Piggford) wanders in the snowy woods and confronts her fears when she both escapes and searches for her abusive boyfriend (Giacomo Gianniotti). Director Slater Jewell-Kemker lets the sparseness of Still chill the viewers as Sadie’s trudge through the snow is tense and philosophical, and she lets the great cinematography by Daniel Grant (a name of many SCC credits for good reason) play on the viewer’s ability to frame fantasy and reality.

The Encounter, on the other hand, is an unnerving and uncomfortable drama that sees a man stalk a woman he assaulted and obsess over the many women whom he encounters along the way. The Encounter, like Running Season, succeeds mostly thanks to the strength of its performances, but the unexpected ending is sure to linger in the minds of many as the film leaves an open and unsettling ending for a programme that begins with such ribald spirit. SCC 5 is all about the comedies, though, so the trio of funny shorts that begin the programme make it a winner.

Short Cuts Canada 5 screens:
-Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 9:30 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
-Thursday, Sept. 11 at 9:15 am at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Please visit www.tiff.net for more information on this year’s Festival.