FILMED UP is a new filmmaking showcase devised by Cornerhouse Manchester. All the short films on the programme are selected by the Cornerhouse audience from a pool of submissions from members of the filmmaking community in the North West.
Kicking off the Filmed Up event in March was THE ROYALTY, a charming documentary directed by Michael Nixon; highlighting the decline of the independent cinema, with particular focus on The Royalty Cinema in Bowness-on-Windermere. Warmth and affection for the ageing establishment shine through every shot. Every one of Nixon’s interviewees speaks with a passion reinforced by intimate, lingering shots of vintage technology. Historical importance is emphasised, and Nixon’s impressive techniques give THE ROYALTY a character all of its own, calling attention to an intriguing world often overlooked by the public eye.
NOBBLYCARROT7 chronicles the day-to-day life of Ruby, a fruit and veg seller, and her attempts to get noticed by attractive DJ Vinyl Lionel. Director Josh Allot succeeds in creating a character who strikes a perfect balance between guffaws and grimaces, making Ruby endearing without being pathetic. The film is a masterful mixture of goofiness and optimism, with a pointed glance at the issues of online identity and cyberculture. Some threads are left loose, though, as we are given a brief look at a brooding mother whose story is never resolved in a way that makes sense.
Manchester jazz band Gogo Penguin provide the soundtrack to LAST WORDS, an animation depicting a young woman recalling the last words of her father. The music is nicely poignant and the director Antony Barkworth-Knight uses innovative scene-shifting techniques, keeping the story flowing fluidly. Body language is used effectively to convey emotion, to the point when sudden death of the father manages to be heart-wrenching – an especially impressive feat considering the characters are without actual faces.
Liam Johnson’s REBOOT starts with an ambitious premise, taking inspiration from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein without being derivative. An engineer, shaken by the sudden death of his father, attempts to bring him back through mechanical methods. The film is a surprisingly melancholy affair, bypassing the open goal of a man-monster in favour for something rather more emotional. Ultimately, some of the impact is lost by the taciturn nature of the protagonist, which limits the empathy of the audience. However, it is not a strong enough fault to overshadow the climax, which is refreshingly original.
Sam Derby Cooper’s BONES SHAKE: FLY THE FLAG makes a creative use of puppetry to tell an unsettling tale of a mysterious record making factory. The beginning of the film is intriguing enough, and the puppets stare into the camera with a sinister intent that adds to the creepy vibe. Unfortunately, just over the halfway mark the film appears to lose its way. The narrative devolves into a mishmash of confusing imagery, which makes the final result look messy.
CWM ELAN (James Beattie and Toby Hay) follows the Elan Valley through the inexorable passage of time. Though there is more of a challenge in keeping viewers interested in a place they’ve never been to, the filmmakers rise to the challenge admirably. We are presented with archive footage of historical citizens and associated japes, supported with beautiful landscape images and a thoughtful, reflective quote repeated throughout. However, the quote itself is repeated once or twice too often, eventually causing it to intrude upon the other components of the film.
The Manchester School of Samba plays a crucial role in THE RHYTHM, THE CITY. Tom Chimiak skilfully melds the passionate pulses of the drums with dazzling time-lapsed shots of Manchester. Chimiak demonstrates especially notable control of pacing as his film slows and speeds to match the drumbeats. Though the premise sounds simple, the execution is complex and engaging, with a wonderful feel of movement throughout.
Focusing heavily on the darker side of human nature, IRREVERSIBLE features thrilling performances by an immensely talented cast as a council estate reacts to the disappearance of one of its young inhabitants. The brothers who serve as protagonists are unsympathetic and even occasionally violent, but director Lewis Metcalfe ensures they are not portrayed as inherently evil people. Sparse humour is used to underline their relationship with each other, and their desperation at film’s reveal is an especially traumatic moment in a near-flawless offering.
KARDIOGRAMM: YOUR LOVE IS FADING sees director Daniel
Daley use experimental film techniques to illustrate the stages of a heart attack from beginning to death. The central photography of Kardiogramm is mesmerising (especially its flashing, dancing lights), and its soundtrack is impressively eerie. In the overall context, some imagery is surprisingly gruesome in a certain light. Despite all this though, the link to its supposed inspiration – the human heart – seems tenuous at best, and viewers not fully clued up on the synopsis might have trouble making the connection.
Paul Bassingthwaight shows impressive depth in TOP OF THE RANGE, a short illustrating two homeless men’s efforts to sell an apparently stellar-quality cooker. Heart-warming and heart-rending in equal measures, TOP OF THE RANGE invokes themes of suffering, perseverance, and brotherhood as the two men reconcile with each other through their hardships. An especially effective and amusing technique is the decision to treat the cooker itself as a third character. One particular sequence finds the pair staring at it in resentment, as the shot is framed so that the audience unconsciously assigns the corresponding emotion to the inanimate object (in this case, indifference). This scene, amongst others, cements TOP OF THE RANGE as an appealing film with more depth than is immediately apparent.
As the shortest of the bunch, FLASH (Will Herbert) nevertheless manages to pack a lot of laughs into that brief time. Although it gets its roots from a very old joke, the skilful writing and hilarious cast expand that one short punchline into several. High points include the male lead’s puppy eyes, and his companion’s resigned demeanour at the crucial moments. FLASH may be a re-make in a sense, but it’s a re-make that far exceeds its source material.