Tuesday, September 19, 2017

tiff 2017: 100 Words on Justin Harding and Rob Brunner's Latched (2017)

By Thomas Puhr
Within its crisp 17-minute runtime, Justin Harding and Rob Brunner’s Latched (2017) pulls off an impressive feat. Deftly combining elements of drama, folklore, and all-out horror, this short follows single mother Alana (Alana Elmer), who retreats to an isolated cabin for creative inspiration only to find herself the unwitting harbinger of a murderous fairy from the surrounding woods. The conceit behind the fairy’s reawakening is both perverse and darkly humorous, and the practical effects for the creature are top notch. Vivien Villani’s sweeping, orchestral score helps create a gothic-tinged atmosphere for what could have been a tasteless exercise in gratuity.    

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Oaxaca Film Festival Roundup: 2017


Amy Miller’s eye-opening Tomorrow’s Power (2017) begins with a shocking hospital scene in Gaza, wherein surgeons are interrupted mid-operation by a power outage. All they can do is wait in the dark and hope the lights return as soon as possible. This emergency, we learn, is a common occurrence in Gaza. Miller’s globe-trotting documentary further chronicles the energy crisis in terms of oil exploitation in Colombia and coal plant deforestation in Germany. Most engagingly, she discards the usual voiceovers, academic commentators, etc. in favor of having those actually affected by these crises tell their own stories, in their own words.


A cocktail of screwball comedy, coming-of-age drama, and family mystery, The Song of Sway Lake (2017) perhaps tries to be too many things at once. Its first third is its most lighthearted and successful; audiophile Ollie (Rory Culkin) and his wayward companion Nikolai (Robert Sheehan, who delivers some creative one-liners with gusto) crash the former’s family estate in search of a priceless, nearly-mythical record. These early misadventures provide many genuine laughs, but director Ari Gold’s detours into darker family drama feel abrupt and unnecessary. Nevertheless, the film has a big heart and undeniable charm (not to mention a lovely soundtrack).


An unnamed man and woman (Todd Bruno and Aniela McGuinness) abduct and torture a suspected rapist (Mike Stanley) as part of an ill-conceived plot to extract a confession. Writer-director Lou Simon’s 3 (2016) takes what at first seems a straightforward premise and cleverly shifts the character dynamics so that each person, at one point or another, seems to be both the hero and villain. The small cast and spare setting lend the film a theatrical atmosphere, and Simon wisely avoids excessive gore in favor of psychological tension. The twist ending, though unexpected, doesn’t mesh convincingly with the film preceding it.

By Thomas Puhr