Kino Shorts International Film Festival 2014 – Cuentos De Amor

The third programme of films we saw as part of the Kino Short Film Festival was in the lovely, airy surroundings of the main hall of the Cervantes Institute in the heart of Manchester City Centre. Apart from two entries, all of the films we saw on the Wednesday afternoon originated (rather unsurprisingly, given the location) from Spain. The theme was one of romance (Cuentos De Amor = Romantic Tales), though admittedly, you might had to have looked really hard to find the romantic meanings in at least some of these offerings.

First up was El Beso (The Kiss, pictured above), directed and produced by Carlos Davila, a twelve-minute short from Mexico that concentrates on the question of whether a ‘kiss’ between friends is really even possible? Starring Rob Cavazos as Daniel and Ana Gonzales Bello as Ale, the films’ script is playful and mischevious, with Daniel doing his absolute utmost to convince Ale that he wants to kiss her to get an honest appraisal from her about just how good a kisser he is. But does he have another reason for this odd request? Both leads are watchable and likeable, but the script and its subsequent delivery never quite fizz enough to truly get its message across and still remain believable.
This was followed by Luminaris, a film we saw in the preview programme, which you can read about here.
Limon Y Chocolate
After that, we were treated to Limon Y Chocolate (Lemon And Chocolate), the first of this programme’s Spanish entries, directed by Gemma Ferrate, the story of an accidental meeting of two ex-lovers on the day that they both leave a portion of their lives behind. One is selling their apartment, the other is leaving town. Both have their own memories of each other and their time together, which is highlighted in the mutual emotional journey they take on their one last day with each other. Often sweet and poignant, the leads are engaging to some, but after conversation with some people that have seen the film, as many audience members have been frustrated by them as moved by them. Additionally, a sometimes powerful script does Lemon & Chocolate no harm at all.
Fourth on the programme listing for Romantic Tales was Vocabulary, an often sweet and simple tale of two people that meet initially in quite unusual circumstances. This fifteen-minute short, directed by the respected Sam Baixali is nicely delivered and undeniably script-heavy, with some admittedly beautiful prose interlaced between the well-timed silences. At fifteen minutes, it doesn’t feel like it has anywhere to go, however, and feels slightly overlong because of this, but will probably remind you of the longer, yet still simple and considered Garden Of Words, by Makoto Shinko, if you’re lucky enough to have seen it.
Next up was an eighteen-minute short from Spain’s Julian Zuazo. Given the content, it was not surprising that Marion would polarise audiences, not only for its artistic merit, but also for its choice of subject matter. Pitched as a science-fiction fantasy by the director, the film lacks any actual romance to speak of, making this an odd choice for this programme. We are invited, as voyeur, to glimpse a possbile near future, through a virtual reality headset worn by the unnamed man (played by Ben Temple) in the film. This connects him to a beautifully dressed set where he is given a number of options for which woman to feature. He chooses Marion and then she appears (played by the statuesque Kate Elson). What follows becomes a slightly grisly and insidious view of what may well become the norm in our ever increasingly digital world. As much art project as film, Marion will possibly upset many with its objectification, but it cannot be denied that the film, just like Marion, is an intriguing, beautiful, albeit haunting, experience.

The sixth film of the Romantic Tales programme was a fourteen-minute short from Spain entitled Low Cost, featuring English/German leads, from director Franco Volpi. The clue here is in the title as this embittered husband and wife travel through Alicante on roads less-travelled by the usual tourists and for a fraction of the normal price. As the film progresses, the tone becomes more heated as these two individuals clearly have their own axes to grind with each other, inevitably resulting in ugly confrontation. A questionable script that struggles to convince makes the delivery difficult for the players here, though this is admittedly a very nice, well shot, idea.

Natxo Fuentes’ Ultima Sesion (Last Session) completed what was a very random but enjoyable programme of supposed shorts about romance. On the final night before a cinema closes, two couples are featured as their love blossoms for the first time. One couple are young, vibrant and free whilst the other couple enjoy an altogether worldlier vintage, but their new found romances are clearly not hindered by their respective ages. Poignant and enduring, The Last Session probably deserves the most plaudits for delivering on the theme of romance and is embellished with some elegant shots. The acting is occasionally unconvincing, most notably in the delivery from the younger cast members, but in all, a very eloquent final postcard to close out the programme.

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