Appellate Judge James A. Stewart now fears roadside mimes.
Our reviews of Ann Arbor Film Festival DVD Collection, Volume 2: Unexplored Territories (published January 14th, 2010) and Ann Arbor Film Festival DVD Collection, Volume 3 (published March 9th, 2011) are also available.
"Time Pieces represents an extension of the Ann Arbor Film Festival's efforts to champion talented, artistically driven filmmakers."
Since 1963, "visionary filmmakers" have been featured in the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the oldest such event in North America. For most of those years, you had to drive, fly, walk, crawl, or bicycle to Ann Arbor to experience the festival. Now, however, you can travel to Ann Arbor vicariously through the magic of Ann Arbor Film Festival DVD Collection: Volume 1—Time Pieces. Ten filmmakers from three countries have contributed to this first short film collection from the festival.
The films are:
• "A Painful Glimpse Into My Writing Process (In Less Than 60 Seconds)" (Chel White; 2 minutes): A Terry Gilliamesque montage accompanies an amusing monologue about the suffering of writers.
• "Doxology" (Michael Langan, 7 minutes): Among the strange sights are carrots being bitten by an invisible mouth, a freezing man accepting a tropical drink from a warmer man in the snow, and many hands helping a man comb, brush his teeth, floss, and shave. Hymns are involved.
• "The Drift" (Kelly Sears; 9 minutes): In space, a "song that sounded like emptiness" empties astronauts' interest. Back on Earth, it becomes a hit. Animated from photos.
• "The Adventure" (Mike Brune; 22 minutes): As a couple drives along a verdant road, a mime stops the car for a performance. Soon they have a dead mime on their hands—or do they?
• "Li: The Patterns of Nature" (John Campbell; 9 minutes): Time-lapse photography is part of the toolkit to show the patterns in natural phenomena like waves, bacteria, ants, flowers, and gnarled roots.
• "Frog Jesus" (Ben Peters; 2 minutes): A boy crucifies a frog to give the amphibian world religion. More than enough said.
• "Number One" (Leighton Pierce; 11 minutes): A psychedelic kaleidoscope of nature and humanity shots, with occasional shots of fire or subway trains breaking it up. IMDb's description sounds like there's a plot in here; I couldn't find it, and I watched twice to make sure.
• "Office Suite" (Robert Todd; 14 minutes): A look at office towers starts in the empty night and goes into the busy light of day. There are some purposely blurry, grainy images, some with negative exposure. Toward the end, it becomes creepy and headache inducing.
• "Energie!" (Thorsten Fleisch; 5 minutes): Still photos come alive with flashes of light.
• "Portrait #2: Trojan" (Vanessa Renwick; 5 minutes): The gray industrial environs of a nuke plant turn blood red as the plant crumbles into deadly dust.
The Ann Arbor Film Festival would call these films "avant-garde." I believe that's French for "odd." I also believe you've already figured that out from some of the descriptions. I'd also go so far as to describe them as weirdly fascinating. Once you start, you've got to keep watching to find out what's coming next. Tastes will vary, but with the longest film clocking in at 22 minutes, about the length of a sitcom episode minus the commercials, even the ones you don't like will be relatively painless (except for "Office Suite"). "A Painful Glimpse into My Writing Process," "The Drift," "The Adventure," "Li: The Patterns of Nature," and "Energie!" caught my fancy. Your tastes might vary, but that's a decent batting average for a short film collection. The picture and sound quality are decent, with whatever grain or flaws appearing to come from the original source material.
Seven featurettes provide about 20 minutes' worth of background and perspective: "Doxology: Experiments" is outtakes; Ben Peters talks about shooting in the cold in the brief "Frog Jesus: Revelations"; director Thorsten Fleisch has a shocking revelation in "Notes From an (Energie!) Addict"; Leighton Pierce, director of "Number One," shows off "Convection (An Installation)," his gallery project; "Adventures in Auditioning" looks into the process of casting "The Adventure" and includes speeded-up film of mimes; and "Peter's Proletariat Pigs" puts the thank-you list into clever cartoon form. There's also a brief trailer for the festival. None of this is essential, but "Convection" will interest those of you who go to art installations, while "Proletariat Pigs" and "Notes From an (Energie!) Addict" are amusing. The animation on the menu is also clever.
Short indie films are an acquired taste. If you've acquired it, Time Pieces is a good way to satisfy it.
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