Last night I attended the second night of the Northwest Film Festival, organized at the Northwest Film Center in Portland, Oregon. The night's screenings involved a collection of shorts handpicked by the judges from local filmmakers (Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, BC). Needless to say it was a mixed bag of oddities, impenetrable tosh, and run-of-the-mill squares.
Two films, however, grabbed my attention: Jamie Marie Waelchli's excruciating Little Pleasures and Vincent Caldoni's brilliant The Rifle Workbook. The former consists of Waelchli stuffing as many gums as possible into her mouth until she pukes (multiple times) and her cheeks enlarge to contain the elastic sugary mass. It is a heavy-handed metaphor for a society where we subject ourselves an overload of puny pleasures, instead of experiences that are rewarding for a longer period of time. The film - experiment, if you will - reaches a point where it ceases to be funny (as was evidenced by the ending laughter from the audience three quarters of the way) and becomes painful to watch. A ridiculously simple premise and execution, but very effective.
The Rifle Workbook, on the other hand, showcases the talents of Caldoni as a future superstar movie director. Using a soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky, the film takes place in a wooded area where an angel oversees a strange ritual where the locals place their most precious belongings (mirror, knife, hair, whiskey, etc.) in a case. The angel then burns the case and from the ashes comes out ... It is a fantastic little film - music video, if you will.
Both films were shown in the middle of the schedule, so they overshadowed everything that came before and/or after them. Interestingly, though, both films were satisfyingly unconventional, yet accessible. Just like short films should be.