Best Short Narrative Films of All Time
Here's the e-mail sentence which freezes my marrow: "Dear critic: I just completed a short film, which I think you will enjoy." No, I probably won't! Don't send it to me! 90 per cent of short films are mishaps, sitcom-derived farces awash in frosh-dorm jokes or elephantine melodramas drowning in sophomoric Meaning. Too meager, or too much.
I realize novice filmmakers have to learn somewhere. Still, do the wrong people make short movies, just like the wrong people go into politics? For every hundred decent short stories published there might be one fairly OK short film. I can count on my hands the short narrative films that really mean something to me.
Here's my ten-finger list: the Ten Great Live-Action Narrative Shorts since the coming of sound.
The Dentist (1932)-W.C. Fields plugging cavities
The Music Box (1932)-Laurel and Hardy delivering pianos
A Day in the Country (1936)-Jean Renoir's tragicomic picnic
The Human Voice (1948)-Roberto Rossellini orchestrating an Anna Maganani telephone monologue
Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958)-Roman Polanski's Polish film school absurdist comedy
Antoine and Colette (1962)-Francois Truffaut's treatise on unrequieted love, in the anthology, Love at Twenty
A Girl's Own Story (1983)-Jane Campion's semi-experimental take on female sexual awakening
Life Lessons (1989)-Martin Scorsese on love affairs and high art in the anthology, New York Stories
Untitled (1991)-A taxi-driving ex-clown finds the heart of darkness in this sequence from Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth
The Heart of the World (2000)-Guy Maddin's dizzying retooling of Russian montage as Canadian high comedy
If I had twelve fingers, I could add on two more, for the Best Twelve Narrative Shorts.
Springtime in Greenland (1981)-Macho posing and fighting around a Winnepeg swimming pool, humor from filmmaker John Paisz
Blue (1992)-Melancholia, unrequited love, a real-life stripper, and a barefoot dramatic performance from David Cronenberg in Don McKellar's transgressive comedy
(Boston Phoenix - August, 2005)