Spike Jonze: To Die By Your Side

Spike Jonze: To Die By Your Side

To Die By Your Side (Mourir Auprès de Toi) is a tragicomic stop-motion animated short film co-created by the celebrated filmmaker Spike Jonze and designer Olympia Le-Tan. After spending five years adapting Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are, Jonze’s more recent short films include last year’s robot love story, I’m Here, and this year’s Arcade Fire collaboration, Scenes From the Suburbs. To Die By Your Side is his latest short film, which premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival’s Critics’ Week and was first presented online yesterday at NOWNESS.com.

A tale to pierce the heart, the star-crossed love story is set on the shelves of Paris’s storied Shakespeare and Co. bookstore. When night falls, an old Parisian bookseller closes the small shop, and a klutzy skeleton springs off the cover of Macbeth and falls for Mina, the flame-haired damsel from Dracula. Enlisting French filmmaker Simon Cahn to co-direct, the team wrote the script between Los Angeles and Paris over a six-month period of time, before working night and day animating the 3,000 pieces of felt that Le-Tan had cut by hand.

To Die By Your Side is a delightfully whimsical, humorous and poignant animated felt short film: be sure to watch it to the end!

Spike Jonze: To Die By Your Side

(Best Watched in Full-Screen Mode)

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Lapse: A Chilling Metaphor for Worlds of Invisible People

Lapse: A Chilling Metaphor for Worlds of Invisible People

Lapse is a harrowing short film by the Australian filmmaker Scott Alexander.  The film transports viewers to the darkly sinister world of after-hours at a large, high-security inpatient psychiatric institution.  An on-call agency cleaning lady accidentally loses her identification card and then becomes lost in the hospital’s labyrinth of gloomy hallways.  Her plight goes from bad to tragic, as the film becomes a heart-rending exploration of the loss of personal identity, as well as the debilitating demise of control with which we are all confronted when unable to communicate with or to others.

The film stands as a chilling metaphor for the devastating contemporary plight of ever-growing numbers of people who have been rendered invisible by unbearable poverty, the suffering of chronic illnesses, excessively complicated political bureaucracies, and the vast powers of hugely wealthy financial institutions that use their forces to strangle both the poor and common working persons.

Lapse confronts the viewer with deeply agonizing images and issues, which undoubtedly will make you want to look away.  But please don’t.

Lapse: A Chilling Metaphor for Worlds of Invisible People

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Crossbow: A Meditative Elegy on a Sadly Senseless Sensual Tragedy

Crossbow: A Meditative Elegy on a Sadly Senseless Sensual Tragedy

Crossbow is a remarkable short film by the Australian director David Michôd, a meditative elegy that wrestles with the exquisite sadness of a seemingly senseless tragedy, and how it relates to sexuality and nostalgia.

The film opens to a house in a very average suburban neighborhood, focusing on the vacuous face of a teenage boy, the main character.  The house is filled with the loud and exaggerated sounds of rough sex, and an unseen narrator, who turns out to be the boy’s neighbor, chronicles the boy’s predicament: he lives in a home of rough people, his mother and father think nothing of engaging in boisterous sex in his presence, nor of doing drugs and partying with other men.

Crossbow centers on a vacant, disaffected boy who suffers from abuse, before coming to a violent end.  The violence at the conclusion is made even more dramatic by the film’s slow unfurling, becoming all the more powerful by how clearly it is foreshadowed.

Crossbow: A Meditative Elegy on a Sadly Senseless Sensual Tragedy

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Shadowplay: The Ghosted Images of the Unforgettable “Shadows” of Hiroshima

Shadowplay: The Ghosted Images of the Unforgettable “Shadows” of Hiroshima

Shadowplay is an animated stop-motion short film, which was written, animated and directed by Dan Blank. The film was the winner of the 2002 Los Angeles Film Festival Best Short Award, the 2002 Student Academy Award (Bronze) and the 2003 Student Emmy Award (Gold). In August of 1945, in a closing chapter of World War II, a blinding flash lit the sky over Hiroshima.  In that searing light, huge slabs of concrete worked like emulsion paper, creating silhouetted photographs of that split-second of power.  Only shadows were left of  the people who had been going about their everyday lives: a man washing a window, one casually entering a bank and another about to whip his horse.  No other word more aptly describes these ghosted images in Hiroshima other than “haunting.” Shadowplay is the story of Akio, a shadow of a young boy, who wanders around the devastated city searching for his family, while trying to make sense of the unfathomable atrocity.

We should be reminded of these images when there is talk of nuclear threats or weapons of mass destruction.  Like the chalk outlines at a modern-day crime scene, the faceless poses of Hiroshma should make us realize that this could have been anyone, anywhere.  For those of us who never lived through World War II or the Atomic Age, the shadows are a timeless, unforgettable portrayal of life stopping.  I hope that you’ll find this film to be a touching, respectful and heartfelt film about the horrors of war.

Dan Blank introduced the film to his audiences with these words: “For an American making a film about a Japanese tragedy, it seems that my film could only be aimed at a global audience, for all sides of conflicts worldwide….I hope the images in ‘Shadowplay’ move you the way they moved me. Thank you.”

Shadowplay: The Ghosted Images of the Unforgettable “Shadows” of Hiroshima

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Death to the Tinman: How the Tinman Became a Metal-Man Without a Heart

Death to the Tinman: How the Tinman Became a Metal-Man Without a Heart

Death to the Tinman premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, where it received an Honorable Mention for Best Short Film. In addition, Death to the Tinman won the Best Short Film Award at the 2007 Savannah Film Festival; the film has also played at the South by Southwest Film Festival and the New York Film Festival, among others. The film’s Director is Ray Tintori, a 26-year-old filmmaker from Brooklyn (NY), who also directs music videos for various music groups, such as MGMT. Tintori is a member of the Court 13 film collective, which is an acclaimed ensemble group of collaborative filmmakers and performers. The Court 13 collective is renowned for its multi-award winning short film Glory at Sea, a film that was set in Post-Katrina New Orleans. Glory at Sea’s mythic narrative surged from the depths of an epic senseless human tragedy to a doggedly determined communal passion to achieve a transmuting sense of resurrection and deliverance from Katrina’s catastrophic devastation. Glory at Sea valiantly confronted a monumental tragedy that vividly displayed the fact of our human mortality, as well as the inevitable loss of our dreams for the future. The film boldly turned away from the Post-Katrina survivors’ overwhelming of feelings of vulnerability, following the group of survivors as they instead came to courageously respond with a communal bond to a renewed and feverish commitment to love and hope.

Similarly, the mythical Death to the Tinman presents a visual narrative that swells from the unfathomable depths of human tragedy, to an achievement of the renewed capacity for a sense of love and hope. Describing Death to the Tinman, Tintori said, “I wasn’t terribly interested in trying to recreate Oz from the 1930s movies; I just sort of wanted to deal with this world of evangelical mysticism.” Death to the Tinman is an adaptation of the original story of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz series, in which Tintori’s version of the Tin Man is transformed from a human lumberjack to a metal man without a heart. Tintori transported the story’s basic foundation for the original Tin Man story to a surreal, rural 1940s South, replacing Oz magic with evangelical mysticism; pastors, congregations and The Rapture take the place of flying monkeys and witches melting upon contact with water.

Assuredly, rigorous formalism is existent, albeit uncommon among professional American filmmakers today; in addition, films that display an audacious, frenzied love of the medium are equally infrequent. To see all of these factors displayed side-by-side in the same work is profoundly rare, and Death to the Tinman just happens to be one of those epic film creations. Watching Ray Tintori’s Death to the Tinman for the first time, one can feel somewhat shocked by the experience of realizing that what you’re watching is a remarkable breakthrough short film. Tintori’s modern transformation of the original story about how the Tinman came to be the Tinman was created in a way that conveys an underlying emotional tone that progresses from the chaotic, to the quirky, to the profoundly poignant.

If you haven’t seen any of Ray Tintori’s works yet, I would highly recommend that you take twelve-minutes to watch Death to the Tinman. It’s truly a small investment to make in return for a rare, sizable emotional profit.

Death to the Tinman: How the Tinman Became a Metal-Man With No Heart

Photo-Gallery: Death to the Tinman/How the Tinman Became a Metal-Man Without a Heart

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