Do you enjoy movies but can't bear the thought of dealing with the same one for two grueling hours? Sufferers from short attention spans: Put down that can of Mountain Dew and rejoice! It's time once again for the Rochester International Film Festival, more commonly referred to as Movies on a Shoestring.
2005 marks the 47th installment of the world's longest-running festival for short films. This year 98 entries were received from both near (25 from New York State) and far (one each from Japan and Spain). Twenty-eight shorts made the final cut.
After trying to think of a clever way to group the films I wanted to write about, I settled on the uninspired yet helpful chronological angle. This might help you choose which shows you want to attend. But if you can't decide, just spend the weekend tailgating at the George Eastman House. Don't tell them it was my idea, though. No one likes a tattletale.
This review only includes a selection of films. For a full schedule, go to www.rochesterfilmfest.org.
Thursday, May 5
Donna's Room, by local filmmakers Stephen Lindsay and Michael Bartolotta, was shot in part at Monroe Community Hospital and uses nifty handheld camerawork to juxtapose a young woman's take on her captivity against what's actually happening.
Humorless Sherlock Holmes fans (like yours truly) will be totally miffed by The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle, but casual observers may dig this farcical look at what Doyle was willing to sacrifice to ensure that Holmes would not be his sole legacy.
Gorgeous Deco art direction and broad slapstick make The Sky is Falling one of the more accomplished shorts of the fest. It's set just after the stock market crash of 1929 and shows how a bellboy saves the job of the woman he loves after the suicide rate at their hotel spikes.
Friday, May 6
Deft editing and spooky music highlight Lamia, in which an artist gradually remembers that he has met his subject before, though his reasons for repressing that memory become very clear.
Hunting Camp, the (oxymoron alert!) longest short in this year's festival, takes its time unspooling a con involving three men and one woman who all know more than they let on, but not as much as they should.
Renowned animator Don Hertzfeldt's latest, The Meaning of Life, sets his deceptively crude stick figures to Tchaikovsky in a lovely look at whether we're actually evolving.
Saturday, May 7 (afternoon)
The City of Rochester's first homicide victim is the subject of The Murder of William Lyman, an animated piece by Pittsford's Michael Keene. The tale unfolds via paintings, sketches, and narration that utilizes 1838 court transcripts and eyewitness accounts in which we learn, among other things, that State Street was once considered "lowly."
If You Step on a Crack is a touching, well-acted story about how one woman passes the evening before her breast biopsy. She tests the love of her supportive husband and takes her rage out on an inconsiderate interloper who learns that he's pushing the buttons of the wrong woman.
Up, by former RIT students Suruchi Pahwa and Hardeep Kharbanda, tracks a simple animated creature's rise to the top and its tragic inability to cope with the demands of fame. Paulo Almeida and Joshua Morrell turn their lens on the monks in Piffard (yes, the ones who make the bread) in The Abbey of the Genesee, an affectionate look at lives of simplicity in service of a deep faith.
Saturday, May 7 (evening)
Quality acting highlights Stopover, in which a mother misses her daughter's recital due to an acting audition but reassesses her priorities rather quickly... probably because these are all short films.
This Moment also featured fine performances and watches as a young woman fields a marriage proposal to illustrate what people would give up (or not) to be with the one they love.
Sophie Matisse --- a New York Painter is an interesting documentary about the granddaughter of renowned artist Henri and her work in their shared medium. Sophie takes famous tableaux and removes the people from them (her interpretation of the Mona Lisa is entitled "Back in Five Minutes") while she tries to live up to the family name.
And my favorite film was Oedipus. It's the same old yarn about that Greek motherbedder, but this time it's done in stop-motion animation and performed by a cast of vegetables. Jocasta is a tomato, Oedipus is a potato (giving him more than two eyes to gouge), a bulb of garlic rats them out, and Lando Calrissian lends his voice to a bell pepper. Billy Dee-licious.
Movies on a Shoestrings' Rochester International Film Festival Thursday and Friday, May 5 and 6, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, May 7, at 4 and 8 p.m. in the Dryden Theatre, George Eastman House, 900 East Avenue. Admission is free, donations are accepted. www.rochesterfilmfest.org