Short fest glimmers

Rating: NNNNNA good short film will stay with you a long time. NMany ingredients can go into making a great short,.

Rating: NNNNN

A good short film will stay with you a long time. NMany ingredients can go into making a great short, but there’s no set recipe. Sometimes it’s a savvy set-up that gives way to a surprising payoff. Sometimes it’s just a single idea that’s mined for all it’s worth. You’ll find both kinds of gems at this year’s Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival.
Pulsating prose

The fest’s 121 works are grouped into Canadian, international and spotlight programs. And there are tributes to John Ford, animator Bill Plympton and famous actors-turned-filmmakers. Each program offers three to nine films, among which you’re assured at least one peach.

There are a few standouts. Don’t miss the Belgian flick Dago Cassandra by Mark K.R. Lagoon (International Program 1, Thursday, June 8, 4 pm and Saturday, June 10, 6 pm). Dago (played by Wild Dee) is a cross between Jack Kerouac and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Godard’s Breathless. He’s a criminal who wanders around an unnamed European city ranting about how gangsters now work for multinational corporations and are at the beck and call of fashion designers.

Shot in grainy black-and-white, it feels like a bebop rap against consumerism and haute couture. You’ll be hearing Wild Dee’s rhythmic, pouting prose pulsing in your head for days.

Toronto filmmaker David Ostry chimes in with the beautiful and elegiac Eyes (Canadian Program 4, Thursday, June 8, 8:15 pm and Saturday, June 10, 4:15 pm). He and cinematographer Tom Turnbull photograph over 60 pairs of eyes. There are voice-overs by their owners, who may just mention their birth dates or speak about what lovely things their eyes have seen. It’s a simple premise that grows stronger and strangely sadder as it goes along.

Canadian Program 5 (Friday, June 9, 4 pm Saturday, June 10, 8:15 pm and Sunday, June 11, 4 pm) gives Toronto audiences their first peek at Guy Maddin’s four-minute experimental short Hospital Fragment, about a man, a woman and a fish monger. I haven’t yet had a chance to see it and am very curious about what’s going through the mind of a unique Canadian filmmaking talent.

Also included in the slate is Jackie May’s Toy Soldiers, which premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Al’s all grown up but still feels guilty about stealing a toy soldier from his neighbour when he was a kid. Destiny throws the two together again, and Al must decide whether to confess. It’s a very funny study of childhood logic and adult denial.

Perfect example

International Program 8 (Friday, June 9, 10 pm and Sunday, June 11, 4:15 pm) screens the Swedish film To Be Continued, a perfect example of a film where set-up is everything. A bomb is set to go off in five minutes, and filmmaker Linus Tunstrom cuts between a girl chasing a carriage through traffic, a woman cooking a soft-boiled egg for her impatient husband and two lovers who are about to be discovered by an unsuspecting spouse. An exercise in high-performance editing, the tension mounts with faster and faster cutting.

Stick around for Lazy Sunday Afternoon, a definite crowd-pleaser. German animator Bert Gottschalk takes pen to paper and comes up with a very amusing western. Two desperados crash their cars in the desert and settle their differences in a showdown. Body parts and 10-gallon hats fly.

THE SIXTH ANNUAL TORONTO WORLDWIDE SHORT FILM FESTIVAL, through Sunday (June 11). Screenings at Eaton Centre Cinemas (Yonge and Dundas). Closing-night gala at the Uptown Cinema (764 Yonge). Admission $6, closing-night gala $10, book of 10 tickets $45, festival passport $90. Hotline 535-4457.

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