The Toronto International Film Festival offers each year a series of packaged short films, called Short Cuts, which range in length from seven minutes or so, up to perhaps 40 minutes. The “packaging” seems predicated more on variety than anything else. Variety in location, theme, and country of origin, the overall effect of which is an impression that cinema as an art form continues to evolve.
To take but a few examples from this year’s festival: Bacon & God’s Wrath is a delightful documentary-style short about a traditional Jewish grandmother who decides, at the age of 90, to eat bacon for breakfast for the first time. Her assessment? “Well, the wrath of God did not reign down upon me. And it was a good breakfast.” The Ballad of Immortal Joe is an animated short narrated by Canadian actor Kenneth Welsh, is a contemplation in rhyme, of what the dubious blessings of immortality can be, all done with great flair in a poetic rhythm reminiscent of The Shooting of Dan McGrew and other Robert W. Service poems. Deszcz (Rain) is a very short, almost perfect metaphor of desolation, loss of freedom, and dead reckoning, in which a young lover comes to prison to visit her older lover, who is awaiting his execution. One of many key moments is her response when he asks why she did not bring their son to visit: “I have told him you are already dead.”
Following Diana, from Indonesia, traces the nuanced responses of a mother and wife who is casually informed by her husband that he is taking another wife in addition to her. He will lead two separate lives, with no promises for her and their son. It is a remarkable, unflinching film, poignant and moving and ultimately triumphal. Finally, from Quebec, a fabulous, all-too-brief look at a singer/songwriter, called A New Year (Nouvel An). The lead character is approximately eight months pregnant, and her coterie of friends, two males, two females, come to her apartment to cajole her to join them in New Year’s Eve partying. Part reverie, part character study, all absorbing and charming, this piece of film makes you wonder what might be next for director Marie-Ève Juste, and her wonderful lead actor, and real life singer Florence Blain Mbaye.
The mind reels.