The following films are among those featured “Shorts Program 4: New York,” within the shorts programming at the 53rd New York Film Festival, which began on Saturday and continues through October 11. The NYC shorts program screened on Sunday night and will screen again tonight, Monday the 28th, at 6:30pm.
Hernia (Jason Giampietro)
‘‘It’s like a little hole, and it keeps getting bigger.’’ Rudy (Stephen Gurewitz), with his greasy center-parted hair, is grating in a way familiar from NYC-set indies which investigate social fissures through characters not afraid to burrow right into them: within just a single sequence, he’s sympathetic, repulsive, and pathetic in his loneliness, berating an acquaintance for asking to borrow his vaccuum cleaner when she had a backup lined up, sticking around as a third wheel for an awkward, not-particularly-passive-aggressive dinner before baring his soul, and hitting on her in the least romantic way possibly—all the while, gripping his abdomen in pain, and whining about the titular ailment in a way that at once suggests genuine fright and also repels protectiveness. The film’s charting of the minor-key aggressions and secret negotiations of city life are sharpened—or is it elevated?—by physical agony.
Riot (Nathan Silver)
Silver presents home videos from his 9th birthday party, in 1992, during which he and his friends attempted to make a short dramatic film inspired by the LA riots. In Ren & Stimpy t-shirt and Bloods bandana, the filmmaker exhibits several of the traits which have since defined his cinema: an improv-based, emotionally volatile set (the young auteurs berates his actors for missing their marks, and cries when one of them really hits him), and the indulgence of his parents, who filmed the whole thing—his mother Cindy, a frequent presence in his films, seems remarkably chill about letting her son play with cap pistols and a very real-looking cigarette, but finally has enough, while her father makes the inevitable America’s Funniest Home Videos reference, and asks the question which has haunted the Silver filmography since: “Who wants to moon the camera?” The film also works as a meditation on traumatic current events as filtered into the relative safety (and surreal confusion) of a middle-class childhood.
Special Features (James N. Kienitz Wilkins)
Late-1990s consumer-grade digital video makes a terrific Uncanny Valley, as three different African-American interviewees deliver a monologue about working in catering that turns into a ghost story, and answer follow-up questions from an off-camera filmmaker. The obviously scripted flourishes of the speech predict its literary structure, and the subsequent chatter further plays up its suggestive parallels—many of which are clever red herrings to go along with a consideration of race and its various metaphors.
Six Cents in the Pocket (Ricky d’Ambrose)
The longest film in the program, at 14 minutes, nominally concerns a house-sitter’s lonely errands, but consists largely of wild urban sound and baroque chamber music over stripped-down insert close-ups—reminiscent of Bresson, but without all the surrounding dramatic padding—of money changing hands, coffee being poured, letters being held open and read, with details of the MTA subway map subbing in for establishing shots of new neighborhoods. The surprisingly melancholy tones of the homeowner’s notes and postcards, as read in voiceover, predict a late twist, which sets up a long sequence, scored to Albert Ayler, of familiar Brooklyn streets, shot kitty-cornered and static, gorgeous with the solitude of the city in winter.
My Last Film (Zia Anger)
Anger, who’s based mostly upstate, is beginning to receive attention for music videos and short films exploring aspects of female personality, and here delivers a continent-wide pastiche of indie-film solipsism. In Part I, Lola Kirke, with yoga mat, and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition model Kelly Rohrbach, in backwards black baseball cap emblazoned with the word “Nothing,” walk down the street passive-aggressively in the kind of late-morning North Brooklyn sunlight only known to the skin of the trust-funded, before becoming enveloped in the shallowest meta-cinematic twist imaginable. In Part II, Rosanna Arquette(!!!) (no but seriously Rosanna Arquette!!!!!!) swans about in her Los Angeles manse (I assume), delivering a pretentious monologue about her “lover,” “film,” which dissolves into hilariously banal indie-film inside-baseball specifics, before achieving a crescendo of stupidity. Will reflexivity ever be possible again?