Short Films

Le Sang Des Bêtes (1949) (aka Blood Of The Beasts)
Georges Franju
20 Min.

Georges Franju’s Blood of the Beasts (1949) is perhaps the kind of film that you obtain when you mix poetry and snuff. Detailing the everyday work of Parisian slaughterhouses, Blood of the Beasts is a film that manages to rise above its gore-quotient to explore what exactly a ‘society’ is. Franju cuts back and forth between the serene, romantic and sacred city of Paris, where the church carries on its duty, absolving people of their sins and providing solace for the dying, and the slaughterhouses in its suburbs where cattle are beheaded in a mechanical fashion like units on a production line.  We are also shown the people who slay these animals and process them for those outside this building. They carry out their routines dispassionately and with no moral dilemmas whatsoever. In fact, never does Blood of the Beasts cry out about it all or take an ideological stance like some propagandist video. It merely presents us facts – purely scientific at times – and gradually reveals to us the questionable basis upon which our so-called ‘civilization’ is built and the moral impasse that it has brought us to. Franju apparently did not want to film the movie in colour since he felt it would be too much to take for the audience. But coming to think of it, had Franju decided to shoot Blood of the Beasts in colour, the movie would have been elevated to a different level altogether. Imagine the mere implication of including the colour red in a film that opens with romance and culminates with bloodshed. But I’m not going to complain, since the black and white too, in a way, provides an odd and tranquil beauty to this gem of a film that strikingly blends conventional documentary and fictional narration.


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Unsere Afrikareise (1966) (aka Our Trip To Africa)
Peter Kubelka
13 Min.

Rare is the film where the idea of a director is revealed rather than expressed. Of course, the moment the camera chooses a position and an angle, the director has made a moral choice. But not often do wee see these images speaking about themselves. Our Trip to Africa (1966) is such a film where the how and what of its images tell us more about the “maker” than his ideologies. Overloaded with visuals from the “protagonist’s” safari in the African continent, the film could, at first glance, simply be called a badly shot tourist video. But soon, certain images repeat themselves at regular intervals and concoct a theme of sorts to establish that there is more to the film than meets the eye. We see shots of the natives, especially of their bare torsos, and of wild animals being killed for game. The photographer seems to be enjoying this thoroughly. Then, in complete contrast, there are also shots of other white people, presumably the photographer’s family, having a sunbath on their boat and who, too, seem to be happy to bask in the exotic wild that is now under their control. Our Trip to Africa could be easily panned for its decidedly imperialist (and, to an extent, racist) tone, if not for one simple fact – that it is a film within a film. That the function of Our Trip to Africa is not to act as a tourist video, but to show us one. That there’s a world’s difference between the outlook of the man behind the camera – the protagonist of the film – and of “the man behind the man behind the camera” – Peter Kubelka, the director.


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Mothlight (1963)
Stan Brakhage
4 Min.

Stan Brakhage – the man without a movie camera – has adorned his filmography with some of the most bizarre films ever made, but Mothlight (1963), thankfully, remains one of the more accessible movies – visually and conceptually – among those. The quintessential garage work, Mothlight is an array of images made by gluing together pieces of dead insects and dry leaves on a film strip and projecting the product using a light source. The result is a fascinating viewing experience marked by a mixture of ambiguity and revelation. Like the work of a curious child, which oozes with innocence and imagination, Brakhage’s film (especially when seen with the hum of a projector) is one of the few films that truly capture the “magic of cinema”. Mothlight is a unique film in the sense that a digital copy (or any other recorded source) of it undermines its power because of the very intention of the film. If Andre Bazin traced the need for cinema, and all plastic arts, to the ancient Egyptian craft of mummification, Brakhage carries out precisely the reverse process – employing cinema to revive and preserve the dead for eternity. Mothlight could be seen just as a POV shot of a light bulb on which an army of moths has unleashed itself, only to get killed. But it is also the opposite. The artist’s desire to resurrect the dead and to eternalize the living in order to achieve an immortality of sorts is one of the very many motivations for art. Brakhage’s “actors”, although dead and dismantled, have now achieved life once more, thanks to the singular property of cinema to capture reality, in all its four dimensions.


[In this section, I’ll be posting brief write-ups about some impressive/interesting/frustrating/bizarre/whatever short films. And if possible the video too.]

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