It’s not easy to tell a good story in just five minutes. The ABCs of Death, an anthology of 26 short films in a two-hour framework, proves that sometimes you can, and sometimes you can’t.
Twenty-six filmmakers from 15 countries were issued a challenge: Using one letter of the alphabet as a thematic starting point, create a brief, death-oriented “chapter” that would join 25 other short films. The result is about what you’d expect — a few gems, several busts, and a whole lotta mediocrity.
“D Is for Dogfight” is a pulsating, relentless blast, with no dialogue but visual magnetism to spare. Director Marcel Sarmiento demonstrates how to use sound, slow-motion, and extreme close-ups to deliver a visceral knockout. It’s violent, but also unexpectedly poignant. D is for dynamic.
“X Is for XXL” generates a surprising amount of empathy for its protagonist, an obese middle-aged woman, as it chronicles a typical night for this social sad sack, culminating in a horrific resolution to her problems. Sissi Duparc is unforgettable, and X is for extraordinary.
“F Is for Fart.” Should a filmmaker’s twisted fantasy be considered “art”? I suppose so, or how else do we explain David Lynch? “Fart” is certainly memorable, but in the same sense than an overflowing commode is memorable. A young Japanese girl achieves nirvana with the aid of another woman’s derriere, proving that some directors (and actresses) will do anything for a paycheck. F is for flunk.
The other entries in ABCs run the gamut from visually striking to more wince-inducing displays of bad taste. Often really bad taste. I’m not sure that I’d want to be stuck in an elevator with some of these filmmakers.
Cast: Sissi Duparc, Arisa Nakamura, Steve Berens, Yui Murata, Chris Hampton Release: 2012
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