'The World According to Shorts'

A fixture on the local moviegoing circuit since 2000, the annual "The World According to Shorts" has provided one of the few regular outlets for the commercially problematic short-film format. This year's Cinema Village program is something of a best-of, compiling six films from past incarnations and pointedly showcasing the series' range, both geographical and formal. Among the best of the best is La Perra, an erotic Chilean satire about a bored upper-class couple who keep each other aroused with larcenous fantasies about their innocent new maid. The overall mode is reminiscent of Buñuel, even including a nod to the master's trademark foot fetishism. Comedy of a decidedly grimmer sort, United We Stand imagines Norway's once dominant Labor Party as a group of old men singing the "Internationale" in unison after inadvertently getting stuck in a marsh.

Some of the entries gain immeasurably from context: Coming on the heels of the arid Antichrist, a nearly half-hour-long Polish film about a group of boys playing out masochistic scenarios in a barren wasteland, the gentle naturalism of the Brazilian The Old Woman's Step comes as an earthy delight. An elderly woman sells a chicken at market to buy a birthday gift for her fisherman grandson; like its protagonist, the film moves slowly but radiates a quiet generosity of spirit.

The tripartite We Have Decided Not to Die (from Australia) reaches nakedly for transcendence, but more genuinely visionary is the German closer, Ring of Fire, a mock epic black-and-white animation that finds a pair of cowboys apparently lost in a desert of sexually charged western imagery. It's provocative, mystifying, original, and, as if to prove the vitality of the short form, utterly unimaginable at feature length.


The World According to Shorts
New Yorker
Opens July 21, Cinema Village

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