2014 MKE Film Festival Review: Shorts – “Date Night”

"We Keep on Dancing," showing in Shorts – Date Night during the Milwaukee Film Festival. Photo via mkefilm.org
“We Keep on Dancing,” showing in Shorts – Date Night during the Milwaukee Film Festival. Photo via mkefilm.org

Running just over 90 minutes, “Date Night” groups together 11 short-films depicting the good, the bad and the ugly of love. Some films take a lighter, comedic approach to relationships, but others attack the core, shedding light on the harmful effects of heartbreak.

Heading into “Date Night,” I noticed a line of people stretching outside the doors of the Oriental Theatre consisting of mostly, if not entirely, couples. It is amazing that simple love films can bring together couples all across Milwaukee. Love is such a wonderful thing, especially in film. Dinner dates, romantic kisses and – flatulence? “Date Night” has it all at the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival.

Next “Date Night” showings:

Monday, Sept. 29 – Downer Theatre – 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 30 – Fox Bay Cinema Grill – 7:00 p.m.

 

“Hi, My Love”   ★★★

Directed by Robert G. Putka

The film opens up with a shot of a couple casually laying on a bed, involved in what appears to be a serious conversation. The woman (Eilis Cahill) stares into the eyes of her lover (Robert G. Putka) and confesses, in Portuguese, that she is falling out of love with the man. The monologue is extremely well-written and seems rather emotional, but a simple incomprehension on the man’s part makes for an awkward, but funny, situation.

 

“Scent of a Woman”   ★★★★★

Directed by Lauren Savoy

“Scent of a Woman” tells the story of a man named Dan (Ryan Eggold) and his girlfriend Chloe (Halley Wegryn Gross) and their unfortunate dinner date. Dan prepares homemade fettuccine alfredo, a dish he is extremely proud of. Gazing down at her plate, the lactose intolerant Chloe hesitates to eat the dish in fear of the potential aftermath in her bowels. Dan assures her how much of a turn-on it is when women “tackle” their food. On that note, Chole scarfs down the dish. Surely, flatulent consequences follow, and it makes for hilarious disasters on the couple’s romantic evening.

 

“Best”   ★

Directed by William Oldroyd

“Best” immensely puzzled me. The opening shot shows a man (Jotham Annan) outside, leaning up against a wall on the brink of orgasm. The next shot opens up to reveal another man (Terry Doe) performing fellatio on him. After completion, the men make out and the cameras reveal their wedding attire. The dialogue revolves around the lines: “You were always the best. I’ll break it off when Dad dies.” Credits role as the men hold hands, walking back to the chapel for the ceremony. “Best” seems more like a political statement than anything with very little intellectual value. The end of the film left me extremely confused over what I just saw.

 

“SEND”   ★★★

Directed by Peter Vack

In a world ruled by social media, long-distance relationships can get extremely frustrating. In “SEND,” a young boy (Jake Cannavale) heads to summer camp, leaving his girlfriend (Julia Garner) in panic. She goes on social media to keep in touch and up-to-date with her boyfriend. The status updates and messages sent back-and-forth are peculiarly portrayed through stage productions in a theater. In the midst of her fears of being cheated on, the girl sends a nude picture to her disloyal boyfriend, who decides to post it to the internet. “SEND” shows the dangers of social media in long-distance relationships, and it drives home the value of trust in love.

 

“Love. Love. Love.”   ★★★★★

Directed by Sandhya Daisy Sundram

Winning the Short Film Special Jury Award for Non-Fiction at the Sundance Film Festival, “Love. Love. Love.” carries a strong reputation heading into Milwaukee. The Russian film touches on different peoples’ experiences of love through snippets of brief narration. Voiceovers are accompanied by visuals showing people doing what they love. What makes the film beautiful is that everybody has a different definition of “love,” and the variety on screen really embraces the importance of life itself.

 

We Keep on Dancing”   ★★★★★

Directed by Jessica Barclay Lawton

Out of all the short-films, “We Keep on Dancing” struck me as the most emotional. The middle-aged Alan (William Guth) brings an old automobile into the maintenance shop. Seeming very distraught, he explains that the car broke down and desperately needs to get it fixed, as it belonged to his late wife. He breaks into a heartfelt monologue describing how he and his wife would turn on the car radio and dance. Even when the music stopped, he said, they continued to dance. The maintenance men offer their condolences as the entire shop breaks out into a slow dance for a brief bit of comic relief. “We Keep on Dancing” features the best acting of all the short-films, and it wins my vote for the best of “Date Night.”

 

2 Girls, 1 Cake”   ★★★★

Directed by Jens Dahl

The Danish film’s opening shot reveals 24-year-old Julie (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen) in the bathroom, doing her business not into a toilet, but a red baking bowl. Julie mixes her stool sample with other dairy products and bakes them into a cake. She brings the cake across town to a her ex-roommate’s house. When Julie enters, the two sit down in the kitchen and share coffee and dessert. The cake sits on the table waiting to be eaten. “2 Girls, 1 Cake” revolves around mending relationships, driving home the essentiality of forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things to do in a relationship, but “2 Girls, 1 Cake” shows in dramatic fashion that it can be achieved among even the most disgusting scenarios.

 

“Peepers”    ★★★★

Directed by Ken Lam

“Peepers” takes place inside the average American home with the average American couple (Jordan Klepper and Laura Grey). The couple sits down to a nice dinner and notices that they are being watched though the windows. The couple begin to freak out about the “peepers” judging their lifestyle, and the film immediately turns from suspense towards comedy. A panic attack hits the couple as they hilariously tear apart their house. The woman starts ripping pages out of a novel, yelling, “I don’t like book club! I just go for the free dip!” “Peepers” is very funny because it takes a rapid 180-degree turn and presents some of the funniest freak-outs I have seen in awhile.

 

“Queenie”   ★★

Directed by Paul Neason

This animated film tells the story of Danny (voiced by Aaron Cortesi), a geographer at a university who falls in love with a girl named Helen (voiced by Erin Banks), marries her, and gets a divorce upon finding out she has found another lover: a woman. While at the bars one night with his students, who call him “Queenie,” he runs into his ex-wife and her new girlfriend Kuini, pronounced just like Danny’s nickname. The film is extremely peculiar, and I found the concepts very difficult to follow. The animation is impressive, but it was difficult for me to take away any important value from the film.

 

“Life’s a Bitch”   ★★★★★

Directed by Francois Jaros

One of the most exciting films to watch, “Life’s a Bitch” follows a man named Phil (Guillaume Lambert) who falls in-and-out of love numerous times. He hilariously chases pigeons, cries in the shower, masturbates, gets belligerently hammered, then wakes up to do it all over again. The process repeats until he meets a new girl. Then he is caught up in romance: laughing, holding hands and having sex. That goes on until he gets dumped a second time. Then the cycle repeats itself. The scenes are wonderfully shot with quick, fast-paced editing, adding to the sense or urgency in the man’s life. “Life’s a Bitch” depicts the symptoms of being in the midst of an emotional breakdown, and the man acts so ridiculously that I found myself laughing the entire film.

 

“Where Were You When Michael Jackson Died?”   ★★★★★

Directed by Jean-Baptiste Pouilloux

Contrary to my hopeful wishes, the French film neither features Michael Jackson nor addresses the actual death of Michael Jackson. The title is derived from a bit of dialogue exchanged between a  bulky man (Denis Ménochet) and the gorgeous woman (Élodie Navarre) he appears to be following home. The woman notices the stranger and confronts him. The two get into arguments over who is following whom, who flagged down the taxi first, and they eventually get to making small-talk. That’s where the question regarding Michael Jackson comes up. From there, the two hop into a cab and the woman asks the man to sleep with her. Both of the passengers are married, so it is up to the man to make the decision he feels is the best. At the start of the film, I felt worried for the woman. At the end, I noticed myself rooting for the man to make the right decision. It is amazing how a film like this one can completely give you a change of heart among its characters. That’s powerful filmmaking.