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Small Gauge Trauma – Fantasia Film Festival (2006) | DVD Review

If you’re a fan of genre cinema, film shorts, Fantasia or any combination thereof, I can’t imagine how this disc would disappoint.

Small Gauge Trauma is the Montreal-based Fantasia film festival’s annual highlight of the best genre shorts from around the world. This tenth anniversary DVD is a selection of some of the best from the past decade curated by Mitch Davis, Fantasia’s assistant director and co-director of international programming.

For the purposes of this review, each short gets a grade of:
A: Cream of the crop
B: Interesting…
C: Disposable

B : ABUELITOS (Grandfathers) (Spain / 15 min) Dir: Paco Plaza
There’s something tragic going on deep within the confines of a bizarre seniors hospice… Awash in green, neon and horrible skin, Abuelitos has some haunting atmospherics (helped in part by it’s unsettling score). The clues are there but still seem somehow vague. There’s something tragic going on, I just wish to christ I knew what it was…

A : CHAMBRE JAUNE (Belgium / 8 min) Dir: Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani
A tale of obsession gone awry between killer and victim. Beautifully shot, Chambre Jaune builds mood with intimate cropping and a stunning color palette. Sensual, violent and mysterious.

C : FLAT – N – FLUFFY (Canada / 7min) Dir: Benoit Boucher
Transgressive animation about some whacked out guy, his militia buddy and the dog they seem to enjoy mutilating. An absurdist tale that will only appeal to those that find pointlessness amusing. This is one of those shorts that I imagine worked well as filler for an unsuspecting audience, but doesn’t seem fit for a permanent collection.

B : GORGONAS (Argentina / 15 min) Dir: Salvador Sanz
Apocalyptic sci-fi animation in which a mysterious pop band turns the populace to stone. Gorgonas has a visual language all it’s own; you never get the sense you’re anywhere other than in this nightmare scenario. It’s all enveloping and ends on a high note – literally.

B : I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (Portugal / 20 min) Dir: Miguel Angel Vivas
A village overrun by zombies, a zombie killer overrun by torment, and the woman who belongs to them both. For a 20 minute short, I’ll See You In My Dreams packs in a lot of material. Fun, morbid and nasty in all the right ways.

C : INFINI (Canada / 9 min) Dir: Guillaume Fortin
From the Small Gauge Trauma guide, “A shadowed man splices together super 8 filmstrips of an overdosed junkie’s memories, causing her life to flash fragmented before her eyes…”. Huh? Somewhere here there may be an idea, but you wouldn’t know it from the muddled execution. Simply jump cutting between two disparate scenes may create a visual link, but it’s not enough to join the idea, tenuous at best.

B : L’ILYA (Japan / 39 min) Dir: Tomoya Sato
Chick records live suicide and uses footage for trendy video installations. L’Ilya straddles the line between Japan’s well documented suicide problem and the public’s fascination with it to create a story about the effects of overexposure.

A : LOVE FROM MOTHER ONLY (Brazil / 21 min) Dir: Dennison Ramalho
Demonic voodoo possession takes center stage when occult forces are unleashed on a remote island and it’s inhabitants are powerless to avoid their path of destruction. This chiller from Brazil has an endless supply of impressive flourishes and stunning cinematography to boot. The less I say, the better. Very impressive.

C : MISS GREENY (Japan / .30 sec) Dir: Tenkwaku Naniwa
Green blob is murdered in cold goo by it’s own mother! Miss Greeny tugs at the heartstrings in a way that no bowl of Jello could ever do (and don’t accuse me of spoiling the short – it’s thirty seconds for christ’s sake!).

B : RUTA DESTROY! (Spain / 15 min) Dir: Diego Abad
Bizarre musical about the come down of raver culture. Features plenty of spaced out characters and amusingly vapid impromptu musical numbers. Might also inspire a spur of the moment trip to the barber…

A : THE SEPARATION (UK / 10 min) Dir: Robert Morgan
Otherworldly stop-motion opus deals with the grisly psychological ramifications of separated siamese twins. Dark and brooding, The Separation feels like that painful bruise that hurts to look at but inspires feelings of strange attachment. The production is impeccable and everything about The Separation is of the first order.

A : SISTER LULU (UK / 5 min) Dir: Philip John
Sister Lulu follows the strange and erotic goings-on at a secluded nun’s convent. Shot in black and white, the film has a potent aesthetic sensibility. A short made strictly for the purposes of entertainment, Sister Lulu is in your face and decidedly unchristian.

A : TEA BREAK (UK / 7 min) Dir: Sam Walker
Grimy industrial tale about a working class assemblyman with an unusual task. Easily this disc’s bloodiest entry, Tea Break could be about the ‘just doing my job’ justification for inexcusable behavior. Maybe it’s about the occasional time out we all need from our hectic work schedules? How about worker’s rights? Or maybe it’s just an excuse to chop up naked people. Yeah, that sounds about right.

There are a load of special features on this disc. The ‘main’ extras consist of an introductory message from Mitch Davis extolling the virtues of the short form, and a ‘blessing’ from Brazilian Jose Mojica Marins (AKA Coffin Joe). There is a featurette called ‘What is Fantasia?’ that culls together various media coverage of the festival and three TV spots that appeared as part of Fantasia 2005, including the crowd-pleasing standout ‘Jumper’. They’ve also thrown in the Small Gauge Trauma 2005 festival trailer for good measure.

Accessible via their individual menu screens, all of the 13 shorts come with a ‘Director’s Biography’ and 11 of the 13 have audio commentary. Included is an amusing musical commentary in the case of Tea Break, and some not-so-amusing robot-commentary for Flat-n-Fluffy. Some extra nuggets include a zombie music video by thrash metal band Moonspell for the short I’ll See You In My Dreams, and an interesting deleted scene with audio commentary from The Separation. I’ll also just point out that you have the additional option of playing the disc’s shorts in a pre-programmed order that takes into account pacing considerations.

The collected works on Small Gauge Trauma represent live action, traditional animation, and stop-motion crossing genres and borders with equal ease and have run times ranging from :30 seconds to 39 minutes (approximate average 13 mins). If you’re a fan of genre cinema, film shorts, Fantasia or any combination thereof, I can’t imagine how this disc would disappoint.

Movie rating – 3.5

Disc Rating – 4

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