Saturday 14 September 2013

Comforting Shadows (2013)

Director: Jeff Grunow
Stars: Lara Van Lith, Julie Van Lith, Gary Herkimer, Timothy Helmstadter, Raymond Scott and Shari K Green
This film was a submission to one of the IFP Phoenix film challenges in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 submissions.
Many of the best films at this year's screening of IFP Beat the Clock challenge films came towards the end. Star Babies, the clear winner, played 20th out of the 22 entries, right after the most overlooked and underrated of the evening, Inflated. Last up was the wild comedic romp, It's All Relative, which was a riotous way to finish. It wasn't all sunshine and daisies at the tail end of the bill though, with Comforting Shadows only gaining credit for its ambition. Beyond being a 48 hour film challenge, Beat the Clock comes with a number of other restrictions. The usual ones we focus on are the required prop and line of dialogue, as the best entries highlight great imagination in how those are used. However, there's also a choice of genre and Jeff Grunow was the only director ambitious enough to make his 48 hour film a musical. I have to admire the size of his cojones in doing that, as making a film in 48 hours is tough enough already without having to put it all to song. Unfortunately, I hate musicals.

Maybe part of why I dislike this one so much is because of that built in prejudice, which I should add is far from an absolute; there are musicals that I love. However, mostly I think it's because it's so clearly a rushed job, the most obvious 48 hour film of all these 48 hour films. It doesn't help that the sound is hardly pristine. The piece opens with horrendous static, which we only gradually realise is partly the storm raging outside young Lara's house. She's scared, of course, but she somehow finds comfort in the various toys that come to life in front of her and attempt to sing. Three are helpful: a fairy called Bambi, a soldier called Jack and a cowboy called Willie. The fourth is a jack in a box played by Gary Herkimer, who channels the Joker far more clearly than Raymond Scott channels Woody from Toy Story, which he's apparently supposed to be. There aren't songs, merely poorly sung dialogue poorly set to music. The only opportunity here for the actors is to not put it on their resumes.

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