Cats, Chairs, And Comedy: Sundance Shorts Showcase Variety

Four Sundance film shorts impress viewers with varied characters and exploration of genre and theme.

The Date
“The Date” by Jenni Toivoniemi tells the story of a young boy, Tino, the owner of Diablo-a prize-winning stud cat-who must entertain a cat breeder and the owner of the female cat meant to be Diablo’s mate. With a Finnish cast, the film is almost amusing in the way it contrasts the heated passions of the breeding cats with the polite civilities of the two owners and the cat breeder. Tino makes coffee and toasts sweet buns for his guests, trying to ignore the hissing and screeching and thumping coming from the two amorous cats in the other room. He sits awkwardly while the young girl (owner of the female cat) jumps at every bang, at one point turning to Tino, exclaiming, “What is that brute doing to her!” The loud mating of the cats and the awkwardness between the two owners brings out the sexual tension between them. Tino consoles the girl, saying that Diablo always treats his women well. At the end of the film, one feels almost as if the date was between the two owners instead of the cats.

Great music comes in bursts throughout director Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash.” The short is about a young boy who aspires to be a drummer in an elite jazz band-led by the proverbial director from hell. The abusive rants from the director as he chews out one particular boy for simply being out of tune, lambasting everything from his weight to his musical talents, leaves one alarmed and nervous for the fate of the new drummer. When it is his turn in the spotlight, despite many encouraging words from the director, the main character feels the heat as well. The director’s vicious insults whip a group of college-age boys into docile sheep. The music ties “Whiplash” together well, coming in and out as the director stops and starts the group, usually pausing to chastise one of the players. The loud, brassy, and jazzy feel to the song as it stops and starts builds up the tension until one fears every pause means the director is about to lash out, with his every insult worse than the last.

Irish Folk Furniture
“Irish Folk Furniture” by Tony Donoghue is an endearing, sweet stop-motion animation about the process of repairing old traditional furniture. The film uses real subjects, but the frame-by-frame stop animation gives it the choppy, patched together feel typical of this brand of animation. As proud owners describe the significance attached to their chairs, cupboards, or flour bins in their lilting Irish accents, the film shows the worn-out furniture’s travels across green fields and country roads to the barn of the man who repairs them. As the director interviews the various owners and the repairman, new life is slowly brought to these well-loved objects. They are sanded down, given new varnish, re-painted, and then finally shown in their old homes again, in many cases serving the next generation who will come to love the furniture like their parents and grandparents did. Donoghue does an excellent job of showing the loving relationship between owner and possession and the adorable personalities of the old folk, reminding us of the affection we feel for our own cherished heirlooms.

K.I.T. (Keep In Touch)
Director Michelle Morgan’s “K.I.T. (Keep In Touch)” is a refreshing and funny short about the ridiculous restraints society imposes. A well-meaning, wealthy girl is very upset to hear the kind, quirky checkout girl is leaving the local grocery. Determined to keep with her promise to “keep in touch”-a nicety most people just throw out because it’s polite-the wealthy girl makes every effort to get together with the former grocer. The meet ups get more and more awkward, with the girl obsessing about them in her spare times, worrying that she was too mean or too fake. It reminds one of all the social constructs that we follow not because anyone necessarily wants to, but because it’s simply what is done. Seeing this girl trying fervently to be so considerate and polite is both hilarious and prompts introspection.