Vault Shorts #1 (Death of a Chinese Clown, Chaser, In Loving Memory)

The first article in the Vault Shorts column

This year, I have received a number of screeners of short films, from a number of Asian countries. In that regard, I decided to create a column where the writers of AsianFilmVault will present these films, 2-3 at a time, in an initiative to highlight the efforts of the filmmakers, most of which are in the beginning of their careers. Here are the first three.

Death of a Chinese Clown (2016) by Jaime Cleeland (10.04 minutes)



More of an experimental succession of extreme images that an actual film, "Death of a Chinese Clown" was shot in Xuchang, China with the purpose of showing that underground cinema can be made in China.

In that fashion, the short shows a clown in different settings. First him dancing, walking, and riding a bike in a park, then him dancing half-naked, including a swinging penis, wearing garter belts, and then assaulting a girl. All the while, extremely colored images and minor visual effects appear on screen, inducing the film with a sense of disorientation and even danger, that is heightened even more by the noise music that plays throughout, as the film actually function as a music video.

Although quite difficult to make a critique of the film, Cleeland shows much promise in portraying extreme images in extreme fashion, and I would love to see a feature splatter film of his, particularly if he manages to shoot one in China.

Chaser (2017) by Gourav Mallick (6.25 minutes)



Shot in Kolkatta as the first attempt at film from Believe in Films, "Chaser" takes place in a street at night, where a man walking stumbles upon another man screaming to a tree, for no apparent reason. The first man is perplexed, but after some moments, he finds himself chased by the man, who is holding a hammer in his hands. Soon he reaches him, throws him down and is about to hit him, when his victim disappears, and he is left not knowing what exactly is happening.

Mallick's short has all the premises of a thriller, with the ending giving a surrealistic note to the film, while he is playing with the concept of what is reality and what is not? Was everything something the chaser made up, or did his victim managed to disappear magically? And what about the voice heard all over, which seems to be the one doing the actual changing?

Mallick's effort is quite good, as he managed to incorporate, with the help of cinematographer & editor Prabhat Mahata, slow-motion and even the frantic movement of the camera during the chase. His future seems to be on thrillers, since he has captured the elements of the genre quite nicely..

In Loving Memory (Ek Poshla Rupkatha, 2017) by Chandradeep Das (29.57 minutes) 



Chandradeep Das, son of veteran director Anjan Das, shot this Bengali short in collaboration with Bhavana Goparaju, Nikita Ivanenko (producers) and Rinat Yulushev (associate producer), as the kickstart of Wintry Candles Pproductions, whose purpose is to take their multicultural stories to the global stage.

The film revolves around an elderly woman, whose attachment to the past and particularly her dead husband has led her outside of society and into becoming a nagging old lady who constantly fights with her maid and her neighbors, a woman and a little child who occasionally plays in the shared corridor in the building. The kids in the neighborhood pester her, throwing rocks and breaking her windows any chance they get, with her barely managing to control her nerves. As she considers herself already dead, when she receives a large sum from her husband's insurance, she spends all of it in building a tomb for herself .When the tomb is built, she pays frequent visits to the cemetary nearby. In one of these visits however, a surprise await for her.

"In Loving Memory" is a very beautiful film, as Asim Bose in the cinematography and Tanmoy Chakraborty in the production design have done a wonderful job with the film's visuals. Sanjib Datta's editing is also quite good, and I was impressed by the way he used a picture on the wall to change time frames.

Das dedicates this film to his father; however, the male presence in the film is felt through its absence, and the focus is actually on the one left behind, the wife. His point is that people should never give up and abandon life, since inspiration and hope can come from every place, if one has the patience to look for it. In that fashion, and despite the dramatic base, the film ends in a very positive tone. The only fault I found in the narrative is the lengthy sequence with the narration from a book, which, although beautiful, becomes a bit difficult to follow after a fashion

National-award winner Sreelekha Mukherji is great in the protagonist role, highlighting her nagging and hopeless situation with gusto and elaborateness. The subtle and mellow music from Susan Di Bona and Salvatore Sangiovanni is another of the film's traits, as it accompanies the atmosphere of the short to perfection.

"In Loving Memory" is a more than worthy effort, that benefits the most from the multinational collaboration behind its production. I expect Chandradeep to shoot an impressive family drama very soon.

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Asian Film Vault: Vault Shorts #1 (Death of a Chinese Clown, Chaser, In Loving Memory)
Vault Shorts #1 (Death of a Chinese Clown, Chaser, In Loving Memory)
The first article in the Vault Shorts column
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