100 Years of Suspenseful, Tragic Stories
Movie Review #732
The Tragic Story of Nling
Directed by Jeffrey St. Jules. Written by Jeffrey St. Jules. Produced by Larissa Giroux for Intrepid Film Arts. Starring Tom Barnett, Steven McCarthy, Kate Campbell, and the voice of John Neville. Premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in September 2006; and at Sundance Film Festival in January 2007. Not rated by the MPAA. Runs 14 minutes.
“The Tragic Story of Nling” was a Canadian short film created in 2006, but it’s very stylistically convincing as a 1940’s movie. That’s a high point, or might I say, the high point. Everything else runs from confusing to blah. Yeah, the use of stop-animation is neat, but this could have been so much better as a live-action short. And as far as substance, it’s about a desolate island named Nling where a guy who’s suffering an alcohol shortage with his donkey friend. Or maybe that’s just a human being with a donkey head. Whichever it was, I was reminded so thoroughly of Bottom in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is a grueling, abstract film that really gives the alcoholic’s frame of mind. But I struggle with something huge. Is it even a tragedy? Or is it actually a comedy? Whichever one it truly is, this is a really silly short film.
100 Years at the Movies
Directed by Chuck Workman. Produced by Chuck Workman for TCM. Archive footage: Clara Bow, Rin Tin Tin, Eugen Sandow. Distributed in 1994. Not rated by the MPAA. Runs 9 minutes.
Turner Classic Movies’s centennial celebration of cinematic evolution is just as good as any of the movies it spotlights. (I must be honest: it’s also a whole hell of a lot better than some of them). This may be “just” a short film, but yes, it’s absolutely riveting for anybody who cherishes the movies half as much as I do. We do tend to take for granted how much movies have changed over the years and even if this short is two decades old now, it’s still completely relevant and thoroughly moving. The single most amazing aspect “100 Years at the Movies” has to offer is the art of brilliant choice of music and triumphant movie clips, and absolutely no dialogue. It’s quite remarkable, just watching how we came from one heavyweight epic (“The Birth of a Nation”) to another (“Schindler’s List”)—with films of all shapes, sizes, and colors in between. It’s remarkable, and too fascinating to believe it’s only nine minutes.
Directed by Phillips Smalley and Lois Weber. Scenario by Lois Weber. Produced for Rex Motion Picture Company. Starring Lois Weber, Val Paul, Douglas Gerrard, and Sam Kaufman. Uncredited, unconfirmed cameo: Lon Chaney. Distributed by Universal Film Manufacturing Company in wide release on July 6, 1913. Not rated by the MPAA. Runs 10 minutes.
As old as it is, “Suspense” is actually very suspenseful. This is a 1913 short from Lois Weber, often referred to as cinema’s first female director. However, the directing credit jumped around a number of male directors (including D. W. Griffith and Phillips Smalley, who is still co-credited) for decades. The story concerns four key characters: The Wife (Lois Weber), The Husband (Valentine Paul), The Pursuer (Douglas Gerrard), and The Tramp (Sam Kaufman). Incidentally, the ten minutes that those four account for could very well be—and, I don’t doubt, has already been—elongated to a feature-length story. The fact that so much happens in this little film feels fast-paced and exciting. A woman and her infant alone in their isolated house. A tramp discovers how to break in, but not before the woman sees him lurking about her house. When she calls for help, complications begin to unfold. Maybe that’s a story we could find today without trying too hard, but the absolute apex of what “Suspense” offers is its cinematography. This film was released over a century ago, and many filmmakers today fail to match the creative camerawork we see here.
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