Encounters of the Girl Kind: Women's Shorts
Type: Collection of short films
Metro Weekly Rating: (4 out of 5)
TAKING US ON a ride from the surreal to the sublime, from the dark to the depraved, ''Encounters of the Girl Kind'' has a little bit of something for everyone.
Operated by Invisible Hands () is a creepy short film reminiscent of John Cusack's character in Being John Malkovich. It's almost obscene watching two dolls do the things these two do and talk the way they talk (in French, no less), seeing them sport pubic hair and wear make-up -- even smoking -- all the sorts of things none of a young girl's dolls should do. It's spooky and bizarre, right to the point of being hilarious and brilliant.
A pretty film with an interesting twist, Backstroke () morphs passion, tragedy and indifference into 20 dramatic minutes. A lifeguard and a swimmer hit it off and have a night that's unforgettable -- or is it? From the pool to the psych ward, this short film leaves the viewer's head swimming and may leave many feeling unresolved ... but maybe that's the point.
Ma Rainey's Lesbian Licks () constitutes a four-minute education about blues great Ma Rainey, with a performance of her soulful lesbian paean, ''Prove It on Me Blues,'' which includes the unforgettable line ''Went out last night with a crowd of my friends. They must've been women because I don't like no men.'' It leaves the viewer wanting more -- more information about the legend, and more of her music.
If sci-fi/fantasy is your genre, particularly the vampire sort, you'll love In Twilight's Shadow (), which features exceptional special effects (with a notable shortcoming or two). The film has interesting characters and plot, but not enough depth. An assessment by one devout fantasy genre fan, albeit one who's not particularly fond of short films or vampire stories: ''That was dumb.'' If sci-fi/fantasy isn't your genre, this one's bearable enough, with interesting cinematography and 11-minute run-time.
When Belle and Helena meet in The Insomniacs (), they're at a 3 a.m. Insomniacs Anonymous meeting, which seems a bit like holding an AA meeting in a bar. From their meeting to a quest for waffles in Belle's kitchen to a nearly whiplash-inducing scene in Belle's bed, this film wraps up in a fashion that's way too simplistic. At least it's engaging enough to keep the audience awake.
In Mars (), rough hooligan girls cross paths with sweet, pretty, talented Anna, while the leader of the pack finds herself captivated. It's a nice-enough story, except that girl gangs are terrifying, especially German ones. Production note: The only thing worse than subtitles with bad grammar and punctuation are subtitles that fade into the picture and are therefore illegible. This film offers both.
A young bookstore clerk learns about more than shelving in Pages of a Girl (Paginas de Menina) (), a Brazilian offering that shows a brief love affair between young Ingrid and bookstore manager Silvia, who becomes her mentor in the stacks and in the sack.
The Touch () is based on a poem by Parisian lesbian Renee Vivien. During much of the film it's as though we're watching through gauze, probably to produce an intended effect, but really it's just esoteric. The story is nice and the actors do a fine job, but it goes a little overboard in trying to set an early 1900s feel.
Two Zulu girls fall in love in Night Star (), brought together in seclusion when one is banished to a cave during her menstrual period (known as ''going to the moon'') while the other is designated to advise and help her. The older girl, who is otherwise a bit stern, allows herself to feel and express the tender feelings she has for her friend. It's a culturally rich film that and will relieve many viewers to know that it stops short of the graphic footage one might imagine.