French Shorts

on August 01, 2008 by Kim Williamson
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   A mostly comic collection of recent Gallic short films, this Cinema Parallel release is a hit-and-miss affair, with the overall pleasing impact of its fare somewhat undercut by the built-in limitation of its genre. This is best exhibited by the best of the bunch, the compilation's first offering, Vincent Mayrand's "Deus ex machina," in which a lonely photo developer (Patrick Paroux) in a stationhouse booth falls impossibly in love with one of the machine's users (Geraldine Cotte); just when the story is beginning to develop, it goes into the fixer demanded by a short's running length, and the look into two lives that was coming into focus never achieves its proper finish. On the whole, "French Shorts" will provide a pleasing evening for a very specialized segment of the specialized audience.
   Also on tap here are Jean-Luc Gaget's "Se pendre a son cou!," another good love story; Daniel Cattan's "Manivelle"; Laurent Benegui's "Marielle et Barnabe aimeraient bein en avoir un...,' about a couple's comic struggle to have a child; Gael Morel's "La vie a rebours," a change of theme to matters most dark as a motherless family confronts poverty and death and as such the least effective of the six (shorts aren't given to angst and despair--again, the running time is just too limited, especially to effect tragedy's depth); and Didier Flamand's black-and-white Cesar winner, "La Vis," starring "French Shorts'" one "name" performer, Jean Reno ("The Professional," "Mission: Impossible"). But this last offering, made by the Djurnka Ztudio, suffers from not being subtitled. But perhaps "Deus Ex Machina" evens that score, being a virtually silent film whose imagic language crosses borders without need for translation.    A Cinema Parallel release. Shorts. French-language; all but one subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 88 min.
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