My original plan was to see A Dream's Merchant, a three-hour epic Motorcycle Diaries-style road movie whose premise transcended the absurd runtime and made it to my list. But there were technical difficulties, and it was cancelled, and the Thursday showing is out of my watching window. So, on the recommendation of one of the festival directors, I went for Nor'Easter instead, which came with a couple of short films beforehand.
Rage Net (USA) - One of the films from the Stan Brakhage tribute strand, whose filmography is high in quantity, if not quality at least. Blink and you'll miss it, and to be honest you'll survive the loss. What I presume must be an angry, energy filled animation of paint and colour to represent inner rage, looks more like various static shots of your coffee table if you had a load of 4-year olds round sipping diet coke and doing fingerpainting all over it. 2/10
Return (Isr) - A young adult, Shay, returns home after a prolonged journey around India, and he is visibly changed for the experience. Now looking to return for study, every tiny problem causes friction between him and his family, who walk on eggshells around him as they try to reconnect with their wayward child. It was a nice film by a young director, but it felt a little flabby around the corners; it needed tightening a bit. 7/10
Nor'Easter (US) (site)
Robert Todd's films had thus far not set my hair alight - shorts Dangerous Light and Habitat were forgettable
from day 3, and they were only partially balanced out by the average Master Plan that went with them.
Thankfully, Nor'Easter is a more conventional sort of film, although it's subject matter is not easy to stomach. Eric, a young and fresh-faced priest arrives at the remote, snow covered town of Northaven to replace the previous incumbent, who had to be moved on. A grieving family can't let go of the child that went missing five years previous, and it seems the old priest had a hand in his disappearance. Thinking he was doing the best for his new flock, Eric consoles Richard and his family and encourages them to have a funeral, accept the loss, and move on.
But young Josh isn't dead, and when he turns up out of the blue, it's clear he went for other reasons, and where did he go to? Josh is tight lipped even to his friends, and the truth of his disappearance places Eric in a dangerous position.
Set amongst the stark, beautiful backgrounds of northern America, these kind of films feed off the ambience of the locations; a sense of isolation and drawn curtains, and secrets running deep under presentable happy families. So the film is pretty predictable in that it's going to reveal much about the families as the walls fall down that you don't really want to hear; and although the first three quarters stumbles and broods as it establishes the scene, it does shift up a gear or two eventually as the rather disturbing secret makes itself known.
Theres good acting, it's atmospheric and there is a resolution of sorts, but it fails to reach the swirling chaos suggested by it's meteorological namesake. 7/10