Movie Review
Director: Various
Cast: Various

offbeat is a collection of "thirteen music based minimum movies" from the Berlin-based label 89mm. Indeed, the most interesting aspect of this collection is certainly the unique ways that the featured filmmakers adapt their work to music, and the various composers involved create music well suited to the films they’re scoring. However, the films themselves seem to be shooting for the cutting edge of avant-garde, when, more often, they generally feel more like amateurish products of film-school pretension. Here’s the rundown, film by film:

01. "White Trucks" - This one, by Markus Dinig, might be the most lifeless and pretentious in the bunch. It starts out with three people (two men and a woman) standing in an empty white room watching a TV showing cars and pedestrians pass by on a street. Then, we cut to the actual street. Lots of pointless, arty, stuttering jump-cuts. Finally, we hear William Burroughs speaking an interview about the perception of reality or something like that set to white-noise screeches by Christoph de Babalon.

02. "Chanson de la plus haute tour" - This one’s really quite cool. The song, by Ming, is inspired by a poem by Rimbaud, and the film, by Astrid Rieger, features plush dolls reenacting Rimbaud’s tumultuous life, in particular his relationship with fellow poet Paul Verlaine.

03. "Bravo! KTA-3000" (directed by Lars Oeschler, scored by Sergej Auto) - A stick figure searches out the three dimensional world. Kind of reminded me of that A-ha video, but not nearly as much fun.

04. "Untitled" - In this Michaela Spohn short, photos of various parts of the human body are contrasted with landscapes and city skylines, and it comes together nicely. (Music by Zom)

05. "Cul de Sac" (directed by C. Middleton, K. El-ishmaqi, and T. Pape; scored by Don Air) - Described as "a satire on small town America," this is the stupidest and probably the worst film from among the thirteen. It involves a bunch of middle-aged men in ill-fitting wife-beaters and ugly polo shirts gathered around two guys duking it out in Anytown, USA. Do you remember that show Pete and Pete? This is a bit like that, except, you know, Pete and Pete was actually good.

06. "I Miss You" - Johannes Ebert’s short centers on a poor guy stood up at the airport by his girlfriend, who, then, embarks alone on their vacation, where he spots plenty of couples enjoying themselves. Unlike most of the rest, this film manages to strike a chord because, honestly, who can’t relate to that awful feeling of having to watch other people be happy while you’re feeling like shit? The bittersweet soundtrack by Barbara Morgenstem aids Ebert in making palpable his film’s sense of loneliness.

07. "Reloop" (directed by Micheel Nwaisser; Scored by Bob Harz) - You know when they play commercials at a movie theatre, and you think they’re advertising an upcoming film, and then you feel rather disappointed when you find out they’re merely ads for Coke or the Marines or something? This short reminded me of one of those, except that it wasn’t a commercial.

08. "Habibi" (directed by Sabne and Rollnik & Eva Kietzmann; scored by Angie Reed) - Another commericial-like short. This one, featuring both plush and plastic dolls, is funny in that MTV between-commercials-clip sort of way. They don’t really show those much anymore, do they? That’s a shame.

09. "Notonly" (directed by Britt Hatzius; scored by Eight Miles High) - A kid’s face. Grass swaying in the breeze. Ethereal music. Deep.

10. "Vicious Famara" (directed by Jan-Kristof Imberi; scored by Cluriz) - This one’s "story" is described as "a young man’s psychotic visions in search of himself." In actuality, what we get is the young man staring at himself in a bathroom mirror (ala, Eminem in 8 Mile’s opening scene), visiting with a cheesy-looking fortune teller (complete with crystal ball!), and talking on a pay-phone with his friend about something or other. Hmm...

11. "Blick [Diaphan]" - Tai Elshort’s entry in this collection is somewhat similar Michaela Spohn’s "Untitled." It’s a series of photographs of natural and urban scenes, mostly at the photographic "magic hours" of sunrise and sunset, set to lush, portentous music by Anthony Rother.

12. "Ping Goes the Machine" - Visually, this animated short by Jorg Ritter is the most impressive and interesting of the thirteen. Maybe it’s an incisive commentary on ultra-mechanized modern society; I just thought it looked awesome. (Music by Swag)

13. "Supay" (directed by Farid Rivas; scored by Jahcoozi) - Letters spin as words morph into other words. Among them: "Cruel," "Empty," "Icy," "Ill," "Decadent," "Fatalistic," "Destructive." Something tells me Trent Reznor would dig it.

By: Josh Timmermann
Published on: 2004-02-18
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