Six Minutes in Heaven
Q: What to watch when you are working hard and pressed for time, but nonetheless crave a full, complete movie-movie experience?
A: Short films, especially those commissioned as anniversary Preludes for the 25th Toronto International Film Festival, back in 2000ki. The festival organizers asked ten of Canada's top filmmakers to make original six-minute short films to play as prologues to the official screenings, and some of these gems are available now on DVD.
Of the two I watched tonight, Guy Maddin's The Heart of the World is the mind-blower everyone said it was, a comic, faux-silent surrealist fantasia about two brothers, a mortician and a Jesus impersonator, who are rivals for the love of a bewitching geologist who correctly prognosticates a seismic eruption at the earth's core—i.e., an imminent breaking of the world's heart. The doomsday atmosphere on earth (equal parts orgies and revivalism), the competition betwixt the brothers to win Anna's hand, and the lurid intercession of an East European industrialist are the major plot strands...and did I mention that all of this gets covered, wittily and elaborately, in only six minutes? The two frame enlargements are a paltry tribute to the film's stunning and often hilarious visual opulence, and the whole thing works beautifully as an allegory of the birth of chauvinist cinema conventions. One-of-a-kind, and scaled just right for Maddin—if, like me, you were a little over-tired by The Saddest Music in the World or Cowards Bend the Knee. Rent the DVD from GreenCine, which, as per usual, has all the wacko artistic hook-up that Netflix can't handle. On that disc, you'll get Maddin's features Twilight of the Ice Nymphs and Archangel as well; given how much I liked The Heart of the World, I'll hope to give these two flicks a spin, too.
Though David Cronenberg is usually much more by cup of tea than Maddin is, his contribution to the Preludes, called Camera, is a bit more labored, but it isn't without interest to Cronenberg fans or to fans of crusty old men fulminating in their living rooms. Camera is easier to find than The Heart of the World, since it's included as a bonus feature on the Criterion two-disc set of Cronenberg's visionary Videodrome, which you can (and should) buy for 33% off plus free shipping at the nifty website DeepDiscountDVD.com. Check out all those other special features on the Videodrome set, too, including James Woods and Deborah Harry on a commentary track. Fuck, but Videodrome is an amazing movie; what Cronenberg sees lurking at the heart of the world is even sicker than what Maddin does, but you should still find out for yourself.
All photos © 2000 Toronto International Film Festival, Inc.