My Own Medicine: Peel and Gasman
As the first exercise in my reprised course English 386: The Film Review as Genre, I've asked my students to watch two of my absolute favorite short films, Jane Campion's Peel: An Exercise in Discipline (which I've reviewed more extensively elsewhere) and Lynne Ramsay's Gasman, and write a three-sentence review of whichever film they prefer. One sentence should encapsulate the scenario or project of the film, and the other two should concisely encompass a more editorial appraisal. I figure I'll take a stab at my own game, and you can, too, since the films are screenable here and here.
Peel: "Discipline" connotes two meanings in Peel: while a young boy fulfills a comically ridiculous task assigned by his father as punishment, the film itself manages a rounded portrait of family tensions and eccentricities through bold, economical formal choices. While Campion laughs heartily at paternal discipline, which seems all the more absurd after the kid sweetly fulfills his mindless chore, her own discipline with image, sound, structure, and tone are nothing to snigger at. Indeed, with its electric color palette, tautly arranged frames, and inventively odd camera angles inside a very cramped space, Peel discloses a major young talent, all the more charming for emphasizing the humor and vitality of this family's hotheaded perversity.
Gasman: Gasman begins as a Campionesque scrapbook of bright, off-kilter images inside a small Scottish household: patent-leather pumps, toy cars plowing through mounds of sugar, the bony nape of a father's neck, though hardly any glimpses of faces. Then, as Dad takes the kids to a downmarket Christmas party, stopping along the way to pick up another pair of nervous-looking moppets, Gasman becomes looser in sound and image but darker, even heartbreaking in tone. "Get off my Dad's knee" becomes a wee lass's cri de coeur, and though Ramsay typically withholds the details of domestic secrecy, what starts as a memorable but mannered exercise concludes as a remarkably sobering snapshot of how we're sometimes forced, inside a single instant, to grow up.