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Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2013: Round-up of Day 1

Francesca Donovan and Kate Barlow bring you the highlights of the first day of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival

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The Vein's "Magma", directed by Dvein
The Vein's "Magma", directed by Dvein
The White Stuff cinema room plays host this weekend to the international contribution to Aesthetica's hand-picked music video reel. The continuous loop of eighteen films demonstrates a captivating display of diversity and artistic flair; ranging from figurative abstracts, via a spectrum of visuals, through to miniature epics. Certainly, some music videos are more successful than others in the manifestation of their philosophical ideas and end production. Particularly noteworthy are examples from Poland, with Kamera's hipster take on a Half Moon Run song; American director, Fickle and his bittersweet subterranean romance; and from Spain, Dvein's Dali-esque ninety second venture into surrealism.

Unfortunately, not all the reel lived up to the high expectations that coincide with backing from Aesthetica, a publication at the forefront of visual culture. Both the Norwegian entry from Christian Holm-Glad at Bulldozer Film and Daniel D. Moses' offering from the UK fell flat. Perhaps a consequence of the overly stereotyped musical genres the videos accompanied, the visuals came across as trite and predictable. In the first instance, this resulted in an out-dated, albeit beautifully captured, three minutes that only served in contemplation of why so many contemporary producers resort to scantily clad females writhing around in tar-like liquids as such common music video fodder. Similarly the supposedly distressing scenes in the latter example simply rehashed the raw appeal of the 70s punk movement - only without the edge or originality, despite some truly stunning visual techniques.

Saying this, the entries universally achieved a sense of unity with their musical counterparts. Essentially, that is the keystone of an excellent music video. Directors, particularly evident in Sluszka's video for the Bat for Lashes song, Lilies, have utilised visuals in perfect conjunction with beat and melody. Others have produced videos that cleverly follow the songs' lyrical trajectory, as in Linda McCarthy's animated video for The Long Dead Sevens' track. Each video, though, does show vast artistic merit. Although I can't foresee any entry shooting to No Surprises, or more recently Wrecking Ball fame, the short-listed videos have succeeded in asserting the gravitas of music video as a legitimate artistic medium.

Later in the evening was the first of the Thriller category showings in Bedern Hall. The screening started out on slightly shaky ground, with Signal Box #100 and For Sarah, despite being shot beautifully, lacking any real character or plot development. However, things had stepped up by the time we got to The King Is Dead, starring Russell Tovey, Martha Cope and David Schaal, all of whom shone in their roles. Imbued with a sense of dry humour, the short follows three men aiming to find the mole in their organisation. To end the category was Lapsus, a psychological thriller set in a laundrette. Although the first half was better than the second, it kept audience attention throughout.

Maurice Caldera's 'Our Name is Michael Morgan'
Maurice Caldera's 'Our Name is Michael Morgan'
Next up was the fourth strand of the Comedy screenings which included The Painter and the Thief, by Jack Lawrence from our very own University of York, a quirky tale of a pair who strike up an unlikely criminal partnership, and La Page Blanche, a French short about how far one will go to cure their writer's block: a must-see for those who enjoy black humour. The last film of the evening, and also my favourite, was Our Name is Michael Morgan. Despite raising more questions than it answers, Maurice Caldera's short about door-to-door salesmen got the most laughs. Surreal, puzzling and slightly odd, it had just the right amount of bizarre to be humorous.

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