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Movie review: Brilliance and beauty in short films from Sundance

First Published      Last Updated Aug 20 2015 05:02 pm

Review » Animated “World of Tomorrow” tops a solid lineup.

The best, most emotionally resonant movie at this year's Sundance Film Festival, according to me and a fair number of other people, was only 17 minutes long.

That film — Don Hertzfeldt's "World of Tomorrow" — is one of six shorts that won awards in Park City and are now returning for a touring presentation that arrives at the Tower Theatre this weekend. It's worth the ticket just for the one film, but the other five are intriguing, too.

Writer-director-star Frankie Shaw bares her body and her soul in "SMILF," as a single mom who invites an ex-boyfriend ("Silicon Valley" star Thomas Middleditch) to her tiny apartment for a hookup — with her toddler asleep in the room. Shaw neatly captures the frustrations of new motherhood in a sharply comic scenario.

The visuals of the Polish documentary "Object" are breathtaking: Director Paulina Skibinska follows an underwater rescue unit as divers go under the ice of a frozen lake. Another documentary short, director Kitty Green's "The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul," is a heartbreaking series of auditions by young girls trying to embody the Olympic figure skater and Ukrainian icon.

Writer-director Atsuko Hirayanagi's "Oh Lucy!," filmed in Japan, is a sly comedy of manners centering on a mild-mannered office worker (played with awkward hesitancy by Japanese star Kaori Momoi) who has an inner transformation when she takes an English-language course and receives a blond wig and a new name from her American teacher (Billy Scott).

The French animated film "Storm Hits Jacket" didn't work for me in terms of story, but the colorful cutout animation of writer-director Paul Cabon's film is eye-popping.

The best of the lot, and the final short in the show, is "World of Tomorrow." Hertzfeldt works alone on his surreal stick-figure animated tales, and he outdoes himself here. (If you haven't seen his shorts, you may have seen his work on the strangest couch gag in the history of "The Simpsons.")

Without giving away too much, "World of Tomorrow" begins with a 4-year-old girl, Emily, receiving a surprise visitor: a clone of her from 200 years in the future. What follows is a strange, haunting and utterly beautiful discourse on technology, loneliness and love to the end of the Earth. It's indescribably amazing and proves what Sundance has long espoused about how the best stories are bite-size.


Twitter: @moviecricket




‘2015 Sundance Short Film Tour’

Six award-winning shorts from this year’s Sundance Film Festival return to Utah — and one of them is an absolute stunner.

Where » Tower Theatre

When » Opens Friday, Aug. 21.

Rating » Not rated, but probably R for strong nudity and sexuality in one short.

Running time » 83 minutes; in English, and in Japanese, Russian and French, with subtitles.