A young Icelandic experimental filmmaker caught my attention at You Tube.
Any ass can put films on You Tube & it's rarely worth the quest for anything good, as you'll be looking at one-thousand black-on-black videos of someone's "singing dog" as the best of the day if you look for ten hours straight.
But having stumbled upon a work of surprising merit by Birgir Pall Audunsson's, I had to admit gosh'n'golly this kid's as good as he is creepy.
Part of me hates to take the time to review stuff like this because it could be removed form You Tube in a pinch, never be available in any other format, & so just as well never have existed at all. But due to that one impressive short film, I'm going to go with this, & will create hyperlinks to the videos at You Tube for whoever wants to go &am pcheck 'em out. If the links eventually go dead, I hope someone will drop me an e-mail & let me know.
That first sample of Audunsson, which totally won me over, was She Can Dance; aka, Ugly Plus She Can Dance (2005), an under-four-minute horror film in the manner of David Lynch.
An amazingly ugly man walks along a cityscape as voices speak in his head or he talks to himself about his ugliness. He thinks about the girl who can dance, whom he loves, but always his thoughts are edged in psychosis.
So it's not surprising, though it certainly is creepy, when he arrives home, & begins dancing with the corpse of a woman he previously killed.
If Audunsson ever gets to make a thriller or a horror film or some such, She Can Dance will be among the "extras," & good chance some folks will like it better than the main feature. It's just damned creepy & extremely well photographed.
As a novelist & short story writer, I've destroyed many of my failed works, & even my best works had a long string of discarded drafts. A million words of unutterable nonsense do completely eradicate a thousand words of brilliance.
So too with still photographers, greatness is in part knowing which one-thousand shots never to let anyone see, in favor of the one photo that came out beautifully.
But filmmakers, good or bad, seem strangely inclined to preserve works that might well convince people to never again waste time on a talentless shmoo. And You Tube facilitates making oneself look untalented.
Some of Birgir's other videos range from inadequate or so-so to downright bad. Lagrima (2005) begins as a simpering piece of music set to innocuous images mostly cliche, like shots of buildings or the sky through tree limbs.
A third of the way through it has a momentary sense of potential suspense with cracked religious iconography & unfocused cityscapes. But it really only boils down to a mixed bag of photos of Reykjavik & I can get better ones from any child's encyclopedia.
If this was made as a filmschool exercise just to learn to hold the camera straight, that didn't mean it needed to be saved. In fact, just the opposite.
Faces & Places (2005) is if nothing else marginally amusing, though if I had seen it first I would never have seen anything else by this neophyte filmmaker. It consists of close-ups of the young Audunsson's face distorted in sundry ways.
Because of the monotony & bad lighting & mediocre soundscape, it really can't be praised, but his willingness to be super ugly & cross-eyed & disgusting looking is kind of endearing.
Afmyndad afkvaemi hugarstrurs (2005) at nineteen minutes is longer than any of these other short films. It is not as skillfully done as She Can Dance, but it has many amazing moments.
Along with very odd live action, it incorporates a lot of stop-motion animation, which I'm fond of in general. A strange book flips itself open & hair or roots grow upward from its interior, & a series of events, presumedly from this grimoire, begin.
There's some unusual gore, & torture by means of wire, & an eerie human figure in clown-white who interacts with the animated objects or sits in a chalk circle. I would even classify this in great part as an "evil clown" horror film, of a wildly experimental sort.
A cup dances round & round. Some paper drawings creep across a newspaper. A wadded piece of paper fritters about on the floor. Many such shots establish that we're in a stop-motion environment, but there's rather too much redundancy along this starting patch of film.
Some of this is so poorly photographed that it truly required a second or third take with some understanding of what it means to edit, delete, select, until the film is at least visible to the viewer.
This particular piece which takes Jan Svankmajer for its primary influence & could have been great, even if too much Svankmajer to be regarded as original. It could also have benefited by some marginal storytelling since as it stands it's just largely random.
So we see a foot wrapped in wire bleeding blue, followed by a severed head, followed by fishbones swimming round & round on a plate, followed by a clay worm on a hook which captures a clown-girl in fishnet stockings, then it's time for the breakfast of eggs to vanish bite by bite without being eaten by anyone.
At the six minute mark I was ready to give up due to tedium & some segments rendered invisible by the inept lighting. It had another ten minutes to go, & I'd had enough. Fortunately an increased macabre quotient got me over the hump of abject disinterest.
A lot of effort went into this piece, but fully one-third of it should have been thrown away & almost as much more of it reshot. The (unconvincingly) severed heads in love with one another, doing wacked-out opera. The very Svankmajer-like bird-eating paper doll was perfect. The mummy in the attic rocking chair could've been perfect if some of the black-on-black routines had been refilmed for visibility's sake.
This could've been edited down to an eight or ten minute film of greater interest & artistry, tossing out every bit that was either impossible to see due to lousy lighting, & refilming the bigger mistakes until they came out right. It's too bad an exaggerated sense of self-worth sometimes ruins a filmmaker's ability to edit himself, a problem in which all failed writers & photographers sink into oblivion.
Ulpa: Sexy Dick (2006) is a rock video for the Icelandic band Ulpa. Well, at least Birgir's got paying work! It comes off as the low-budget version of a well-budgeted Marilyn Manson video, & to be sure there are worse things to resemble.
A dick-nosed man plays bad music & does sadomastic stuff as the rock band plays on.
It views like something a moron would've submitted to MTV a decade or two back, fortunately without including return postage so the only copy got thrown away.
Brian (2002) is just motion & texture to mediocre music, moving lines & smudges that reminded me of Len Lye might've made in the 1930s to 1950s.
But this particular experiment seems hardly worth doing now, or at least not worth showing anyone.
A vastly more meritorious soundscape might have saved it, but unimaginative for both sound & visual is a double-whammy of failure.
A better take on a similar film method, just under two minutes, is Lines: Kipping Myndasaka Toikinaar (2002) is another Len Lye-type piece of animation, more appealingly done than Brian.
Moving, interesecting, kalaidescoping geometric lines flow one image into another, black & white designs transmuting into blue-green.
The music backing it all up is a decent & rather mellow piece of electronic music by Aphex Twin (aka, Irish recording artist Richard David James).
The right music can really save what would otherwise seem like trite op-art, & the ambient electronica is somehow the perfect thing. Toward the end a few photographic images change the line-oriented texturing to landscapes.
Bush (2006) is an ultra-short minute & a half collage of pictures of George Bush depicting him as Satan intent on starting a nuclear holocaust. Audunsson admits it only took an hour to make this.
This one's so childish it almost eradicated my sense of She Can Dance & Afmyndad afkvaemi hugarstrurs being fine little works.
I thought surely anyone capable of Dance & Afmyndad would have more sense than to have wasted even an hour dashing together a quickly dated picture-editorial like Bush. And I say that despite sharing the sense that Bush is a demented dog dooky.
I'd intended to watch all of Audunson's videos after seeing the terribly interesting Ugly Plus She Can Dance. But after the descending values of Ulpa, Brian & least of all Bush, I ran plum out of patience & gave up on the rest.
But then a year or so later I went back to watch the better ones again, as they possessed something vaguely unforgettable. And continued on tp Kimono: Aftermath (2005).
Made for the Icelandic band Kimono, Audunsson's Aftermath shows an eerie dancing figure on a bleak landscape reminiscent of an oil field in Texas. It's a dance of terror with the dancer's head morphing to rapid cuts & strobing close-up of a pallid genderless face.
Aftermath is quite beautiful really, in its horrific manner, running just under four minutes, the music & deranged lyrics match the video for excellence.
Serenading Mr. Cummings (2005) has a very spooky soundtrack composed by Joel Thurman, of scratches, bells, flute, mandolin, organ, weirdly melodic, in minor notes that convey sadness, & mechanical-sounding lyrics as if from a distant planet.
The fuzzy images are varied, of what might be a single family, cutting swiftly from one home-movie visual to the next, always with something artily mysterious, undecipheral going on, but seeming to portray tourists in a shopping district, children's doings in a back yard, visit to beach, a carnival, & many such scenes.
Serenading Mr. Cummings transforms the mundane into the apocalyptic, as though these were the last episodes of mankind before the end of the world. Absolutely stunning.
Though apparently up until 2009 Audunsson has remained a videographer creating small art films & music videos, I think there's a good chance, if he wants it, he'll be a real filmmaker someday. And I'll be able to brag I was the first to review some of his stuff with conviction there was something there.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl