By Aldo Padilla
The characters in the films of Ted Fendt are of a surprising simplicity. The simplification he realized in Short Stay of the classic lost character without a path, defined in the streets of Philadelphia, seems to be transposed in his new film Classical Period, where the characters are defined by how much do they know, how many authors can they quote and how many references can they give on every possible topic. Although everything seems like an empty discourse, which could easily be part of a paper or a thesis, since it says nothing in between this long, verbose dialogue that doesn’t seem to end.
If the scenery is still Philadelphia, we see a new side of it, somewhat far away from the minimalism of his latest film. The only quiet moments are shown pretty far away from an internal peace, since the protagonist is seen in an uncomfortable solitude with his books and the space, showing that plenitude isn’t in the accumulative pseudo-knowledge near to the intellectual-esque consumism.
It’s inevitable to think that Classical Period is a step back from his previous film, since in this case the filmmaker doesn’t achieve a connection with the generation of characters that wonder around, and everything is stuck in the exercise of the central idea by excess of exposition. The characters repel and seem to be set with this objective of trying to limit the specter of empathy.
“Trump’s America” is a term that has been installed to reflect the population that took him to the president’s chair. In the other side, there’s Trudeau’s Canada, a charismatic first minister that only expresses sympathy in the exterior, while in his country his image doesn’t seem to be the same. In Interchange, that which doesn’t seem to be the reflection of the excessive progressiveness that Canada distills is shows. A moderate poverty, car horns, children parks run over by enormous highways. Overall, a Canada that could be any other country, with the same contrasts, where Montreal is shown as a very conflictive zone with a latent independentist aspiration. All this is reflected by Cassidy and Shatzky with a scarcity of cinematographic resources, without dialogues and with long fixed shots that show a city that becomes defined only with its traffic.
It is citizen observation in its maximum expression, with little details that enrich the film, from shadows to reflections that show that this gaze goes beyond the quotidian and that also carries a mild composition of the form as not leaving all the merit in the realm of montage.
While the idea may seem effective, there are many shots that don’t have the installed discourse. And that’s because despite its short 62 minutes, there’s a moment where observation starts being redundant. Anyway, it’s fair to highlight one of the great moments of the film: the shot of an ad on top of a lost dog lost in a puddle of water, a shot which has little details that turn it into a small delight waiting to be discovered again and again, a feature that show how humor can arrive in unexpected ways.
Finally, Jumana Manna’s Wild Relatives seems to contradict itself in a discourse leading to observation for most part of the film. It starts with a very explicit textual discourse showing its intentions, but then the film turns into a very propagandist movie, and in several moments transforms into the typical ONG film, that draws the comparison between Syria, Lebanon and Norway, joined by a great project of seed conservation which was located in Aleppo, and due to conflicts had to be translated to Lebanon and finally consolidated in Svalbard, Norway, one of the northern populated cities in the world. Sadly, the film doesn’t find the right tone and wonders between scientific explanations, quotidian scenes of country women and other officials that collaborate with the collection of seeds, and parallelisms between these three zones in the world, which share a common objective.
A misplaced random political discourse is found in Wild Relatives, heard as a background sound in a melodramatic tone about the importance of the project and sustainability. The film wastes a great opportunity to realize a work distances from the classic ecologist discourse, which has been mishandled without an appropriate sensibility.
Direction, script: Ted Fendt
Cast: Calvin Engime, Evelyn Emile, Sam Ritterman, Christopher Stump, Michael Carwile
Cinematographer: Sage Einarsen
Editiong: Ted Fendt
Producers:Graham Swon, Ted Fendt
Directors: Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky
Cinematographers: Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky
Editing: Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky
Direction, script: Jumana Manna
Cinematographer: Marte Vold
Editing: Katrin Ebersohn
Producers: Jumana Manna, Elisabeth Kleppe, Adeles