Three DVDs featuring short-to-medium length films taken from festivals by the French short film agency. Each DVD gives us three experimental, semi-documentary films from different countries.
NOTE: Because I am reviewing several DVDs in one review, I decided it wasn't fair to keep the ratings.
The three "Hors Pistes" DVDs are all available in a set from Lowave, but you can also get them individually, which is how I got them. Because I feel that they really are a set I felt it would be nice to review all three right here and now. It's something I usually don't do but "Hors Pistes" is something different and will therefor be treated differently.
As with most collection DVDs we don't go through each film in great detail - it's just not interesting to read, and with short films there might not always be enough to say about them. With this one I decided to give one film per DVD (each DVD has three films) a more detailed paragraph, and then speak more about the DVDs as a whole, which to me is much more interesting in this case.
By Philippe Fernandez, we have "Connaissance du monde (drame psychologique)", from the first volume. It's part (as the title suggests) psychological drama and part documentary. It deals with the loneliness and social struggle of an artist who goes out and documents the stone heads of Easter Island. While it definitely is a beautiful piece of documentation, I don't know whether what is being said is pure fiction or actual myths, but to me the thing that holds this piece together is our main man. There's just something about him that makes this a rather interesting piece of semi-documentation, and I also believe it was a good film to start the DVD (all three DVDs) with.
The second film on volume 2 is "Forst" (by Ascan Breuer, Wolfgang Konrad and Ursula Hansbrauer), and this is definitely my absolute favorite. Through narration we hear different stories of isolation, immigrants facing horrible situations where they arrive, and is quite harrowing in that sense. Add to this that the visuals in this film shows us some truly amazing shots of forests. It might feature some of the best forest shots I have seen and that's saying something. Mixing the wonderful, even if bleak, shots of nature with the stories told through-out awakens some odd feelings inside of the viewer. It's a well-crafted piece through-out with images that'll leave you in awe. Or maybe it's just me and my fascination in black and white photography!
For the third film I go through, I decided to go with one I didn't like very much. So that was "In the Wake of a Deadad", by Andrew Kötting. This is basically about the loss of a father, and then the son has a huge inflatable figure made in the likeness of his father, and he starts putting this blow-up doll on different places that either meant a lot to himself, or to his father. It's a really nice and moving idea on paper, but I felt this became more along the lines of mockery which is a shame. Even though that isn't for me to say, I guess. I sat down to be moved and what I ended up with was mostly confusion and a few chuckles because it simply looked stupid seeing that blow-up doll at some places. It's possible that this was intentionally stupid, and that it fits with his late father's personality. To me it became long, tedious and not at all interesting in the way I had hoped it would. Especially seeing as this is the longest film out of all 9 films.
These DVDs are not at all what I usually watch, but they are interesting in their own rights. To quickly explain what the films are, I'd have to say they are medium-length films (or rather, long short films of between 30-60+ minutes) that are part documentaries and part fiction. Most of them are done very experimentally and that's something right down my alley - much like the film "Forst", which was exactly what I enjoy. But there's also a sense of not really knowing what you are watching. It's fine to not get it explained to you, but I think there should be something to draw you in and wanting to figure it out - instead some of these came off as such personal pieces of film that it became hard and almost boring at times to sit through them.
With that said, I think what Lowave has done with these DVDs is very commendable. They have gone all out to give 9 short/medium-length films a home, and the fact that you can also get them in a nice box set fairly cheap is a big plus too. It's necessary to mention that the films on these discs are films that have been played at certain festivals, and thus helping these DVDs and films to have a connection even when they differ so much. These were festivals organized by the French short film agency (l'Agence du court métrage).
I am a huge fan of experimental short films but it's hard for me to say I loved these DVDs. Some of the films are excellent, really beautifully made and feel like they have a message to the viewer. But some of them come off as footage mashed together with little to no thought behind it. I know this sounds like a rude comment to say when I'm sure these films are really personal things to the makers as well as those who get it, but I guess that's something I have to live with.
The "Hors Pistes" DVDs are definitely worth getting if you are interesting in checking out some experimental semi-documentaries. Not everyone will enjoy it so if you're not sure, I suggest you only buy one of them to begin with and see if it's down your alley or not. If this does sound fantastic to you then you're better off getting the boxed set because it's much cheaper that way - and comes in nice packaging too.
To end this review I think the back cover of the DVDs say it best: ""Hors Pistes" brings to light cinema from different horizons with their own fictional destinies and their own audacious and innovative styles. It's fiction bordering on documentary."