What’s quite fun about genre filmmaking today, especially in the short realm, is how fluid it can be: all the young filmmakers tackling these idiosyncratic forms grew up in a home video era, and because of the diverse traditions at their fingertips feel no shame in fluidly transversing boundaries. With today’s short, Temple, why not have a kung-fu, cyberpunk sci-fi?
It’s a good one too, heavy on atmospherics, light on plot, but with plenty of gritty attitude. From the grainy images, to the slowed down shutter speed, to the ever so slightly psychedelic vfx, this is a film with strong authorial intent over mood and image.
The filmmkaker, Nguyen-Anh Nguyen, caused a splash in 2014 with an Akira fan film that received over 3M views online. If I’m being honest, I thought that work suffered a bit from “TV sci-fi syndrome”, basically an over-reliance on VFX that did not look especially polished. Perhaps that was understandable due to the unique nature of the teaser being a crowdsourced project, with over 40 people responding to an Indiegogo campaign by donating their time and talent. Temple, which Nguyen is developing as his feature debut, feels like more of a deliberate effort, and thus avoids my complaints regarding Akira. Its VFX are prominent, but more subtle, and there is a cinematic scale that one feels even when watching it on a phone (as I did).
Lots of specific stuff is worth calling out, from Laura Nhem’s production design work, to the surprisingly strong fight scenes (good martial arts work is exceedingly rare in shorts), however at only 8min, you might as well go watch the film yourself rather than read more of my thoughts. While a calling card short and deliberately limited in the way these films are, for this geek who grew up on kung fu films, Hong Kong crime flicks, and who has seen Blade Runner probably a dozen times, Temple really does make me giddy. Can’t imagine what the kids growing up on Netflix will be making in 20 years…