Anecdotally it feels like shorts have been getting less…short the last couple of years. While I’m a fan of great filmmaking of all lengths, I really do love pieces that are able to tell compelling story arcs in a 6-7min range. That’s enough time for depth and development, but not enough space for any fat.
In my experience nothing beats animation for that sort of concision, and today’s short is terrific example. The second film we’ve individually highlighted from this year’s graduating class at Gobelins l’ecole d’image (we also did a two part overview of all 8 films), Parfum Fraise is cool-ass gangster flick married to a emotionally touching family drama. Taking place in two time periods, the film tracks an ex-yakuza’s attempt to leave his old world behind, and how that past continues to haunt him.
The key to a rich short short is to leave out unnecessary exposition, and 4-student team behind Parfum Fraise heed this lesson. They dump the viewer directly into the action and trust them to piece it together through knowing shot selections. A baby is sleeping, and in a stylish, neon cityscape a man and woman race to leave. The arrival of a pair of gunmen complicate this, and the resulting shoot-out has devastating consequences. Skip forward and the baby is now a child, but his idyllic world disguises the dark secret his father tries to put behind them.
It is a plot-line that is conventional, familiar from features such as A History of Violence, but nonetheless rich. Continuity is assumed, but is nonetheless developed through a clever sequence in the bathroom, which establishes the central tragedy of the short—the revealing of the man’s hidden secret to his boy. This theme is adeptly enriched through the parallel track of media—the boy’s love for a conventional superhero character whose toy he keenly plays with and whose movie they go to the theater to watch. Violence isn’t just fantasy, the boy learns, to his father’s shame.