2000AD: A Personal Odyssey Into Short Films
Austin Collings recently directed a short film or ‘cine-poem’ as he calls it entitled
2000AD for Sounds From The Other City Festival in May of this year. It has just
finished a three week run screening alongside the Morrissey biopic England Is Mine at
HOME cinema, Manchester. Here you can watch the full seven minute trip. Then let
him guide you through a personal odyssey into some of his own favourite short
Zapruder Film (1963)
Dir. Abraham Zapruder
The original viral video. The longest short film of all time centred around six
seconds in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963; six seconds that span the dimensions of
forever. At secondary school I had many obsessions including the JFK
assassination. I ordered Norman Mailer’s hefty biography - Oswald’s Tale - from
the local library. I studied pictures of JFK’S skull. The wounds were fascinating.
The pornographic thrill. The Oswald episode of the time-travel TV series Quantum
Leap worked on me like a spell. I was 15 and whilst others tentatively drew Gary
Barlow or a NIKE trainer, my school art project was boldly centred around the
events of that bright November day. Yet, back then the only access I had to the
Zapruder footage was via Oliver Stone’s film JFK and there was no way I could
afford to buy that on VHS, despite liking the wild and paranoid connections at the
heart of it. Now we live in the age of daily Zapruder’s. ’Amateur’ footage of
atrocities and banalities are commonplace clicks away and the unusual shaky
camera-style of the Zapruder film is now a formulaic film-makers short-cut to instill
tension in the viewer. You see it everywhere: Dallas, echoing down the decades.
What a day.
The Big Shave aka Viet ’67 (1967)
Dir. Martin Scorsese
Scorcese made this perfectly edited five-and-a-half minute experimental film as a
class project at NYU. Produced as part of a planned weeklong protest against the
Vietnam war called “The Angry Arts Against the War”, at the time young Marty
was suffering bouts of deep depression. Even shaving had become a problem -
hence the central concept of this short. This is the film that sets the template for
his future masterpieces. The self-torture of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and Jake
LaMotta in Raging Bull can be seen here in the form of a young man calmly
ripping his face to red-river-shreds in front of the mirror in a stark white bathroom.
His signature use of music as character and commentary can be heard in Bunny
Berigan’s jazz classic I Can’t Get Started. And there’s the obligatory nod to one of
his many film-making heroes with the repeated shots of blood swirling into the
plug hole a la the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho.
A Day with the Boys (1969)
Dir. Clu Gulager
In this peerlessly poetic and impressionistic portrait of youth a group of grade
school boys converge in a mountainous region on the outskirts of a big city. As
they play war games in the sun onscreen title cards record the passage of time.
Gradually, upon entering the city, events become more serious and devastating.
Directed and produced by character actor Clu Gulager (his one and only
directorial credit) and majestically shot by cinematographer László Kovács (Easy
Rider), this is a true original - an indisputable masterpiece - that deserves to be
recognised alongside Bonnie & Clyde and The Wild Bunch as spearheading the
new dawn of American film-making in the 70s.
Bill Douglas Trilogy (1972, 1973, 1978)
Dir. Bill Douglas
My Childhood (1972), My Ain Folk (1973) and My Way Home (1978) provide a
brilliantly personal portrait of a harsh upbringing marked by poverty, isolation and
the complex family background of a boy who only gradually discovers that his
father is the man who lives down the road and that his mother is in an asylum.
Shot over eight years, the cruelty and compulsiveness of the 'memories' still haunt
the finished work, but these are no social-realist tracts. Distinctively shown in
Black & White (but shot in colour), with untrained actors, using static camera, no
musical soundtrack and long takes, each film contains many surrealistic moments
- My Ain Folk especially - that visually prefigure the disturbing monochrome family
tableaux of David Lynch's Eraserhead. For Douglas the self is a hole you dig in
order to rage against the darkness. This unforgettable trilogy is about digging such