Premiere of films adapted from short stories
Vampire-hoodies, tragic heroines, investment bankers, a Bulgarian composer and animated beans were amongst the cocktail of images featured in short films shown at the Cornerhouse last night. The poems and films, which inspire the images, largely come from work published by North West based Comma Press, which has printed over 450 shorts stories in the last few years.
Comma’s previous Spoken Image events have focused exclusively on poetry and the evening starts with a ‘best of’ poetry films compilation. All the films deserve repeated viewing but Sarah Eyre and James Fisher's film of David Constantine's lament 'Streets'’ stands out in my memory. The camera scans along a parade of metal-shuttered doors and windows. However, the images compliment rather than simply copy the poem, with details such as a dismembered plastic doll taking on a particular resonance. Elsewhere, I was pleased to be reminded of the spoons with faces and other suitably quirky figures, which Sharon Keighley employed to give pictures to the witty poems of Gaia Holmes.
Film and poetry are well-matched companions in the sense that both are seeking the perfectly distilled image, so it was interesting to see how short stories would respond to the cinematic treatment. Lisa Risbec's 'Violins and Pianos are Horses' is based on a story by CD Rose. The haunting music, by Yitzak, is well suited to this tale of a composer returning to the Bulgarian town of his childhood. Techniques such as using cut-out photos, which could seem tacky, actually illustrate perfectly the theme of inescapable memory.
Kate Jessop's 'The Loss', from a story by David Constantine, is a particularly timely piece. The visual busyness of the frame-by-frame animation is cleverly juxtaposed with this tale of an investment banker suffering a crisis of identity to the extent that he doubts if he is still a real person. Fergus Evans narration of this story never misses a beat.
Neither 'The Dogs' nor 'Tell Me' use animation but, instead, move towards film noir territory. Caleb’s Shaffer’s version of 'The Dogs', from a two-page short story by Hanif Kureishi, grabs the viewer's attention with its climax of a mother and son being set upon by vampire-hoodies who stalk the urban night. I found the technique of intercutting a police interview with flashbacks of domestic abuse both powerful and suitably disorientating in Gwen Osmond’s realisation of Zoe Sharp's edgy tale of a tragic heroine – 'Tell Me'
The question and answer session covers issues such as copyright, funding, filming at night and both technical solutions and problems. With open-minded audiences and cinemas and financial backing, the story of at least some of these short films, and all of the filmmakers, won’t end on an enjoyable October night in Manchester.
David Keyworth's poetry has been published by Smiths Knoll, Other Poetry, Rain Dog and other magazines. He is part of the POETICA group, which meets fortnightly at Manchester Central Library.