20th Century Faux Shorts: Review

20th Century Faux Shorts: Review

Four short takes on millennial living

LA filmmaking group 20th Century Faux are freaked out by themselves, and the rest of us too. Member Will Blank’s previous short, Limbo, was a dreamlike piece of filmmaking, and evidently his collective believe that millennial life is equally phantasmagorical.

These Faux friends (headed by Will Blank and Jake Bradbury) have created a series of new short films, all of which address our social relations and the mitigating factors at play in keeping us separate from each other and ourselves. They proceed from simple premises and play out like jokes in a stand-up routine.

The fraught nature of our social connection, or lack thereof, is not a new subject, nor indeed is the suggestion that our technology serves to further loosen these connections. I won’t bust out the film history books to demonstrate this. Even an old hand like social satirist Michael Haneke has used that most vilified object, the smart phone, in his most recent film Happy End

This is why 20th Century Faux’s shorts come as a refreshing surprise. In the hands of prior generations this technology has been decided to be a categorically Bad Thing, to be regarded with absolute suspicion and resentment. The members of this group actually use it, have grown up with it, have it knotted deeply into the skein of their existence. In short, they understand it. What emerges from this understanding is an impression of great loneliness, and of a world of unsatisfactory surfaces.

In Girl, Interrupted (each name is taken from a pre-exiting film), we find a young woman getting ready for a booty call, trying on different outfits and cleaning her flat, even doing a little bump to keep her energy up. There is something quietly desperate in this liminal moment, something so relatable in the disparity between hope and reality. The Wizard puts it in more direct terms, showing a man wearing a huge VR headset, screwing around pointlessly in a fantasy RPG, the barrenness of his reality reflected in the stupidity of what he does in the game.


Elsewhere, How High does away with the potentially comedic qualities of someone getting far too stoned. Without any real punchline or plot all we really get is an extraordinarily vivid depiction of being uncomfortably aware of your surroundings, totally isolated from everyone around you. Stoner comedy this ain’t.

Finally, The Unbearable Lightness of Being lets the all too familiar experience of waving at the wrong person play out as if its main character is learning how to wave for the first time. So completely alienated is this person that as he raises his hand to wave he begins to breathe furtively, like a non-verbal animal briefly glimpsing something incomprehensible, alive in the ecstasy of recognition.

Although these shorts are all comic in design and execution, filmed and edited with the punchiness and energy of comedy, they are all at their heart tragedies. They are slight and ephemeral experiences that leave you a little unsatisfied and disquieted, familiar sensations to those of us these films are aimed at. This is the truth 20th Century Faux is expressing. They recognise that technology is not an outside force that drives us apart, but rather a way for us to realise our pre-existing isolation in new and weird ways, creating uncharted pathways of expression for the particularities of our neuroses and discontent. 

All 16 of their shorts will be screened at 20thcenturyfaux.com

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Fergus is a film and lit grad based in and from Edinburgh. He is motivated by a desire to explore the world’s cultures as much as possible while he’s on said world. Catch him fawning over the latest Criterion releases and playing his guitar.


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