Review: Four More 20th Century Faux Shorts

Review: Four More 20th Century Faux Shorts

By Fergus Henderson. Four more existential shorts

There is a rising trend in online content, you must have noticed. It constitutes a generational shift towards the existential. Even Youtube comedy shorts seem often to be imbued with a kind of doom-laden darkness, a darkness that is shot through with something both self-aware and sincere. Unlike the 90s wherein sadness and cynicism were postures assumed by plaid-wearing dudes just trying to figure things out, this current darkness feels much more genuine. It is a kind of language that millennials share, one that signifies an apprehension of the terrifying present, and the task we share of making sense of it.

In their most recent set of shorts, 20th Century Faux delve further into this fear and dread, building on the observations their first four shorts made. Filmmakers Bradbury and Blank co-direct another four uneasy visions of modern day living that tow the line between humour and tragedy. Once more they concern themselves with the ghoulish truths behind the facades we build.

The Constant Gardener, the first of their newest batch, starts things off simply, focusing on the latent object fetishisation of plant collectors and the emotional reality behind the Instagram aesthetics. Without giving too much away, it takes a rather crude view on what we’re really doing when we talk about our shrubs. 



//www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uRfPsC5dIQ

In No Country For Old Men, a short on the grotesque performances of prank videos, they clearly suggest a more deep rooted emotional problem that motivates said pranks, highlighting the incongruousness between the online persona and the person themselves. Unfortunately it lands a little flat given the brevity of the piece, the emotional richness of what it suggests cut a little short.

L.A. Story pits a couple having a massive post party argument in their car against another driver trying to take their space. Again the concision of the format means that the comedy is perhaps a little too slight to provide full relief from the dramatic tension of the argument, the other driver’s insistence on taking their space not quite absurd and more of an awkward inconvenience. Ultimately it feels like neither a comedy nor a drama, and might fit into a larger narrative in which the quotidian bumps against the personal in a generally arch way.

Finally, in the wonderfully titled Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, a woman walks past a man reading a book of poems she likes and gives him her number. Suffice it to say, he sends her a dick pic. The perpetual let downs and harassment men inflict on women, expressed most bluntly in unsolicited dick pics, is played here as a kind of unsurprising surprise, as the guy is totally silent throughout, a blank canvas whose thoughts we can only imagine. The dick pic payoff feels like an inevitability; naturally a totally silent man (wearing a fedora no less) would do the worst thing if given the opportunity. This will no doubt ring true with every woman ever.

These are promising, incisive shorts. They work well, to a point, within the strict confines of their length, communicating clear and recognisable truths that linger in the mind. The depths that they reach would, I believe, be more fully realised if allowed to breath as slightly longer shorts. At times it feels as if they are sacrificing more meaty punchlines for the sake of subtlety and drama, a drama which would be more satisfyingly delivered in longer films. I look forward to what they do next.

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


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