1 April 2014

Bradford International Film Festival: Early Short Films by Sally Potter

Short Films
Jerk (1969)
Play (1970)
Hors d'Oeuvres (1971)
Thriller (1979)
The London Story (1986)
Bradford International Film Festival
Review Date:
29th March 2014
Sally Porter

Being the recipient of this year’s BIFF Fellowship, Sally Potter’s entire feature film output will be shown throughout this week at the 20th Bradford International Film Festival. The first screening, however, brings together five of her short films for a screening titled Early Short Films by Sally Potter. Without wanting to delve into the pedantry surrounding the title, this screening brings together Jerk (1969), Play (1970), Hors d’Oeuvres (1971), Thriller (1979), and The London Story (1986).

The earliest of the shorts shown here (Jerk, Play, and Hors d’Oeuvres) were made in or around the underground film and art scene of late sixties/early seventies London. As a member of both the Arts Lab and the London Filmmakers Co-op, Potter’s early shorts were highly experimental and were influenced by the structural filmmaking that emerged at that time. Her films made use of the looped and layered printing predominant in those films to question, “What is film space and time? What is the frame?”

The best of the short films is undoubtedly Thriller. Wonderfully rewriting Puccini’s opera, La Bohème, the film deconstructs the role of women in art. As Potter herself puts it, “In Thriller Mimi’s relationship with Musetta, which in the opera scarcely exists except via the relationship with the men, is looked at and reappraised. Her place as an object or subject of the plot becomes crucial in her understanding of her own history.” The film is a classic of feminist film theory and stands as a precursor for what was to follow in her debut feature, The Gold Diggers.

The most surprising film was The London Story. With its delightfully eccentric and humorous plot coming together with the breathtaking and equally hilarious choreography to create a brilliant spy spoof, the story surrounds the unlikely alliance of three characters who are brought together to uncover the duplicity at play in the government’s foreign policy. All of these shorts are available on the BFI release of The Gold Diggers, a DVD I highly recommend.


Shane James

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