4 May 2018

LABORATORY CONDITIONS, MIRETTE and ELLE: 3 FESTIVAL-READY SHORT FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.




LABORATORY CONDITIONS/MIRETTE/ELLE: A TRIO OF SHORT FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

'The true moment of death is when the soul leaves the body.'

'Go ahead, open it. Let's see what happens.'

LABORATORY CONDITIONS. (2017) DIRECTED BY JOCELYN STAMAT. PRODUCED BY JOE RUSSELL. WRITTEN BY TERRY ROSSIO. STARRING MARISA TOMEI AND MINNIE DRIVER.

Laboratory Conditions starring Marisa Tomei and Minnie Driver selected for the Oscar-qualifying Tribeca Film Festival.

A physician investigating a missing patient disrupts an illegal experiment.

I didn't know that big Hollywood stars like Marisa Tomei and Minnie Driver made short films as well as their huge glittering Hollywood vehicles, but apparently they do, because both ladies are co-starring here in the short film, LABORATORY CONDITIONS (15 mins long, or short, if you prefer!).

Marisa Tomei stars as the unsuitable, 'common-as-muck' fiancée to a respectable small-town college boy in one of my favourite ever films, IN THE BEDROOM, and she's hardly aged at all in LABORATORY CONDITIONS.

She portrays a tired hospital doctor called Emma Holloway who, one fateful day, goes in search of a missing patient of hers. Her search leads her to a part of the hospital to which she's never been before, which by the looks of her she never even knew existed.

What's going on in this part of the hospital is something very strange indeed. Dr. Emma finds her missing patient all right, but she also encounters a load of technologically-sophisticated electronic laboratory equipment, a slew of laboratory assistants and Minnie Driver's scientist character, Marjorie Cane.

I've never known much about Minnie Driver compared to, say, other big female Hollywood stars, but I do know that she once acted in a film based on a Maeve Binchy story (CIRCLE OF FRIENDS) and that I've always confused her with another curly-haired actress, Alex Kingston, who once played Moll Flanders in a TV drama and also portrayed a doctor in a big television series. It wasn't the British CASUALTY, I think it was an American thing.

Anyway, in LABORATORY CONDITIONS Minnie Driver plays a hard-ass doctor/scientist-type person who at first loses no time in informing Dr. Holloway that this is strictly an off-limits area and that she, Dr. Holloway, is trespassing. 

Dr. Holloway stands her ground though and demands to know what the bloody blue blazes is going on and why her desperately ill patient has apparently been abducted from the ward where she was meant to be treating him.

Marjorie Cane relents and tells Dr. Holloway that she and her team are engaged in a top-secret endeavour, an endeavour, that is, to prove the existence of the soul and 'the continuity of the spiritual existence after death.' Dr. Holloway is suitably gobsmacked.

She doesn't at all care for Marjorie Cane's flippant, almost blasé attitude to the whole thing. It's obvious that she, the aptly-named Ms. Cane, doesn't give two hoots about the near-cadavers she arranges to have abducted from the wards and brought to her underground kingdom of machines and wires.

'Aren't you curious?' Marjorie Cane asks Dr. Holloway excitedly as they reach a crucial point in their experiment. 'Let's do it. Let's see what happens.' She also tells a stunned Dr. Holloway that at least this way, the old man's 'death can have meaning.' Dignity, compassion and gentleness are out of the question but 'at least his death can have some meaning,' or words to that effect.

From the other side of the protective glass, Dr. Holloway sees her patient, an elderly man, breathe his very last breath on this Earth. What happens next is extremely curious and what happens after that again is terrifying. Methinks that Little Miss Marjorie Cane will think twice next time she tries to play God. Or maybe she won't. Some people never bloody learn...

This film reminds me of an old horror film from the early 'Seventies called THE ASPHYX in which a man attempts something similar to what's going on in LABORATORY CONDITIONS. Here's a wee snippet from my review of THE ASPHYX:

'This is a film about an extraordinary subject. Sir Hugo Cunningham is a Victorian scientist and philanthropist who belongs to a society of men who study psychic phenomena. At the start of the film, we observe that he has been photographing people at the exact moment of their deaths. Nice little hobby he's got there... In the photographs, a small but distinct blur next to the dying subject, or 'the smudge,' as Sir Hugo calls it, would appear to be the immortal soul departing the body, as incredible as that may sound.'

MIRETTE. (2017) BASED ON EMILY ARNOLD MCCULLY'S AWARD-WINNING BOOK, MIRETTE ON THE HIGH WIRE. DIRECTED BY HELEN O'HANLON. STARRING TOM CONTI, MIRIAM MARGOLYES, DIXIE EGERICKX, JEAN-MARC DESMOND AND BEBE CAVE.

Helen O’Hanlon’s Mirette selected for the Oscar-qualifying Tribeca Film Festival.

'100 YEARS AGO IN A BOARDING-HOUSE IN PARIS, A YOUNG GIRL'S LIFE IS CHANGED BY THE ARRIVAL OF A MYSTERIOUS MAN, WHOM SHE DISCOVERS IS A WIRE-WALKER...'

MIRETTE (28 mins) is a charming little fairytale of a film set in the 1800s. Mirette is a pretty little French housemaid, no more than twelve or thirteen years old. She lives and works in a boarding-house which takes in primarily entertainers and people from the world of entertainment in general.

'Acrobats, actors, jugglers and clowns came together here to celebrate life.' Can you imagine the delicious wonder and whimsy of such an atmosphere? So many colourful characters! Fat lot of good it does Mirette. Though she's not ill-treated in any way and her clothes are fabulous, she's still a potato-peeler and laundry girl and she's got to work for her keep.

One day while hanging out the washing, Mirette encounters one of the boarders using the clothes-line as a tightrope. He's a tall, dark rather miserable-looking man who definitely does not care a snap of the fingers for wonder and whimsy. 'I wish to be left alone,' he says in Greta Garbo-style.

But Mirette is fascinated by his tightrope-walking. She attempts it herself but ends up only with two badly-skinned knees. The man, intrigued by her persistence, gives her a few lessons and soon she's actually doing quite well. 

'You're doing well, Little Laundry Girl!' says her tutor and:'Everyone falls in the beginning. Never let yourself be distracted. You must think only of the wire and getting to the end.'

Some mind-boggling facts about little Mirette's tightrope tutor emerge in the entertainers' salon, led by a much-bewhiskered Tom Conti. Apparently, the boarder who keeps himself to himself is in fact the Great Bellini, once the finest and most daring tightrope walker of them all...!

He once crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope, one of the lady entertainers takes great pleasure in informing the salon, and there's more. As he made the return journey over the deadly Falls, he stopped to cook an omelette on a camping stove and make a champagne toast to the clouds...! The big show-off, lol.

So why isn't the Great Bellini still walking the tightrope for the benefit of the awe-struck crowds, someone asks, not unreasonably. Well, apparently he's a has-been now, struck low by an injury. Mirette, who's been listening agog to all this grown-up gossip, immediately runs to her tightrope tutor's room to establish the truth of the matter...

The finale of this enchanting little film is a delight, straight out of a fairytale. The moral of the story is, of course, to follow your dreams, no matter how big and scary they are. Mirette, who is 'not made for life as a kitchen maid,' has a gift which shouldn't be wasted. After all, aren't all our lives 'just one great big balancing act,' when it comes right down to it...?

Mirette has been selected for a number of high profile film festivals including the Bermuda International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival and Nashville International Film Festival. This delightful film will play at Tribeca Film Festival in April and Nashville International Film Festival in May.

ELLE. (2017) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY FLORENCE WINTER-HILL. STARRING ISABELLE ALLEN AND BYRONY AFFERSON.

Florence Winter Hill’s Elle to screen at Cannes Short Corner.

This is the story of a young girl struggling to pursue her dream of becoming a professional dancer where creativity is forgotten. With a sudden diagnosis of memory loss, she must fight for her dream.

ELLE (15 mins) features another little girl with big dreams of a life in the Arts. The titular Elle lives, positively lives for ballet, and is so good at it that her ballet teacher even arranges for a scout to come and see her performing one day.

Which is just as well, as dancing has been taken off Elle's current school's curriculum due to that old chestnut, lack of funding. And there's also a medical diagnosis in the offing and it might just put paid to Elle's dreams of being the next Darcey Bussell...

What's interesting about this gorgeous little film is that the female director is only nineteen years of age and the entire crew on the film were aged between eighteen and twenty-two. The director is something of a wunderkind and is already making a name for herself as one of Britain's most talented film-makers, so watch this space.

I remember my own dreams of being a ballerina when I was a little girl myself. I devoured those SADLER'S WELLS ballet books by Lorna Hill that were all the rage amongst little girls at the time and weaved great fantasies in my head of one day dancing at Covent Garden.

When I realised, however, that being a ballerina would involve me getting up off my arse and getting my nose out of the books I preferred to everything else, I metaphorically hung up my ballet shoes and went back to reading Enid Blyton and dreaming of posh snobby boarding schools where the teachers were referred to as 'mistresses,' ie, the gym mistress or the French mistress, and everyone played this weird game with sticks called lacrosse. I daresay that the world of ballet has yet to recover from the tragic loss...

Elle will screen at San Francisco International Film Festival in April, CineYouth Film Festival in May, Cannes Film Festival in May and the London Independent Film Festival in April.


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com








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