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Movie Review: Fast Film

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Fast Film is one of the most impressive, inventive short films that I’ve ever seen. To make the film, director Virgil Widrich first captured stills from over 300 films and made from them over 65,000 photocopies (according to the film’s official site). These photocopies are then folded into origami, arranged, and animated in a story that condenses a century of Hollywood filmmaking into 14 minutes. I like Peter Tscherkassky’s description (from the “About” section on the film’s site), although he forgets the happy ending: “A kiss, a happy couple. But then, the woman is kidnapped, and the man sets off to save her. A dramatic rescue story full of wild chase scenes begins. The audience is taken to the center of the Earth and the enemy’s headquarters.”

Fast Film is a celebration of Hollywood films and the Hollywood model of filmmaking. Director Widrich resurrects our favorite stars and assembles them in combinations that the strictures of time and studio contracts rendered impossible in reality; it lends itself to The Dreamers-like guessing games. But Fast Film also offers creative and intelligent critiques of that model. It reads like a history of Hollywood representations of masculinity – Bogart is replaced by Cary Grant, who is replaced by Harrison Ford, who is replaced by Sean Connery, etc. Meanwhile the film’s studio-era actresses have their heads pasted on to a wheel which, when turned, places each in turn atop a generic body. They are trapped in a box, pushed about by the hero. They are relegated to the role of screaming in terror while the hero devises an escape.

With Fast Film director Virgil Widrich reconciles a purist’s insistence on hands-on filmmaking with the potential of digital editing, reminding us that technology can empower not just a future George Lucas but also a future Harry Smith. Fast Film marries elements of experimental filmmaking (its wonderfully tactile quality, its dream logic) to the accessibility and familiarity of narrative film. It lends itself to a staggering variety of discussions, and I think that should I ever find myself teaching a Film History class I might want to begin here.

Watch Fast Film

* * *

At Strictly Film School Acquarello discusses Fast Film in the context of Peter Kubelka’s film theory. Read it, it’s fantastic.

In 2002 Widrich’s short film Copy Shop was nominated for an Oscar (Best Short Film – Live Action). You can visit that film’s official site or watch it here.

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About A. Horbal

  • http://www.lastnightwithriviera.blogspot.com Matt Riviera

    I’ve seen Fast Film many times and I never get tired of it. Thanks for your insightful review, and for pointing to the Strictly Film School article. There’s so much video content out there (not to mention comments on reviews of video content), that it becomes important to shine the spotlight on true works of art such as this one. May they be remembered as classics in this ocean of information.