What an odd collection of not-very-short films. Hors Piste: Volume 3 is a selection of three films that screened during the 2008 eponymous film festival at Paris’s Centre Pompidou, which pays tribute to new forms of visual expression. There are beautiful moments in these films; however, when considered as a whole, they make me question whether we should really keep cutting the edge of art.
The Music of Regret
The first short, “The Music of Regret,” is a film in three parts by American film director Laurie Simmons. A visit to Laurie Simmons's webpage suggests a mind that transforms the mundane or stereotypical into the extravagant and bizarre with an intense pleasure. Scenes that are reminiscent of 1950s television sitcoms have been transfigured into the stuff of nightmares, but with a bright Matissian palette that makes you feel as though her subjects will cancan off the screen at any moment, or conversely, in muted tones that suggest the intense sorrow behind the stitched-on smiles of her grotesque puppets.
“The Music of Regret” is the most captivating of the films, and also the most complex, stylistically and thematically. The first part opens on several male dummy puppets rotating around Meryl Streep, who then shares various intimate moments of life with the different puppets. The strange, plastic, frozen quality of the dummies seems to gently mock the petty dramas of life that keep us paralyzed as well, despite the mobility of our flesh. In the same measure, the similarities among the puppets (the men seem interchangeable to Streep, as if they are even the same person) remind us of our own similarities: sometimes for good, as they connect us to others, but often for bad, as society forces us to conform to a prescribed plotline.
But there is still a hopefulness in the caring that is shared between Streep and the dummy, especially as they sing “live in the present with an open mind” on the beach. This love humanizes the dummies and gives poignancy to the drama we all experience.
I particularly like Simmons’s completely unrelated final act, which showcases solo dancers on a stage, all dressed as different objects and representing particular emotions through their dance styles. The violence of a gun, the comfort of a house, the naïveté of a cupcake, the weightiness of a book, the graceful pompousness of a wedding cake, the impatience of time; all these ideas are presented in quick, skipping succession until time overcomes all and forces the curtain to fall on the act.