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LP [Nikita Kardakov & Anton Chebotov, UK, 2017] /// Penny [Louisa Harris, UK, 2017]

April 3, 2019

Have you ever had one of those days where the whole world seems to be plotting against you? In Nikita Kardakov and Anton Chebotov’s short film LP, this is exactly what happens to Stephen (played by Mark Phoenix) when he buys a mysterious record. With excellent acting from Phoenix and intelligent touches throughout, this short grabs your attention for its frivolous sense of fantasy and subtle detail.

 

LP is delightfully edited and visually very satisfying with scenes of careful symmetry and a bright retro palette. In fact, much of the short feels as though it comes from another time, or even a mix of times. Stephen’s archaically formal clothes, vinyl records and tourists crowding around an actual map rather than a phone all evoke nostalgia for the recent past. However, references to Anton Chekhov, an old-fashioned maid and a Gatsby-esque party gesture to different points in history. On top of this, the quick, close up shots of banal actions are reminiscent of contemporary director Edgar Wright. These deliberately diverse temporal references disorientate the viewer and enhance the short’s playful sense of mystery.

In a similar way, the film is woven with hidden quirks that deserve a re-watch. Take a look at the opening scene, for example, and you will see that the spinning record shows all the sections of the story in small print. Similarly, the final record entitled ‘A Little Hoax live at the Scala Theatre’ ties back to another part in the story. As well as providing rewarding ‘Easter eggs’ for short film fans with time on their hands, these clever connections point to a larger theme of the story. In the plot of Stephen’s stolen record, everything is connected and everyone is conspiring against him. This is the paranoid and egotistical dream perhaps dreamt by many of us, and it is this idea that lies at the centre of the story.

 

On the balance of whimsy and believability, the story falls ever so slightly too hard on the side of whimsy, as there are just a few too many loose ends that remain unexplained for it to tie together as a storyline. For example, the fact that somebody else has previously reserved the record – a key part of the plot – remains unclear throughout the film.

 

That said, part of the joy of this short is its unexplained peculiarity. If you prefer the Sherlock Holmes stance of rationalising everything beyond belief, then perhaps this film is not for you. However, if you are open to the possibility of the impossible, then this short is bright, peppy and above all, great fun.

Dating can be stressful. Flirting, first kisses and feasting on the gore of your date’s ravaged corpse - it’s a minefield out there. Louisa Harris’s short film Penny shows what happens when your monstrous lust for flesh gets in the way of your love life. While parts of this film could be improved, the highlights demonstrate the yet unseen potential of Harris’s directorial skills.

 

Penny works an average job with average co-workers in an average office. But her nightlife is a little less ordinary: rather than binging Netflix, she lures men back to her house where she kills and eats them. Edward Cullen eat your heart out – literally. Things start to get tricky when this habit gets in the way of a blooming office romance with co-worker Gregg (Ed Pinker), and she has to decide whether to push him away or let him in on her gruesome secret.

The theme of sexual desire mixed with a cannibalistic lust for human flesh feels a little overdone. Although Penny attempts to hit deeper notes by alluding to metaphorical meanings of emotional damage and baggage, blending sex and gore has been done to death thanks to Twilight [Catherine Hardwicke, USA, 2008] and its numerous spinoffs. It would also have been a bit more refreshing to see a woman in a position of power without it being sexualised.

 

Although some of the acting felt a little wooden, the characters are well written. In particular, the irritating colleague pushing cakes and dog photos was painfully accurate. Moreover, the comic timing of the film exhibits Harris’s potential both as a writer and an actress. A special mention goes to Paul Birch (who plays a confused office colleague) for the brilliant cigarette break scene. Another highlight was the great onscreen chemistry between Harris and Pinker.

 

Therefore, while the plot isn’t something to fall head over heels for, this short acts a promising showcase of Harris’s emerging talent. Her newest film, Circle Triangle [UK, 2018] not only tackles a much fresher subject, but also is also a fine testament to her developing skills.

 

 

‘LP’ and ‘Penny’ were film submissions in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.

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