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SHORT FOCUS 2021: Bohemia [Samuel Kaperski, France, 2019]

On a rooftop above the bustling streets of Los Angeles, bohemian artist Paul (Jordan Rountree) is awoken from his outdoor slumber by the sound of passing police sirens. He descends into an alleyway where he meets a young woman, with the pair striking up a conversation. Samuel Kaperski’s Bohemia aims to examine the exploitation of human kindness.


‘The Woman’ – played by Gabriela Ortega – invites Paul back to the apartment for a smoke and some company but immediately, red flags are raised and noted by her new acquaintance. When Ortega’s character finds herself in a predicament, the helpful Paul offers to get her out of a sticky situation by driving a rental car back to Santa Monica. However, he soon realises that he should have paid better attention to the signs that something wasn’t quite right.

Bohemia does an excellent job of setting up the two main characters and quickly developing their friendship. The decision by Paul to join the woman at her apartment so quickly after their initial encounter feels believable thanks to some well-written dialogue from Kaperski, convincingly performed by Ortega and particularly Rountree, who showcases an impressive range of emotions. Some subtle shot direction also aids this, with close-ups of Paul’s genuine delight as the woman compliments his art show. However, the film’s pacing is a little uneven. Almost two-thirds of the 12-minute runtime are spent setting up Paul’s journey to Santa Monica, and whilst the film is intended as a completely standalone story, it feels as though it is the first in an episodic series of shorts.


Cinematographer Chad Marksusson takes full advantage of the Arri Alexa for the most part, with some wonderful shots of Southern California’s almost-tropical beauty during Paul’s drive, countering the urban settings of downtown LA seen from the rooftop. Between these two scenes we are taken inside the apartment, which doubles as a photography studio. This environment has none of the inspiring charm of the outdoor shots, and what is supposed to be a pivotal moment is ultimately let down slightly by a poor choice of location and lighting.


Bohemia is an interesting story that follows a genuinely likeable protagonist as he muddles his way through an increasingly strange day. Accomplished acting performances effectively carry the dialogue-heavy plot forward and, whilst it quickly becomes clear that something isn’t right, the film leaves you wanting more beyond the end credits, for better or worse.

 

'Bohemia' was pert of the Official Selection at Short Focus Film Festival 2021.


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