Constance (A Symphony of Kisses) [Pierre Gaffié, France, 2017] /// Finding Shakespeare [Margaret McG
Constance (A Symphony of Kisses) offers a charming account of one woman’s strategic pursuit of an end to loneliness. Its central premise is full of whimsy, and the addition of an omniscient narrator further enhances the story’s fairytale feel. It is a witty and inventive piece of short film cinema that seeks to make light of the heartbreaking loneliness of the quest to find love, when those around you seem to have already found theirs. The piece handles its serious subject matter with a lightness and jest that throws up more than a little allusion to one of France’s most famous cinematic exports, Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, France, 2001).
Upon receiving news that yet another of her friends has birthed a child, Constance decides it is time to find the perfect mate to conceive with. Her strategy for finding said Adonis? To record vocal tracks of all of her intimate kisses throughout the year, and from listening back to these sounds of tenderness, discern which one was her perfect match. The film’s story is by far its strongest element, simultaneously original and enchanting.
Unfortunately, the technical filmic elements on display often leave something to be desired. The sound recording and editing is not quite crisp enough, with background diegetic noises often crackly or muffled, and the narrator’s inserts often delivered too loudly alongside the lines of the film’s onscreen characters. The production value on the whole could be higher, with the cinematography largely uninteresting. One notable exception comes when the viewer is given beautiful and arresting CCTV footage of one of Constance’s recent kisses, serving as a reminder that the cinematography could have been better utilised throughout the previous sections of the film.
In a further attempt to present the film as storytelling artifice, chapters and headings are used to divide up the film’s narrative and outline the different characters we are watching Constance kiss. Unfortunately, whilst this seems charming the first time round, by the second and third they serve only to disrupt the short’s pacing and flow, leaving it to feel stilted.
The music throughout is a highlight and exhibits some good variation in its chosen pieces. Constance's ‘epilogue’ shows the eponymous character play all of her recorded kissing tracks simultaneously out of the speakers of a local music shop, joyfully listening to their seductive calls, and trying to determine which man is to be her match. It is an uplifting ending that does a good job of finishing the film on a creative high note.
Constance (A Symphony of Kisses)’ premise is captivating and some of the early allegoric narrative dialogue strong. However, in its execution the film unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. The film’s production value feels slightly too amateurish, and some of the editing unpolished. For a film with the word symphony in the title, the music is undeniably strong. Unfortunately most of the film’s other technical elements fail to live up to the hype.
There is often much for adults to enjoy in the delivery of a well-made children’s film. However, there is rarely much enjoyment for the adult viewer in a well made educational film. Unfortunately, this fact is true of Margaret McGoldrick’s Finding Shakespeare. The film’s purpose is enacted upon clearly, providing a creative account of one girl’s challenge to find the enjoyment and relevance of Shakespeare to modern children, in the wake of her school English assignment.
Schoolchild Maeve and her friends struggle to gain an enjoyment and understanding of the bard’s work, despite the spirited attempts of their teacher. Fortunately for Maeve she receives additional tutelage from an imaginary friend in the form of A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s Puck. Puck successfully ignites Maeve’s imagination, and her newfound interest slowly rubs off on her closest classmates.
As an educational film, it gets its point across, that Shakespeare and his works are still relevant and, contained within them, fascinating stories and characters even for young 21st century readers. The piece is light if, at times, uninteresting. The appearance of the character of Puck makes for a nice educational gimmick but little else. As one of the few prominent adult actors in the film, the performance of Cathan McRoberts is disappointingly uninspired, though does serve its brief of being bright and full of energy to engage younger viewers.
If you are a primary or middle grade English teacher then this film might just provide your lessons with some spark, if you are not, then it is best to leave this particular short well alone.
'Constance (A Symphony of Kisses)' and 'Finding Shakespeare' were film submissions in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.