8. Charlotte et Véronique, ou Tous les garcons s’appelent Patrick (Jean Luc Godard, 1959)
In the summer of 1959, Pierre Braunberger provided Jean Luc Godard with the camera with which he would shoot his first fictional short in 35mm. It would be the only time Godard worked with a script written completely by someone else: Eric Rohmer.
If the narrative shows clear traces of Rohmer – a tender and symmetrical satire – the directing shows clear marks of Godard: from details like how the three main characters all wear sun glasses, to a reference of François Truffaut’s polemical criticizing the French cinema’s “false legends” in a newspaper.
The use of cinematic and artistic objects, such as a James Dean poster, a Matisse postcard and close-ups on a poster of Picasso would be widely seen in Godard’s greater movies to come.
Anne Colette, the actress who played Charlotte, would introduce Godard to a young actor without much experience – Jean-Paul Belmondo.
7. The Big Shave (Martin Scorsese, 1967)
“The Big Shave” is Martin Scorsese’s fourth short film. It was made just after his first feature film “I Call First” (1967) and marked the beginning of a great collaboration between him and Harvey Keitel.
This experimental piece shows traces of Scorsese’s later features, like the music (“I Can’t Get Started”, Bunny Berigan, 1939) perfectly adapted to the scene or the liberal use of blood.
Its alternative title was “Viet ’67”, being originally conceived for The Angry Arts Against the War, a protest against the Vietnam war. Knowing this, the movie’s meaning requires no explanation. Instead of the protest, “The Big Shave” had its premiere in Belgium, winning Le Prix de l’Age d’Or at the 1968 Festival of Experimental Cinema.
The film begins with close ups of an empty immaculate bathroom. A man enters and observes himself at the mirror and prepares to shave. Shaving once, and repeating the act.
The small set makes it impossible to have traveling or long shots of any sort, requiring the use of static and quick shots with the camera close to the actor, perfect to convey a sense of intimacy. The razor pierces through the skin and the bloodshed begins. Unlike the man, who follows a methodical process, the image moves quick from one shot to another, recording the self-flagellation act.
6. Carne (Gaspar Noé, 1991)
In 1991, Gaspar Noé shot “Carne”, just under forty minutes with 16mm cinemascope (it would later be blown up to 35mm). It premiered in Cannes at the International Critics’ Week at the same year.
Like all of Noé’s works, this movie isn’t made to please and definitely not for the easily impressed viewers. It Requirs a strong stomach since the first scene where a horse is brutally killed and butchered with no room left for imagination. And the first cut right to a woman eating horse meat is one of the most interesting of the movie. There’s no subtlety, not in the horse’s death nor in the next scene, since the woman is stating how she dislikes the taste of the horse meat.
Noé’s first feature length film “Seul Contre Tous” (I Stand Alone, 1998) is a sequel of Carne. The Butcher has a cameo in “Irréversible”, his 2002 movie in which he develops the narrative around the rape of a young woman.
5. Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 3EB (George Lucas, 1967)
George Lucas was a student at USC (Uniersity of Southern California) when he wrote and directed the short film that would be awarded first prize in the following year at the third National Student Film Festival in New York.
“THX” caught the eye of another young filmmaker called Steven Spielberg who recalls in a 2004 documentary (“A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope”) how the movie “completely stopped the festival” and that it was “the greatest incentive from a film student to another” he’d ever been gifted with.
In this fifteen minute film, the cast and crew was supplied by the United States Navy. The strength of this short film is not the simple story, but the strong technical aspects of it. The visuals are extremely well thought and crafted and the sound is constructed in a quite interesting way. These elements become even more impressive considering that it was a very low budget student production.
In 1971, within American Zoetrope, this short would be developed into Lucas’ first feature length film“THX 1138”. Opening with a reference to Buck Rogers and narrative elements reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the movie is a beautiful first step into Sci-Fi.
4. Sun un Air de Charleston (Jean Renoir, 1927)
The son of the great impressionist painter Pierre Auguste Renoir first experienced the adversities of independent filmmaking after “Nana” failing commercially. He was sure about his commitment to the cinema and had no thoughts of changing careers, but he had no choice but to shift directions, at least for now.
In 1932 he stated: “I have made only two films, ‘Nana’ and ‘La Chienne’, the rest were for sports or commerce”, and Charleston certainly wasn’t for commerce.
Renoir’s next movie would be as far from Nana as possible. Unlike the previous work, this was bright, plain and above all, brief. He uses only three actors and an individual set. There is a single costume per character, yet the main role is played by the same actress who played “Nana”.
This twenty seven minute movie about his passion for the American dance style was involved in a particularly interesting narrative.
Interesting rumours and mysteries about this early film were sketched with time. One of them is that there is only one print in the Cinémathèque Française and apart from the movie never been finished, the copy is far shorter than it should with no credits or titles.
3. Les Mistons (François Truffaut, 1957)
The French director’s second short-film, considered by himself his “first real film”, was first a twenty three minute film but later François Truffaut would re-cut it to seventeen minutes.
The movie opens with a series of tracking shots of a young woman riding a bike in the middle of a road with a vast thread of trees in parallel with a joyous musical score that sets the mood. A brief pan presents the viewer with a glimpse of “Les Mistons” (“the kids”) observing the elegant and attractive Bernadette, which serves to introduce the voice of a narrator, constant throughout the full picture as well, before returning to the graceful cyclest.
The female character goes to the woods, leaves her bicycle leaning against a tree, jumps and runs down towards the river. The five boys follow her, run to the bike and even sniff its saddle. They flee when Bernadette walks back. She cycles away with her legs revealed by the speed and wind against her skirt.
A young man, calm and confident, walks his way into an arena, where he meets Bernadette and salutes her with a passionate series of kisses. From here on, the actions of the couple and the kids are inter-cut together, reaching climax when Gérard slaps one of the five boys. He eventually leaves to do his military service, and the news of his dramatic death is soon received.
In the last scene of the short film the kids observe Bernadette once more, this time she is dressed completely in black for the first time, the background music rises, and as she finally reaches the camera, it tilts upwards, showing the trees against the sky, then fades to black.
In 1958, François Truffaut would be the only critic from the Cahiers du Cinéma not to be invited to the Cannes Film Festival, where in the year after he would win the Award for Best Director with his first feature film “Les Quatre Cent Coups” (The 400 Blows, 1959).
2. Un Chien Andalou (Luis Buñuel, 1929)
Long before Luis Buñuel directed “Viridiana” (1961) and two years before Salvador Dalí painted the “Persistence of Memory” (1931), the two Spanish Surrealists wrote what would later become a seventeen minute film named “Un Chien Andalou” (An Andalusian Dog).
The first movie directed by Buñuel started with a simple conversation in which he shared a dream he’d had of a “cloud slicing the moon like a razor blade slicing through an eye”. Dalí told him how he’d dreamed with a “hand crawling with ants”. For the razor through the eye scene they used a real cow that usually passes unnoticed due to its brutal visual content and skilled editing.
The short movie adopts several elements common in the silent era narrative, the crime and murder, moonlight, the (odd) seduction followed by opposition…but the interesting aspect of it is how it also breaks these conventions.
Right after the movie’s first screening in Paris, during June 1929, it received mixed reviews. It was called an “extraordinary film…penetrating so deeply into horror” (Georges Bataille) but also “a tiny little shit of a film” (Federico García Lorca). “Un Chien Andalou” would keep running for 8 months in Montmartre at the Studio 28.
Before the end of 1929, Buñuel would be commissioned to make another seventeen minute movie. This project moved from being a sequel of “Un Chien Andalou” and was developed into a sixty minute feature that would become “L’age d’Or” (The Golden Age, 1930).
1. Katok i Skripka (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1961)
Andrei Tarkovsky’s final project at the Moscow Film School was “Katok I Skripka” (The Steamroller and the Violin), a forty six minute movie shot in 35mm in 1960, produced in the Mosfilm studios.
The screenplay was written by Tarkovsky and his fellow student Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky. But the story is not what makes this such an impressive piece. Tarkovsky had to prove he had filmmaking abilities to acquire a diploma, and so he did, and what a way to do it!
One can observe a boy’s vision of the surrounding world as in later movies, such as “Ivan’s Childhood” (1962) and “The Mirror” (1975).
Andrei Tarkosvky’s sense of time and his selection of what would be visible and not, demonstrates his perspicacity. With no doubt, these sequences reflect an early exploration and care regarding the fundamental visual components and a skillful use of sound without need to rely much on dialogue. Considering his age, all of this is extremely impressive and displayed a level of visual literacy and maturity far higher than what would normally be expected.
-“From the Drain” (1967), by David Cronenberg, not forgetting “Camera” (2000)
-“Il court…Il court le Monde” (1987), by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
– “Rey Muerto” (1995), by Lucrecia Martel
-“Une Robe d’Été” (1996), by François Ozon
-“How They Get There” (1997), by Spike Jonze, not forgetting “Scenes From the Suburbs” (2011)
-“L’Amore Non a Confini” (1998), by Paolo Sorrentino
Author Bio: Miguel is a design student living in London, with an unconditional love for movies and grapes. He enjoys all kind of cinema, art and design discussions. For any information, his contact is email@example.com.