The Movie Waffler Shorts Showcase - NIGHT OF THE SLASHER / NIHAN: THE LAST PAGE / BLOODY BURLESQUE | The Movie Waffler


We take a look at another trio of recent shorts.

Reviews by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Nihan: The Last Page
A bittersweet treat to open this Valentine’s Day shorts showcase, as we discuss the latest from Azarbaijani wunderkind Tofiq Rzayev, Nihan: The Last Page. I’m a huge fan of Tofiq’s earlier work, short films that are as compelling as they are beautiful, and which are also, wonderfully, like this one, freely available on YouTube.
Nihan: The Last Page adds another layer to Rzayev’s manifold body of work, which is composed of exquisitely crafted human dramas narratively fuelled by mystery and emotion. In Nihan: The Last Page, however, the tightly plotted dynamics of Rzayev’s last film The Cleaner give way to a short that is more abstract and enigmatic in its approach.
Erhan Sancar plays a writer, who is heartbroken after the death of his love Nihan (Sevgi Ucgayabasi - who also wrote the original story). The name Nihan means unknown or secret in Hindi, and is apposite to this film's enigmatic atmosphere, which centres upon the man attempting to complete his written account of the time he spent and the love he shared with Nihan, and also coming to terms with the girl’s bereaved sister. United in that awful threshold of grief, the two characters argue, cry and eventually support each other, all the while bathed in Rzayev’s characteristically gorgeous use of light; thick ambers and inky blacks which exemplify the film’s life and death thematics. Some have found Nihan’s inscrutable ending a confusing misfire, but this would be to underestimate the artistry of this superb film maker, whose quiet confidence is in every frame. This isn’t a film driven by narrative, but one that asks us to share in its poignant atmosphere. To quote Wilkie Collins, writing in another tale concerning lost love and haunted rooms, ‘ask yourself if there is any explanation of the mystery of your own life and death’: evocative of universal sensations, the intangible questions that underpin our very own narratives, Rzayev’s films linger for far longer in the heart than their short running times allow the eyes.

Bloody Burlesque
Nihan: The Last Page’s stoicism is such that the film is at times almost static, with pensive moments of the man staring into empty corridors, or Pinter-esque pauses that express more than the pleasingly fashioned subtitles ever could. In this crash-bang-wallop-what-a-vine age of attention deficit media, I found this thoughtful calm welcome. And, as if in cosmic response, next up is Bloody Burlesque, a three minute baroque short focussing on that theatrical half dance/half stripping thing that everyone seemed to be into a few years ago.
In a velvety night club, a lady with not very many clothes on cavorts upon a stage for the edification of the floor. But this isn’t a night in Stringfellows; the audience are pointedly composed of older people, and upon the dancer’s sinewy frame are scrawled heavy words like ‘cancer, leukaemia, suffering’. And then a bucket of blood is produced…
Bloody Burlesque has the abstract, figurative dynamism of a poem. The dancer’s (Tonya Kay) routine is one that is at once abject, but also entirely empowering; not just in terms of a woman having complete mastery of her own sexuality, but also, upon the diegesis of the stage, her own fateful destiny. Using motion to interpret, and physicality to explore, Bloody Burlesque is a shrewd, sexual and suggestive short.

Night of the Slasher
Crikey, there’s even more female frolicking in the much hyped Night of the Slasher (part of the official SXSW selection, no less), which opens on a close up homage to Marilyn Burns' iconic denim derriere sequence from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, leading into some saucy dancing - to some excellently '80s style hair metal - from heroine Jenelle (Lily Berlina). The reference is deliberate, of course, as Night of the Slasher is another self-reflexive slasher take off. Scream is over two decades old now, but it’s interesting how well the Slasher sub-genre stands up to the endless spoofery that has become its lot, with Night of the Slasher managing to execute its own largely fresh take on the ‘slasher-parody-or-is-it?’ dynamic. Jenelle has a handwritten to do list of ‘Horror Movie Sins’ (dance sexy, drink beer, take drugs, have sex: it doesn’t take much to transgress in a slasher film, does it? I bet anyone reading this has completed at least two of Jenelle’s bullet points in the last 24 hours!), which she works her way through in order to summon a masked nemesis…
Purporting to be shot in one take, Night of the Slasher is technically brilliant, with the camera zipping from long shots to close up, from Jenelle’s bum to her point of view, but, unlike, say, the empty aesthetics of Birdman, here the style is in complete service of the plot, creating a thrilling claustrophobia that exemplifies the brutal choreography between the final girl and the killer. The latter, in a joke of incandescent brilliance, sports a white mask based on the visage of Leonard Nimoy - a smart touch that characterises the ingenuity of this funny, scary and snappy short.

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