The Movie Waffler Shorts Showcase - THE STORY OF 90 COINS / BETTER MEN / GARY FROM ACCOUNTING | The Movie Waffler


We look at three recent shorts.

Reviews by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

The Story of 90 Coins

Happy Holidays! It’s the festive season, and we’ve got a veritable selection box of shorts for you at the showcase this month. First up is the multi-awarded The Story of 90 Coins, a slick love story from China which presents the tale of ‘an aspiring fashion designer who has to choose between fulfilling her promise and realising her dream’.

A short with high production values, The Story of 90 Coins paints the tempestuous fate of its two lovers in luxurious cinematography, all thick colour blocks and extravagant sheens, juxtaposing its fairy tale like plot with municipal loci of contemporary China, which consists of towering skyscrapers lit up like jewel boxes and urban freeways silver slick with rain. A beautiful looking short indeed, but what is more interesting, from a cultural viewpoint, is The Story of 90 Coins’ narrative ideology. The couple, a guy and a girl (Wang and Chen), begin the film not even remotely in love: the fella has a pash for her, and basically promises that she will fall for him after he gives her a coin wrapped in a little message - ‘A good man should be like a bear… I’ll always protect you’ - every day for the next month and a half. Does it work? Well, sort of… Chen states that the couple had eventually ‘got together without realising it’(!). Chen painstakingly keeps Wang’s proclamations and spare change in a tidy box, and the two carry on - until a flash Harry from Chen’s office starts filling her head with promises of a promotion abroad to fashion mecca Paris… Will Chen follow her dreams and aspirations, or will she stick about with Wang and his weird renminbi based courtship? The fact that Chen packs her box of memories for a third act rediscovery tells us what the film believes she should do…

The Story of 90 Coins’ presentation of male/female relationships is unintentionally fascinating, with this ostensibly sweet natured film ultimately coming off as the glossy wish fulfilment of a stalker. Not only content with Wang wearing Chen down with his scrawled imperatives, we are positioned to believe that the height of romance involves a talented, ambitious young woman sacrificing opportunity for some chancer with a Hallmark turn of phrase and a pocket full of loose change. The film’s beautiful cinematography supports the male POV too, with (almost cruel) lingering close up shots of Chen soft focus weeping as she pores over Wang’s calligraphed missives. Like the shiny fashions Chen designs in her styling house, The Story of 90 Coins is meticulously woven together using some fine materials, but I’m not sure there’s much going on beneath.

Better Men

Zipping across the globe (like a Showcase Santa!) from China to Wales now, for rough and ready indie Better Men. And, in the meantime, it transpires that the apocalypse has happened - yikes! Mournful piano and stock footage of riots lets us know that the end of the world is underway, while a lone scavenger scrounges what’s left for shelter and sustenance, all the while avoiding the marauding gangs staking out turf in this dystopic wilderness.

Like its hardy protagonist, Twm Burrows’ punchy short also has a resourceful, survivalist approach to film, making the most of its humble budget with a nicely selected line in decrepit locations, a vivid eye for a shot and editing which is executed with keen, caffeinated energy. Dale Southall’s photography is sharp and effective also, smoothing out the rough edges of this down and dirty film, and offering a few legit jump scares among the grim tidings. Goodwill to all men? Not here!

Gary from Accounting

After all that excitement, it’s time to take things down a notch and have an awkward glass of port with cringe comedy Gary from Accounting. When Hannah decides that it’s high time for dipsomaniac husband Nathan to have an intervention, she invites his closest friends to make it so. Problem is, instead of ringing up Nathan’s lifelong pal Gary to the tough love-in, she accidentally calls passing acquaintance Gary – the other Gary, from Nathan’s work - to the session. What are the chances?!

Indie mainstay Tim Cox has fun as rolling drunk Nathan, and there are a few nice bad taste riffs along the way (it’s especially cruel when his kids suddenly show up). The punchline, perhaps, was slightly muffed (I found this 5-minute short more affecting and amusing than any given episode of Girls…), but when all is added up, Gary from Accounting is a jolly exercise in awkwardness. Three ho-hos out of five.