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Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet / The Cello - Visions Of Time (2002)

review by Andrew Hook

This DVD combines two films, Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet and Ten Minutes Older: The Cello, which are in themselves packages of a total of 15 short movies by 15 of the world's most acclaimed directors, with the segments on each DVD linked either by a trumpet score by jazz great Hugh Masekela, or cellist, Claudio Bohorquez, depending on the title. The musical connection isn't the main theme however, and a further sub-heading for the collection is Visions of Time which perfectly captures the task each director was set: to film their personal view on the nature of time in a movie no longer and no shorter than ten minutes.

As might be expected, the DVD contains a mixed bag of material, but the quality is high throughout and whilst I've always found collections of short films to be less appealing than, in comparison, collections of short fiction, there is plenty here that is involving, enchanting, thought-provoking, and essential. And with the wide spectrum of directors on offer, the project should benefit from a broad appeal within any serious film-going community.

Starting with those movies on 'The Trumpet' the selection begins with Dogs Have No Hell directed by Aki Kaurismaki. I found this to be one of the least interesting on offer, as a man celebrates leaving jail by finding a wife to take with him to Siberia. Perhaps an analogy on making the most of what time we have, this particular segment failed to engage with me. Not so Victor Erice's Lifeline in which the pressing fate of a bleeding baby is set against the everyday chores of a Spanish village. As time ticks away - illustrated with some gravity by a boy listening to a watch he has drawn on his wrist - the baby is ultimately saved by the villagers. This is a powerful piece considering the running time, and filming in black and white adds immeasurably to its sense of place.

Werner Herzog takes a documentary trip into the lives of the last unknown indigenous people on Earth, the Uru Eus tribe in South America, who were discovered in 1981. In Ten Thousand Years Older he films the tribal leaders 20 years on, and discovers how swiftly their civilisation has been brought up to date. Jim Jarmusch's contribution is much more personal in Int. Trailer. Night, in which a young actress makes the most of a ten-minute break during the making of a movie. Constant interruptions by the crew demonstrating that even the act of waiting can be corrupted over time.

Wim Wenders Twelve Miles To Trona takes us on a much more obvious exploration of time, as an accidentally drugged salesman drives as fast as he can to reach a doctor in a barren desert landscape. The hallucinogenic ride gets under our skin sufficiently to care about his fate, and Wenders adds the coincidence of time to the coda of the film, making us realise how lives can often be inextricably entwined. Spike Lee's We Wuz Robbed pulls no punches in a documentary that examines the Florida vote-counting scandal, and how Al Gore's assistants and supporters reacted to it. A fascinating dissemination of how Bush managed to slip into power. Finally, Chen Kaige disappoints with a moralistic comic fable of an elderly man who employs a removal company to move his non-existent belongings from the empty lot where his house used to be. Whilst the metaphor of a man lost within a China that is no longer as it used to be is a valid one, the tone of 100 Flowers Hidden Deep hasn't the gravitas to push the point home.

Moving onto 'The Cello', Bernardo Bertolucci's Histoire d'Eaux is an excellent fable concerning a refugee's assimilation into Italian society - following him through a life of chance, and ultimately leaving him spiritually trapped within his origins. There is a beautiful tone to the movie that continues with Mike Figgis' About Time 2. This latter movie is perfectly suited to the short format, and would be impossible to maintain over any length, (although I'm aware Figgis used a similar device in Timecode I haven't seen that movie), as the screen is split into four and the story unravels within separate time periods in each. A tour de force of innovative filmmaking, this segment contains some arresting images, such as the old couple looking out through individual television sets. In contrast, Jiri Menzel's One Moment which documents the effects of time on an ageing Czech actor, seems rather pedestrian in comparison. Whilst the segment is interesting in itself, taking slices from his movies to show how he has aged, overall it's not original enough a concept to stand out from the crowd.

A linear storyline is returned to in Istvan Szabo's Ten Minutes After, in which a wife prepares an anniversary dinner for her husband who then returns from work inexplicably drunk. The segment struggled to maintain my interest, although the English language tutorial playing on the television in the corner of the dining room added a curious poignancy to the scene. Also interesting, is Claire Denis' effort Vers Nancy, which quite simply documents a philosophical discussion during a train ride. Denis is the only female director on offer here, and whilst gender is not an issue in her piece - or even, come to think of it, time - her movie is granted greater relevance considering its theme of the assimilation of cultural differences. One character's statement that "this whole idea of accepting differences aims in fact to erase them and make them imperceptible" is now at the heart of the French riots that are currently in full flow. As such, it's unsuspectingly demonstrative of the way time bleeds into future events.

Whilst intriguing, Volker Schlondorff's The Enlightenment panders to racial stereotypes, and the accompanying monologue on time makes for a very boring film, despite being shot from the perspective of a fly. Much more ambitious is Michael Radford's Addicted To The Stars, where a spaceman's journey culminates in a return to an Earth where he finds that the son he left as a boy is now older than he is. Focussing on lost time, this is a heartrending account, and a beautifully shot addition to the series. Finally, Jean-Luc Godard's In The Darkness is a triumph of cinema, where fragments of movie and documentary clips are fused together by a series of The Last Minute Of... headings, complemented by some incredible dialogue charged with emotion and meaning. It's a fitting end to both of these DVDs, which are well worth your time (pun intended), and marks him as a director who is quintessentially aware of the power of film.

Overall, the range of cinematic experience, stylistic treatment, film/ digital methodology, and the equal importance given to both colour and black and white photography, demonstrate that the future of cinema is held within the hands of these very talented directors. The DVD works both as a sample of their work and as a cumulative whole. I defy anyone not to find something of value here.
10 Minutes Older - Visions of Time

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