The Mad Half Hour


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

The Mad Half Hour
"Though charming in its way, the film walks a difficult course."

"I was a horse, and a man controlled me like a puppet". In an episodic meander there are glimpses of gallery openings, tennis academies, karaoke bars, conflict within relationships, and a three-eyed cat.

Juan and Pedro are having difficulties, not least with their renditions of Unchained Melody and Xanadu.

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Given special mention by the International Jury at the Glasgow Short Film Festival and described as "original" and "whimsical", the film may at times rely on humour that is broad enough to translate, and this might obfuscate more subtle amusements. There is some hitting of heads, some falling over, some portentous thunder and lightning over more mundane conversation, some enthusiastic singing and some experimental film. "Don't touch," says the artist, as an adoring fan clambers through a work. "Don't follow us", say the girls, as they run down a corridor that seems to lead to a patch of woodland. Don't get a tattoo while drunk, is reasonable life-advice implied by a conversation.

"I feel as if something bad is going to happen" is an early warning, and in a way something does. Though charming in its way, the film walks a difficult course - Juan doesn't want to play tennis. Over stirring orchestral music he explains that he's lost his passion. He doesn't feel sad, he explains, he feels nothing. That wry indication of a flattening of affect might explain the tone in part as a consequence of translation, but it might be a hedge. Talking with one's mouth full is a great way to be misunderstood, and there's ample opportunity here. Though Leo Brzezicki’s film is crisply shot, neat black and white, minimal effects on that triocular feline, there are contexts missed and missing. With The Platters' Only You over the credits, there's a nod to other films of alienation and identity like American Graffiti and Mr Destiny and Superman, a sense in that full Mercury Records sound and the rich lack of colour of Lynch being ludic.

In the search for detail your reviewer discovered that 'the mad half hour' is apparently a term for the occasional bursts of inexplicable activity that possess domestic cats. I'll be honest - knowing that helps explain the film, and I didn't. I have all sorts of stuff tucked up in my brain and I have lived with cats for most of my life and though acquainted for the behaviour I can't say I've heard the term. If you have, then fair enough - if film becomes a trivia competition then I'll open with asking if you can say which firm built the Y-Wing without checking Wookieepedia, or which band covered Xanadu for the NME's 40th Birthday Album.

At 20-odd minutes the film had time to spare for a bit of preparatory text, and it is weaker for its lack. It's still enjoyable, despite the sense that one is missing something - indeed, there's probably a degree to which that is deliberate, in the rootlessness of existential ennui, in the oddities of the oneiric. There are moments that feel cruder than others - underwear choices do form part of life's rich tapestry, but need not necessarily inform what passes for comedy. The end result is amusing enough, but this is not a door you absolutely need to be on the other side of.

Reviewed on: 21 Mar 2016
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Thirty minutes of living like a neurotic house cat.

Director: Leonardo Brzezicki

Writer: Leonardo Brzezicki

Year: 2015

Runtime: 20 minutes

Country: Argentina


GSFF 2016

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