REVIEW: Parallel Lines [2010]

“Five very different films. One piece of dialogue”

Bravo Phillips for coming up with one of the best marketing maneuvers I’ve seen this side of BMW, (I still love The Hire and have the DVD). Not only did they commission five short films to comprise Parallel Lines, helping showcase their new Cinema 21:9 LCD TV, they put a very specific constraint on the project. The directors involved—commercial and music video auteurs—could create whatever their heart desired, in whatever medium from live action to animation, yet they had to use the same exact six lines of dialogue in sequence. And this conversation isn’t some banal ‘hello, how are you?” either, it’s got some meat to it, adding one more layer to help get those creative juices flowing.

“What is that?”
“It’s a unicorn.”
“Never seen one up close before.”
“Get away. Get away.”
“I’m sorry.”

One might think that the use of the word ‘unicorn’ would be somewhat limiting, but the talent involved brush any fears aside by creating five completely unique entities that bear no resemblance to each other. Only one actually has what could be a real mythical creature and only three go so far as to show their stand-in for the beast. The beauty of language is that you can weave any word or phrase to fit the meaning you desire; the beauty of cinema is that you can dream up visuals to make those words pop and grab hold. By visually representing the unicorn in five disparate worlds, our handle on the meaning of those lines becomes fresh and uninhibited by the short we saw previously. You truly can go from one to the other and appreciate them both as a series and as separate cinematic gems with the stamp of their creators.

The Hunt – by Jake Scott
You couldn’t get this endeavor going with producing help from the Scott brothers and not have someone in the family direct an installment. I’ve yet to see his debut feature, but have watched his short Tooth Fairy for and enjoyed it. It’s good to see the second generation starting to come into their own with sister Jordan’s debut Cracks being a stellar work and Jake’s own Welcome to the Rileys getting good press this year. As for the short at hand, The Hunt takes the most literal approach to the words and is a good starting point into the series. Two hunters are hot on the trail of something in the woods, only when we discover the prey is a unicorn does the action turn from majestic wilderness to glassy, first-person anger on behalf of the would-be victim. Scott’s tonal shift is earned and helps end the serene story on a great note of violence.

DarkroomJohnny Hardstaff
This may be my favorite entry as far as visuals go. Reminiscent of the computer-enhanced one-shots that comprise Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void, Darkroom is a continuous zoom from a voyeur alone in his room in some Asian city full of large apartment complexes and neon lights. Starting behind the character we will soon inhabit, what he is looking at in his camera’s viewfinder becomes our vision inside the film. The lens is equipped with huge magnifiers and we are shortly soaring across the street and right into the room of a total stranger. This is the point where my one qualm comes in because the image soon rotates side to side—to me this is impossible since the camera itself isn’t in the room. Looking past that, however, you will see the otherwise meticulous attention to detail. The focus change when zooming is authentic, the electronic hash marks from the camera are superimposed, and the ability to clearly make out action from the reflection of a metal lamp is, for lack of a better phrase, very cool. The whole thing is cyclical, quite dark, and gorgeous in its seediness of the urban fringe.

The GiftCarl Erik Rinsch
Rinsch is the Scotts’ protégé and first choice—yet passed over—to direct the in production Alien prequel. Watching The Gift begs similarities to seeing the brilliantly conceived shorts Neill Blomkamp made before having the Halo movie slip through his fingers as he eventually made a splash with District 9. Taking place in Russia, the tale follows a messenger as he brings a mysterious box to what I can only assume is an important dignitary or at least a man of great wealth. Murder is soon involved and we are taken on a well-orchestrated chase sequence as a full squad of police cars pursues the recipient of the gift’s robotic servant. The animation is clean and the Orwellian world depicted is great in its sterility. Containing the most fleshed out story of the quintet, word on the street is that studios have already approached Rinsch to adapt it into a feature length.

El Secreto de MateoGreg Fay
This Spanish-language entry has the most heart out of the group. In El Secreto de Mateo we see two young children—a boy and a girl—walking through a rundown apartment building while light is utilized for interesting glares and contrast. The girl has a drooping eye that doesn’t see straight; her blindness inferred before us with close-ups as the two enter a room at the end of a hallway. The boy is protective of his companion, I would guess she is his sister, and leads her towards an animal he says is a unicorn. Her pure joy and warmth in petting it hits home; the girl creating whatever it is she is thinking in her head while her hands feel the soft coat of the creature before her.

Jun and the Hidden SkiesHi-Sim
The lone fully animated film included, Jun and the Hidden Skies, is attributed to Hi-Sim Studios. Dealing with a little boy and a cardboard vehicle created in his attic, we are soon transported to his fantastical adventures through space aboard it with a young girl and her pet bunny. Dangerous robotic spacecrafts appear, attempting to shoot him down and kidnap the girl, eventually leaving Jun to be saved by a fire-breathing dragon that takes him to the mothership to find her. The animation is a little rough, but the story is solid and a cute journey through the imagination of children. It’s definitely a nice lighthearted conclusion to the series and a good way to exit the Phillips world.

I hope that this is just the first of many intriguing projects from the electronics brand. Having its own website devoted to an online cinema makes me believe future work will be uploaded eventually; it is an ambitious attempt to stir up publicity while also giving some creative people an outlet to showcase their talents. I think it has done its job well, even going so far as to say that the next time I need a new TV, this ultra-widescreen machine could be tops on the list.

Parallel Lines 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½


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