J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

FGBFF ’18: Black Coat & Metamorphosis (shorts)


If you have a nightmare in Russia, what’s the point in waking up? Conscious life will be just as paranoid and hostile. Such is largely the case for the protagonist of Tatiana Vyshegorodseva’s reality-bending short, Black Coat (trailer here), one of two shorts that share clear thematic kinships with well-known genre movies, yet are still very much their own films, which screen during the 2018 Final Girls Berlin Film Festival.

Katya finds herself in a shadowy, nocturnal post-industrial world, much like today’s Russia, but even murkier. A couple of sinister babushkas insist on giving her a ride, but it is not to help her. It is to claim payment for yet another debt. She tries to find refuge in a decrepit apartment building, but they doggedly pursue her. However, she has an outside chance of achieving redemption, if she can figure out the principles of this netherworld in enough time.

As soon as viewers start watching this massively creepy head-trip, they will be reminded of several similarly feverish films. However, the rules involving matches governing this world give Black Coat an additional element of suspense. To Vyshegorodseva’s credit, even when we figure out the underlying situation, it is a massively tense and claustrophobic film.

Presumably, we should all be on the same page with respects to Elaine Xia’s Metamorphosis, if I tell you May Wong is selling more meat pies at her modest Hong Kong restaurant. She has a highly abusive husband, who flaunts his unfaithfulness, but things are about to change, in profound and complicated ways. Hence, the title.

This is a dark, gritty film that acts as a powerful appetite suppressant. It is not excessively gory, but its depiction of what goes on in the back rooms and kitchens of neighborhood greasy spoons might lead viewers to opt for a modest side salad or a bag of chips from the corner store instead. Regardless, Xia has an uncompromising vision and both Ceci Lau and Jiin Jang are terrific as Wong and the other woman.

Black Coat and Metamorphosis prove certain genre themes and motifs continue to yield rewarding results in the hands of talented filmmakers. Very highly recommended, Black Coat screens tomorrow (2/2) as part of the Mind Games shorts programming block and Metamorphosis screens Saturday (2/3) as part of the Family Dysfunction block, at this year’s Final Girls Berlin Film Festival.

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