'5 Films in an Anthology of a Film a Month' by David Shiyang Liu - SIFF Shorts Finalist

There is something in human nature that is sometimes inclined to perversity. Like when we are having a meal , apart from polishing the food off your plate, some people may have a curiosity for how the plate or the cutlery tastes as well. Or take voyeurism as the best exmaple. I think we filmmakers can vouch for that very much. David's 5 films is an exploration of 5 different human senses - sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. On another level, it is also an exploration of this innate perversity, yearning for the forbidden, that we all have. As a result, watching '5 Films' was a liberating, playful experience of seeing if we outsmart David on what extremes of the senses we could imagine or if David could outsmart us.



It starts with sound. As I expected, it was a rhythm based, quick-cuts music video like piece that interpersed 2 different characters who are both listening to something and lost in some kind of a sound cloud. Both characters are based at home, a supposedly quiet sanctuary, instead of being outdoors. The sound comes from their electronic devices and is usually in the form of pulsating beats. I was not too convinced or stirred by the representation of sound because it felt too externalised in the form of characters moving in wide-shots. I personally feel sound is an intimate feeling and playing with softer music or even silence could produce more interesting effects.



Nothing braced me for the David's daring take on touch. A well-manicured mum is having a normal day at home. Her son brings a friend home from school. A sense of ambiguous tension surfaces between the friend and his mum for their eyes are locked for longer than usual. Then, in a fit of impulse, they snog hard and passionately while the son stands by to watch with more curiousity than shock. Then in a subsequent scene, the mum seems to step have stepped out of her ambiguously lusty self to become a typcially concerned parent. She sits herself outside her son's door in ambush to listen to what her son and his friend are up to. I felt the effects of execellent casting in this segment. The mum is picture of ambiguity and typcial motherly anxiety as well. Her clothes define her as someone relatively modern but she still has motherly girth and a nurturing manner. And quite appropriately, she wears a look of contradiction on her face much of the time, not quite sure what she represents in the house.



Imagine spraying perfume on non-porous objects like glassware, stoneware and electrical appliances. That's the extent of the obssession of the one single character in the 'smell' segment. Shot in soft and dreamy tones, the piece feels more transient than the others because it is very much just a behavioural snapshot. Perhaps, a visual poem on an eccentricity. A petite-looking girl derives self-fulfillment from making sure everything in her house smells agreeable. She doesn't speak nor emote. Even one of her playmates looks like a scarecrow she made herself. Somehow, not quite drawn into this wordless segment.

A young man, looking dapper in a shirt and tie, pays a visit to his mother who is living alone. His mother keeps him waiting in the living room while she attends to some other matters of her own. Feeling restless and bored, he notices a lonely goldfish swimming in the fish tank. So, as the previous segments have conditioned us, we know something is about to happen. To add to it, there seems to be something sinister looking about the dim conditions of the living room. What follows on is that the young man, curious about the taste of the goldfish, dips his toungue into the water to do the 'expected'. By now, we were getting the hang of '5 Films' - the exploration of a perverse kind of curiousity. In a way, it materialises what our senses have sometimes wanted to feel inside, beyond social conventions, like looking at different ways of being naughty. But I find that the strength of what it is trying to explore is sometimes diffused when some characters do things that really go off-tangent, off-logic and off-character.

The last segment has some of the best cinematography in the whole of the short finalists. Shot on a busy street in Melbourne, we see 2 characters (a young man and woman) who stand at opposite sides of a street, stealing observations of each other. This scene departs from the previous because now the characters interact with the outside world. And what a colourful workd it is. Seemingly filled with young people dressed with a lot of creative flair, it testifies the fact Melbourne indeed has a certain bohemian and liberatng air to it. It is also interesting to note that David goes back to basics in his treatment of the 'sense' of sight - just 2 people who fancy each other from afar and meet eye to eye in the end. So there you have it, a layered ending that speaks for the segment and the entire film.

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