Film Reviews


By • Sep 5th, 2013 •

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As I recall the era known as the very Hallucinogenic 60’s most characters of unreality usually found their way into independent films or into the subtext of the horror genre with films like CARNIVAL OF SOULS or MANOS: HANDS OF FATE to name but a couple. In recent weeks I found myself at a Los Angeles-based film festival screening student films and documentaries late into the nights of July, courtesy a longtime friend who presents both mainstream and student films with equal fervor.

I had just read an article in the New York Times lamenting the fact that great works of literature were not being enjoyed by the student body anymore because we are too busy making the students compete for higher grades and degrees, thereby forcing them to revert to psychobabble in their term papers and theses in order to score a better place in the “real world” they must finally inhabit at graduation.

I was mulling over all of this within the context of what I was watching that evening in two student films presented by a personable CSU Fullerton film-student-turned-director known to his cast and crew as Bryan Norton. Now, I already know a Bryan T. Norton who lives in New York and also directs short films, only his area of expertise has remained in the horror genre. The Bryan Norton I am writing about here is more interested in examining different aspects of the system of education he is currently completing at Fullerton, in order to really address the supernatural. At present, therefore, he stops short of it with a dream within a dream, as the Divine Edgar put forth in his TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION.

Norton presented two short films that night. The first, CONTROL, led us down a liquor-ridden frat night in which a young grad student survives a nightmarish encounter with two young hookers, or so he thinks until the cold light of day—and then he is still not really clear about what is reality and what might be a dream within a dream. The second short film, entitled THE GRAD STUDENT, also a study in neo-noir sensibilities, presents the college experience from the inner longings of a student already accepted into a grad program, with familiar settings drifting in and out of a nightmare that does not require the sleeper to really awaken at all.

Norton seems to be influenced by the surrealist poet Jorges Luis Borges, quoting from his work at the very start of this short, setting the stage for characters of unreality to exist where plausible situations become dreamlike and, as in Borges, all individual events are literally possible. Norton likes to call his films “the cinema of Sincerity” while openly admiring and referencing Almodovar as well as Paul Schrader in the context of his work.

He is at the moment putting the finishing touches on THEO’S GRIEVANCE, a narrative short regarding the loss of a brother, perhaps creating a trilogy of short films that will allow him to explore his themes in a manner that will lead into feature films; at the moment it is really up to him to make it work because the talent and drive is certainly on the screen.

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