Hot and hilarious, these award-winning gems reflect the feisty attitudes of a welcome new generation of lesbian filmmakers.
Watching You 7.0
eyelights: the overall quality of the shorts.
eyesores: the lack of cohesiveness of the set.
When Blockbuster opened up its clearance center, I went a little crazy and bought as much of their stock as possible. I think that they were selling 10 DVDs for 15$ or 15 for 20$ (or some such nonsense), which made it almost impossible not go digging for oddities and intriguing little ditties.
One of the ones I came up with was ‘Watching You’.
What it is, basically, is a set of short stories from around the world featuring lesbian protagonists. Most of them are love stories. Some are dramatic, others whimsical, or even comedic. They don’t have a connecting thread, either, the title being lifted wholesale from one of the lengthier shorts of the lot.
1. 4pm: It’s an amusing, if not entirely credible, story about a one-night stand between a politician and a woman she’d been observing walking around in a pair of nice boots. In a hurry to get to work after their encounter, she leaves her paramour behind with a set of keys to let herself out. Except that the latter can’t find them and is stuck in the house all day. Oops. Now, would a woman with so much at stake leave a stranger in her house, giving her access keys? Not likely. It also seemed unlikely that the girl would turn on the TV and immediately stumble upon the woman making a comment on television. Or that the woman would let her husband run off with her pictures without even trying to stop him, basically giving up. Still, it was well-performed fluff and I loved the vibe of it. 8.0
2. Bare: This one’s about a lesbian couple who start making out, not realizing that the neighbours can see them. A little short on story, with more an accent on its sexy and erotic side. I liked that it included gay and lesbian characters and has a minor humouristic touch to it. And it didn’t overstay its welcome. All in all, a very pleasant little short. 8.0
3. Interviews with My Next Girlfriend: This is basically a series of interviews with wannabe girlfriends, spaced out by topic. It’s meant to be droll, and I can see how it might have been amusing on paper, but I didn’t find the characters all that appealing. To make matters worse, some of the performances were particularly poor. If only the actors had been convincing it could have seemed real, which would have been a nice touch. As it stands, it looks and feels fake. 4.5
4. Watching You: This is a sweet little drama about a lesbian who is trying to balance motherhood, her job and her relationship. Her relationship is in trouble: Her partner is jealous and thinks that she is having an affair. Our protagonist’s fascination with their neighbour isn’t helping: she is always watching her, and sometimes taking pictures as well. Her son is extremely understanding and is an anchor for her, even going to work with her – where, coincidentally, she crosses paths with her neighbour, who is about to leave her own partner… 7.5
5. Dear Emily: This one may ring true to anyone who’s suffered from teen heartache – especially someone who’s had a crush on their best friend. In that sense it was a terrific short, because it spoke a language that many understand. I just didn’t think that it was anything out of the ordinary and it could have been done slightly better. My feeling is that it was mostly limited by its low budget, because it’s generally well done. 7.5
The set also includes a few bonus shorts. Why they weren’t part of the feature presentation is beyond me, however – again, there seems to be no connection between the feature’s short films, so I don’t see what difference it would have made. Was it a question of length? Or was it a certain flow or vibe that the producers of the DVD were going for?
The Ten Rules: A Lesbian Survival Guide: I really enjoyed this one, even though the performances were almost all too over-the-top to be realistic. The cast of non-actresses play a bunch of friends gathered at a party, mingling, gabbing and carousing, while our protagonist tries to connect with a woman she has her eye on. While she does this, she enumerates the ten rules any self-respecting lesbian should keep in mind – some of which are cliché and many of which are hilarious. The lead actress, even though she had moments of unfettered exuberance, reminded me of Jane Lynch, making her immediately endearing. I loved the script and the creative direction. If only the cast has been à la hauteur. 8.0
Traveling Companion: A bereaved young woman is looking for a travel companion to go to Paris with. She interviews and considers a number of candidates, while her jolly sister (played by the-ever-sprightly Kristin Davis) pokes fun at her. Meanwhile, one of the staff at her local coffee house has an eye on her. It’s a relatively plain story with decent performances all around. I loved that the lead was attractive but imperfect; thankfully, she wasn’t a glossy, plastic socal girl. 7.5
Double Entente: for comments about this one, please see short film #3 on ‘11 Short Films of 11 Minutes‘
All of the shorts have a low-budget indie vibe to them, naturally. The production quality varies from film to film, as does the style, but what seems universal is a predilection for indie folk singers on their soundtracks, and being stocked with casts of limited ability. There are exceptions of course, but in the case of the performances, they are usually subpar.
But at least they were having fun, right?
And most of these shorts are indeed a good time; for all their flaws, they are generally quite good. What surprises me is how much I enjoyed them individually, but how my global appreciation of the set is a little more subdued – as though the sum of its parts is greater than its whole.
Admittedly, I watched these shorts in little chunks, over the course of a few weeks, so perhaps the point was lost on me or perhaps my appreciation of the set was diffused over time. Still, irrespective of that, I would certainly recommend this collection to fans of short films, love stories and fem cinema.
‘Watching You’ is worth watching.
Date of viewing: May 19-June 8, 2013