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Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet (Aki Kaurismaki, Victor Erice, Werner Herzog, Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders, Spike Lee, & Chen Kaige, 2002)
The portmanteau film is one of the less impressive genres in cinema, but Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet, unlike its companion film The Cello (really only noteworthy for Godardís entry), is a respectable collection of shorts. With an impressive list of participating directors involved, the films all are use time as a theme and run ten minutes long each. Obviously, some of them are better than others, but none of them are excruciating, which makes the prospect of digging for the riches within The Trumpet less daunting than usual. A film-by-film breakdown follows:
Aki Kaurismškiís entry, Dogs Have No Hell , which features the two leads from his most recent film, seems on the surface on par with his usual output, but it doesn't work precisely because of its abbreviated duration. In this pulpy comic drama, Markku Peltola plays a man who gets out of prison and has ten minutes to get money, get his girl, get married and catch a train to Moscow. Because the ten minute time limit forces him to speed up his pace, Kaurismški has to abandon his usual plodding drollery. The retro rock and roll number is now pressed up more tightly against the symphonic overtures, and the character quirks that usually inspire laughter don't have time to register because the clock is always ticking.
Victor Ericeís Lifeline  is a refined, subdued and gorgeous black and white study in cinematography. Though it's from the outset, the story of an injured baby (and the loss of innocence), it spends several minutes establishing mood before becoming too overtly symbolic. It captures the feel for life in a Spanish small town, or at least an idealized black-and-white dream of that feel, and then punctures that feeling with a slowly building rhythm of portentous symbols (e.g. a snake crawling amongst apples, a black cat). It's a beautiful experience, but a simplistic one that only gains any emotional power with the associations that its final shot inspire. At least one can say that it works better as a short than it would as a feature.
Jim Jarmuschís Int.Trailer.Night , however, just might be one of its makerís finest achievements. Taking place in real time, and starring Chloe Sevingy, the short goes a long way toward deglamorizing the myth of the celebrity trailer. Very little of import happens, beyond the visits a series of technicians make and a cell phone call that the actress places, but it manages to create a credible portrait of the actressí role in a production. At once a tool of the film and a personality who must be catered to above the needs of the film, she exists in a rarefied, but lonely, zone. The use of real time drives home the tedium inherent in a filmís shooting schedule. The respect and personal space that sheís given lead to loneliness, even as sheís being physically violated by a hair stylist and a sound man. Itís not a deep movie, by any means, but itís perfectly pitched and surprisingly succinct in the way it goes about making its observations.
Twelve Miles to Trona , by Wim Wenders, is probably the least ambitious of the shorts. In it, a desperate man (Charles Esten) speeds to a clinic to seek treatment for an overdose of drugs. Trick lenses distort the American landscape as the man drives, resulting in a spectacular and surreal display of pyrotechnics, underscored by music from the Eels. Itís technically adept and capable of holding oneís attention, but awfully vapid. One canít help but feel that its attempts to make a larger statement about the American experience are in vain.
Spike Leeís politically charged We Wuz Robbed  rapidly examines the Democratic reaction to the controversial 2000 Presidential election. Edited with amazing precision, itís a piece of propaganda that inspires admiration regardless of your political stance. Leeís examination of those who interceded with Goreís concession to Bush makes the action seem unabashedly heroic, and, as the title suggests, thereís no gray area in this movie about what should have been the electionís proper outcome. It results in a movie thatís an electrifying experience while viewing it, but also one thatís in no way convincing.
Finally, Chen Kaigeís limply conceived 100 Flowers Hidden Deep , is an insubstantial piece of whimsy that seems odder by its inclusion alongside more serious fare. In it, a delusional old man hires movers and leads them into a dilapidated old section of Beijing. When they arrive, they find that there is no home to be moved, but they humor him in an effort to receive payment. Ostensibly a piece about the loss of things past, it comes off as mawkish.