A Year in Shorts Day 2: "Copy Shop"
One advantage that short films have over features is the freedom to experiment. No one making a short film does so expecting to make a blockbuster hit, so there's never any concern about making it "commercial." By its very nature the short allows for filmmakers to feature wacky concepts or unique styles that might otherwise not work as a feature. In short, if you want a perfect example of this, look no further than today's featured film, Copy Shop.
Released in 2001, Copy Shop was written and directed by Austrian filmmaker and multimedia artist Virgil Widrich. That's about all I have for you in terms of background information because this film has neither a Wikipedia or TV Tropes page and that's really as much research as I'm willing to do. Luckily for all of us, it's available to watch for free on YouTube.
Copy Shop is a delightfully bizarre film, one I'd be tempted to call Kafkaesque if I had read more Kafka books than The Metamorphosis. Regardless, it's a perfect demonstration of the freedom short films give- between the strange, off kilter story and its unique style, Copy Shop is allowed to be itself for the time it needs, then politely ends before it can wear out its welcome.
That style is not only thematically appropriate (the film was shot with a digital camera, but was edited by animating individual, photocopied frames), it also helps cover the film's budgetary limitations. As you can see in the behind-the-scenes video shown below, the film actually has a large number of special effects shots.
The original color footage can often look cheap and unconvicting. But the combination of the black-and-white coloring and the roughness of the photocopies helps sell the images, and adds to the film's overall sense of unreality.
But of course, none of this would matter if it weren't for the film's star, Austrian actor Johannes Silberschneider. Despite how wacky the film gets, Silberschneider never gives into the urge to overplay it, instead delivering an understated performance that makes everything seem that much more surreal.
Unfortunately, Copy Shop did not win the Oscar that year, losing to Ray McKinnon's The Accountant (no relation to the Ben Affleck film). That's a perfectly fine short which we'll get to eventually, but for my money I think the Academy made the wrong choice.
At twelve minutes, Copy Shop perhaps runs a bit longer than it needs to in order to tell its story, and it's definitely more of a novelty act than something you'll want to rewatch over and over. Still, if you're in the mood for something fun and inventive, you can't go wrong with this one.
Well that's two films down, three-hundred-and-sixty-three to go! Since this is the Internet and we love ranking things, you can keep track of my rankings of here on Letterboxd. Here's to a full year of Oscar Baity goodness!
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