Now playing: Mad Love at Chicago Filmmakers | Bleader

Now playing: Mad Love at Chicago Filmmakers


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Chloe Sevigny in All Flowers in Time
  • Chloe Sevigny in "All Flowers in Time"
Tomorrow night Chicago Filmmakers will screen a program of recent American-made shorts, which they’ve titled Mad Love. While that’s always a good title, it only accurately describes the content of one of the selections, We’re Leaving, Zachary Tretiz's low-key comedy about a trailer park denizen and his beloved pet alligator. Most of the others—the breakup dramas After You Left and Ex-Sex and the infidelity portraits Cheat and Howard From Ohio—concern characters trying to navigate tricky romantic entanglements as rationally as they can.

It’s an understated collection on the whole. Like the last edition of Filmmakers’ year-end program, the selections tend to suggest miniature portraits à la short fiction rather than the germs of feature films. The miniature form lends itself easily to caricature, which may be why my favorite shorts of Mad Love are also the funniest. Cheat, directed by Joe DeRosa and starring a handful of New York comics, is a heist movie parody in which a couple of schmoes tell a buddy how to cheat on his girlfriend with play-by-play instructions: imagine an episode of Seinfeld directed by Sidney Lumet.

Howling at the Moon, directed by Los Angeles-based documentarians Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims, is a pleasing comedy of manners in which a record store clerk makes his coworker come to dinner at his loony grandparents’ house. Along with We’re Leaving (which fills its cast with real oddballs of Louisville, Kentucky), Howling is the most visually engaging of the lot, with deliberately empty wide-screen frames that reflect the main characters’ tepid reaction to everything around them.

Less engaging, if certainly more ambitious, is All Flowers in Time, the latest from Tarnation director Jonathan Caouette. Essentially a David Lynch ripoff, this uses a slight narrative about kids and a babysitter (Chloe Sevigny) watching arty horror movies as a vehicle for surreal conceits from Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. Some may enjoy seeing how many effects Caouette packs into such a brief work— those who don’t will have to wait only 15 minutes before the next short in the program.

Mad Love screens on Friday at 8 PM.

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