With last Monday, 8th December, having been tipped as the UK’s ‘busiest day‘ for online shopping this year, it is no wonder why Christmas shoppers should want to avoid the annual social exercise in commercial sadomasochism we know all to well. Absolutely no amount of indoctrination can distract from the silly if not mind-numbingly tiresome fact that what awaits is the biohazard of elbow-in-side queuing for thankless, hours-on-end competition for that [insert popular children’s toy here], only to find stock inevitably obsolete despite retailers’ prior knowledge of the oncoming onslaught of afterschool TV-driven demand. Not wanting to develop this ranting polemic on the institutionalisation of the season any further, I’ll refrain from complaint. Fortunately for adults, the gift-giving affair can be foregone entirely without insult or childhood trauma. And for those bold enough with seasonal nostalgia, it is indeed nice every now and then to get or make a little something special for friends and family as a token of one’s unyielding appreciation. Year after year, my family and I have re-interpreted the holiday ritual in an arts-and-crafts spin-off of Santa’s workshop at home, a sort of open-ended project for the Advent calendar and something to which I most look forward every year — even on occasions we’re not actually able to spend it together. But as this year’s recipient list incorporates several additions for whom cutesy cards and crazy-glued undecipherable objects won’t be wholly appropriate, I must confess that I too have joined the hoards of online shoppers. After all, if the government hopes to stimulate consumer spending by a meagre 2.5 percent cut in VAT, why not humour them?
Now whether or not my contribution in shopping-list format will actually help the economy is a point in moot. But as they say, it’s the thought that counts — and this year, my most sought-after stocking-stuffer of choice is the indispensable CINEMA 16: European Short Films. For movie buffs with various tastes (especially for shorts with international flare), this DVD film collection showcases some impressively captivating classics and award-winners, each averaging at around twenty minutes long. Compiled on the same CINEMA16 platform that has released World, American, and British short film variants over the years, these sixteen films spanning the European continent would otherwise be rather difficult to come by on their own unless hidden somewhere in the YouTube archives. Including fascinating early works of European directing legends such as Jean-Luc Godard (1957), Krzysztof Kieslowski (1968) and Jan Svankmajer (1971), it juxtaposes over a dozen cinematographic styles and storylines that — albeit limited in time — explore in great detail the depths of the human condition and social realities. All films included are subtitled and accompanied by audio commentaries in English (often by the directors themselves), altogether providing nearly four hours to marvel at their visual mastery thus making for a welcome addition to both the filmmaker’s and aspiring filmmaker’s libraries alike.
With my irrefutable inclination towards French and Scandinavian cinema, Lukas Moodysson’s Bara prata lite and Jan Kounen’s Gisèle Kérozènea are amongst my favourites so far; and though up until now I’ve only had time to watch thirteen of the sixteen, I can safely say that it has been worth my while and I do hope that some of my friends will also enjoy despite my elimination of any potential surprise once this post goes to press… In addition (and to try to re-instill some festive spirit of suspense), a few other Christmas gift recommendations if you’re still planning to brave the high street in the upcoming week of no return: a reservation of the Typographic Desk Reference pre-release, a Moleskine 2009 edition diary, pepparkakor and glögg from Totally Swedish in Marylebone, and practically anything from Magma Books or Neal’s Yard Remedies in Seven Dials, Covent Garden.
Sarah Badr © MMVIII
See also: Cinema 16