Make yourself comfortable for the 19 minutes it takes to view this not-so-short short made in 2008 and starring - yes, that's him - David Strathairn, Oscar-winner for Good Night & Good Luck. The Incident at Chekhov Creek shares some attributes with the not-so-long feature that is currently still in post-production: a rowboat, water, little or no dialogue, dancing that appears out of nowhere, and a rather subtle portrayal of relationships. Watch to the end and you'll see the quietly startling denouement inspired by John O'Hara's short story Over the River and Through the Woods. And it wouldn't be Renzi-land if there wasn't a party attended by a large and diverse cast of characters.
Chekhov is no longer making the rounds of festivals, though it had its moments in the sun as you'll see if you scroll down this impressively long filmography. After formulating your own thoughts about Chekhov, do take a look at the feedback below, written by 4 panelists at the Cleveland International Film Festival. Reading their anonymous reviews recently was a great reminder that no matter how assiduously I edit the project currently in the works, its appeal will not be ... universal.
There are those who might think it's counterproductive - or snarky? - to publicize critical feedback. But stumbling on it recently while archiving 4 decades of Marta Renzi & The Project Co. memorabilia, it struck me as appropriate to share this kind of rejection (albeit dated) along with the previous post's cheerfully long list of recent acceptances.
Because none of this really matters. All of it is part of a historical moment which is already passing...
[If you know a little bit about boats, note particularly Score #2's suggestion that rowing should be re-invented for the cinema.]
Scene #1: D
This film presents a very original approach to look and storytelling. I thought the film did a good job in editing and keeping the rhythm of the film but I thought in many of the scenes a different use of light would have improved the presentation. While I thought the editing from scene to scene was good and usually worked well, I thought that some of the framing of shots - while creative - took away from the subject matter which was the dance and movement of the characters. At points in the film this lack of focus (from a framing standpoint) on the dancers really took away from the ability of their movements. From a story standpoint - I don't believe there really is one - other than the individuals interacting in their day through dance, which was fine for this viewer. I liked the audio when it blended music with the sounds of the surrounding environment, e.g. water, leaves, etc - but this use of audio was not consistent throughout the film. Given what the film presented, I believe a shorter film would have been more enticing.
Score # 2: D
Camera angels [sic] were too tight at times. Perhaps if I saw the entire scene with the dancer, it would have made more sense. There was so much going on outside of the camera's view (you could catch glimpses of someone who was part of the scene). The scene with the two on the bench was quite beautiful. Extremely poor quality (of the film) at the fire scene - like when the focus was on the man & woman that were watching. The night scenes without some source of light were very hard to watch. The quality was abysmal when there was no light I can not imagine how bad this would have looked on the big screen When the man is rowing the boat, he keeps looking over his shoulder. Why not turn around and row forwards (instead of backwards)?
Score # 3: D
I was not sure what to make of this short. On one hand you could say it is an experimental period piece, on the other hand I found it to be rather dull and repetitive and I couldn't quite understand what it was leading to. I hate not to like this short because David Strathairn is in the movie and he happens to be on elf my favorite actors, but I just couldn't recommend this. Perhaps I would have liked this better if there was more dialog or more of a story structure to it. Production wise it was so-so, it looked filmed on consumer cameras to give it a decent look, editing was decent but not great. I think the elements were here to make a great short but it just wasn't executed effectively.