Date Night!

Date Night!
While the title suggests that this grouping of short films is the arty equivalent of some corn-fed, Kate Hudson rom-com, it's actually more about loss, break-ups and personal insecurities, which are, of course, icebreakers for any successful mating venture. Regardless of this mild misnomer, this is a solid grouping of short films, featuring some eccentric Icelandic humour, quirky animations and a little wife-swapping diversion.

Opening the program is False Start, a French-Canadian short wherein a man is tossed into a temporal loop in an effort to break up with his gal-pal properly over ice cream. It also airs in the Laughter without Borders shorts collection, but is more appropriate here, since it isn't funny. Much funnier is Epic Fail, the Icelandic romantic entry about a man whose bike is stolen while he buys a pizza, leading to a car chase when a goth chick reluctantly offers her assistance.

The token documentary entry, Quadrangle, features interviews with some folks that engaged in spouse swapping back in the '70s. While there are a couple of surprises to behold in this well paced and edited piece, one of them isn't that the women become jealous of each other and stir up shit.

Of course, Live a Bit Longer doesn't have any women and still things don't work out well, albeit because of unexpected circumstances rather than generalized cattiness. This heartbreaking story of refusing to let go shows the different ways that people handle grief, building tension as a father refuses to reveal the death of his son to his son's lover.

Given the gravity of this tale, Andrea Dorfman's playful and insightful animated short, Flawed, which also played at this year's Hot Docs festival, helps boost spirits and introspection. Her candid assessment of self in relation to her anxieties about entering into a relationship with a plastic surgeon goes beyond personal analysis to comment on social conventions and natural assumption. Plus, her animations are fun.

Less heady is Cheese, a straightforward love story between a grocery store sample girl and a café owner with terrible Kenny G hair. Things start out wonderfully, but inevitably run into snags when secrets are revealed. While pleasant and breezy, this is merely a diversion on our way to a similarly inoffensive short film called Le Negociant.

This Belgian title shows a negotiator dealing with a clerk threatening to blow up a convenience store because of relationship problems. It's kooky, there's male bonding and fat jokes. Mainstream North America would love it if it weren't for those pesky subtitles.