“The Shift” (dir. Francesco Calabrese, 2014, 8:24)
Writer-director-editor Francesco Calabrese slaps a credit for “technocolor” (sic) on his short film “The Shift,” which is his way of indicating two things: that “The Shift” is calling back to the look and lushness of classic Hollywood, and that nothing in it will be quite like the original. “The Shift” is set in 1964, and stars Ryan Welsh as a suburban husband named Joe who comes home to find groceries spilled on the living room floor, and his wife Betty missing. Cut to: Joe tied to a chair, watching the panel show The Plot Thickens, while “Betty” (played by Castle’s Molly Quinn) prepares a tray of sedatives in the kitchen. Joe asks this stranger what she’s done with his wife, and she answers that she is his wife, and that nothing has changed about her—except that from now on she’s not going to cook, clean, or have sex.
Calabrese is playing a little with science-fiction allegory here, comparing the first wave of the women’s liberation movement with an invasion of body-snatching aliens. That little joke could be read as transgressive or reactionary—or just as a goof that shouldn’t be taken that seriously. What’s more interesting about “The Shift” is its style, which makes the familiar discomfortingly unfamiliar, by taking a faded version of a brightly hued 1950s/1960s Hollywood movie set and shooting it like a modern-day thriller. The handheld camera and the askew camera angles make everything look a little off, even before Betty reveals her alien-face. This is the real shift in “The Shift,” from candy-colored Americana to something more sinister.
Previous “Short Cuts” columns can be found here.