Taking the theme of invisibility both literally and metaphorically, 12 directors commissioned by the Sao Paulo Film Festival made 11 shorts packaged together as “The Invisible World.” A mild curiosity rather than a must-see omnibus, this uneven collection boasts several interesting works (by Theo Angelopoulos, Manoel de Oliveira, Atom Egoyan), a few clunkers (Maria de Medeiros, Beto Brant and Cisco Vasquez), and more than enough unremarkable entries to make DVD players with fast-forward buttons the best mode of dissemination.
All but Egoyan’s “Yerevan — the Visible,” which considers the disappearance of a man’s grandfather during the Armenian genocide, are set in Sao Paulo. In “Lower Sky,” Angelopoulos films a subway preacher shouting about the afterlife to apathetic commuters; with “From Visible to Invisible,” Oliveira addresses the inability to speak face-to-face in a world overburdened with virtual-communication devices. Jerzy Stuhr takes a page from “Ten Minutes Older” by setting his camera on a cinema audience watching his own movie, though “A Tribute to Moviegoers” simplifies Herz Frank’s vision and says very little about the project’s theme of invisibility.
Sticking almost too close to the concept is Wim Wenders’ “See or Not See,” a mini-docu on a trailblazing program for kids with partial vision; ditching the sappy music would eliminate unnecessary sentimentality. More than music needs to be eliminated from Medeiros’ “Adventures of the Invisible Man,” about an omnipresent hotel waiter (Mauro Felix) whose existence is rarely acknowledged by the people he waits on. Though her idea is clever, Medeiros has no sense of focus, piling on too many associated themes such as a gay couple whose younger partner isn’t out yet. One the most literal entries, the short isn’t helped by generally poor thesping.
Two homegrown shorts both look at the performing arts: in the overlong and unenlightening “The Transparent Being,” Lais Bodanzky asks Brazilian actors, a Buddhist monk and Japanese acting teacher Yoshi Oida, author of “The Invisible Actor,” to explain notions of connection and losing oneself in a role. Beto Brant and Cisco Vasquez take a tediously self-conscious experimental approach in “Kreuko” to what’s seen on a theatrical stage, questioning the impact of beauty and ugliness on audience reception.
Also shot in an avant-garde vein is Guy Maddin’s “Colored Cat,” a largely black-and-white collage of tombs in Sao Paulo’s Consolacao Cemetery on the Day of the Dead, edited to the rhythms of Chopin’s Sonata no. 2. Gian Vittorio Baldi impressionistically revisits an unrealized Brazilian project he had with Pier Paolo Pasolini in “A Fable — Pasolini in Heliopolis.” Marco Bechis, with “Tekoha,” rather simplistically brings Amazon natives (all actors from his feature “Birdwatchers”) to the big city, where they’re greeted with astonished exclamations of, “My God, Indios!”
Each short ends with a generally unnecessary explanation of what was just seen or, in the case of “Kreuko,” with a statement as pretentiously obfuscatory as the short itself. Visual quality varies, from Stuhr’s grainy night-vision lensing to the sharp poetic stillness of Angelopoulos, the late helmer’s last fully realized work.