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Bao Tran’s Black Coffee Movie Review

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Rising filmmaker Tran Quoc Bao is at it again, this time with another deliciously simple short film called Black Coffee, about a politician named David. David is a good guy, but he’s a little too nice to a woman who isn’t his wife. When someone snaps pictures of he and his lover kissing and blackmails him, David is forced to make a tough decision – one made even tougher when he discovers that he’s being double-crossed.

As I’ve said many times before, short films aren’t my thing; but Tran, who I was first introduced to at a screening of his excellent short film Bookie, is a talented director who should by now be directing bigger, more prominent things. It’s always worth seeing what he’s come up with next.

Unlike Bookie, the story of Black Coffee feels rushed and incomplete, the characters not as developed nor as interesting. The movie is also only nine minutes long, so those are flaws that would be hard to escape.

What’s more important is that Black Coffee is a showcase for the talent involved.

Even though the script is the weakest part, primarily due to the length of the story, screenwriters Timothy Watkins and Charles Forsgren have put their best foot forward; there’s no question that given a longer running time (which of course requires a bigger budget) they could put together something solid.

More impressive is the direction by Tran; the film looks considerably different than Bookie and yet comes across just as professional. The movie is masterfully assembled from beginning to end with intriguing camera angles, cut shots and a dynamic black-and-white canvas. Bookie was a better showcase for how Tran’s talents could translate to a feature-length, mainstream film, but Black Coffee signifies that the filmmaker has the ability to do anything.

Just as impressive is his ability to get engaging performances from his actors; one of the biggest issues with short films is that the acting typically isn’t as good, but Tran never seems to have this problem. Whether he’s tapped into the right network of actors or just has an eye for untapped potential, he gets the most out of his actors. Without proper character development, the actors – Melissa Roberts, Nina Carduner and Yuji Okumoto – aren’t perfect, but they are still very good.

I won’t rave about Black Coffee as I did about Bookie, but it is a fine piece for the portfolios of any of the cast or crew involved.

By Erik Samdahl
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