Shorts are always an interesting form of cinematic storytelling, sometimes able to pack a lot into a small space, sometimes experiments intended as tasters for a longer project. Cherzoso: The Silent Film falls into the former category as a five-minute short telling the story of a circus clown/escort who has to make some life-changing decisions about her son and sister.
As advertised, the film is silent, with quick subtitles permeating the upper and lower corners. Tracy Ann Chapel plays all the characters—Cherzoso, her sister Sherry, her escort alter-ego Cherry Bell—highlighting Cherzoso’s turmoil as she puts on and takes off wigs and makeup, turning the conversation into an internal debate. The choice of silent, black-and-white images here allows for a deeper focus on the images themselves, but the attempt to make the film look more like a silent film undercuts its meaning. The onscreen titles don’t quite mesh with the “old timey” look of the film—the use of actual intertitles, rather than subtitles, might have helped to set the tone.
However, the silence means that Cherzoso’s dilemma plays out more on Chapel’s face than via her dialogue (or the changing of voices), and forces the viewer to focus on the subtle alterations in her appearance, rather than her other behavior. The result is an intriguing short film whose plot is not always clear.