Venice Souvenir (Gaffin, 2013)


In promotional materials, director Harris Gaffin (a.k.a. Harris from Paris), emphasizes that Venice Souvenir was a one man production. That might be a red-flag for some viewers used to equating such endeavors with student films or experimental projects.

This production, though, has a professional look to it, with varied shot compositions and judicious editing that demonstrate a professional touch.

Comprised of dozens of short (one or two minute) vignettes, Venice Souvenir attempts to capture the unique flavor of the location that allegedly gets more tourists than Disney Land. It succeeds fairly well even if the non-editorial stance and lack of transitions make it drag a little towards the end. (Gaffin has designed the film for mobile devices, and the vignettes allows for–perhaps requires–viewing in increments.)

If the visuals are the strongest elements of Venice Souvenir, the narration is the weakest. Too often, it simply describes what is happening on screen, such as when a school kid recognizes and greets a roller skating model or when observers of the public basketball courts notice a little girl with some surprising skills. The closest the film comes to commentary is in a segment on a “topless” rights rally, where a shot of a woman dressed as a mermaid and being carted through the crowd is met with a lackadaisical “vive le differance” (as the French say).

A scene that is ripe for commentary, perhaps, in an early scene of financially well-off joggers taking an early morning run past the indigent and apparently homeless. But while the camera is astute, noting juxtapositions, the voice-over doesn’t do much with these observations but note them. Is there something unique about Venice Beach that attracts all classes of people? Does excess court extremes and, hence, contradictions? How does the cult of personal fitness co-exist with the presence of junk food vendors? Is the personal discipline required for extreme fitness different in quality (and not just degree) from that which would allow a person to hold a job, or is the beach bum existence an intentional choice? Also, some of the more dynamic segments, particularly those focusing on street performers, are near the beginning, while the end segments are a bit more meditative, about surfing and the beach.

Those caveats aside, Venice Souvenir is a pleasurable film, particularly for those who have been to the location and who will relish the familiarity of the sights and sounds captured by Gaffin’s HD postcard.


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