If you haven’t heard of him yet, here you go: meet Danny Sangra, maker of funny short films (amongst a whole range of other things). Yet another apt Vimeo staff pick, these two and a half minutes are well worth your time, whether during your lunchbreak or not. It may be short, but it does manage to tell a winning story that probably rings true with most city folks who ever had to regularly eat their lunch alone somewhere in public.
British lunch culture – if indeed you work in a place where taking a lunch break is common at all – is a beautiful thing. There are so many good sandwich places everywhere that serve not only that but soups, salads, wraps and porridge (if you like a late breakfast), something which is quite uncommon in the rest of Europe. While those on the continent tend to pack a desk lunch or eat a warm meal in a company canteen, the food offers in the UK practically suggest to take them somewhere and consume them away from both the workplace and the sandwich shop.
Taking your food to the park to combine nutrition with some fresh air intake does not sound particularly adventurous but, as Sangra shows beautifully, there can be a lot more to the experience than meets the eye. By making the thoughts of the “boy” and the “girl” visible through subtitles, the viewer is given insight into what seems like a fairly realistic if possibly slightly over-articulated psychological process: checking someone out. And, of course, checking out yourself in the same instant in order to assess what that other person might think of you.
Sangra has chosen to omit spoken language as well as background noise and instead to overlay the scene with dulcet jazz music. The resemblance to mid-20th century film noir creates the expectation of a narrative voice outside of the dramatic action, which we are given, but from more than one character and without the detached construction of the happenings as part of a bigger story. The commentary of a social situation is matched to the picture that portrays it; this creates multiple fictions which, in direct comparison, illustrate amusing discrepancies.
Aside from being subtly yet obviously humorous, you may think that A Lunch Break Romance looks more like an animated The Hilfigers campaign ad, showing off a purposely understated urban chic that looks affordable but isn’t. No wonder, for Danny Sangra is not your usual film artist but is wholly embroiled in the fashion and brand marketing industry. Not only has he worked for/ with Sony and Samsung, but Miu Miu and Marc by Marc Jacobs have been his clients in the past, as well as French fashion great Louis Vuitton.
So, yes, it is quite stylised. And yes, every actor in every short film is so organically handsome and probably bakes their own bread while thinking up innovative granola recipes. You can’t deny a faint pretentious feel of the aesthetics, and may even contend that there is no realism in this kind of beauty, which possibly makes it appear a little snobbish. Equally, art can be many things, but it need not be exclusively realistic, nor would a world full of realistic art be particularly interesting. I suppose one could argue that what we look for in art is an intriguing mixture of reality and beauty.
When Sangra shows pretty people (they do exist in real life, after all), doing normal things, he does pick up on some true contemporary issues like the seemingly obsessive specialisation of dietary needs no one quite understands (“What the hell is a gluten?”) as well as the internet-nurtured instinct to google everything we don’t know or recognise (“I’ll Wikipedia that later.”). Not to mention the incessant tendency to reassign lexical classes and use nouns as verbs (“I’ll Wikipedia that later.”). That in combination with both actors’s gorgeous hair completely satisfies my realism & beauty (r&b?) art needs for two and a half minutes of audio-visual entertainment.
If you want to see more of Danny’s films and photography, check out his website.