Low and behold, a short on Encore, of all cable channels. Sure, it's going on two in the morning, so maybe they throw one in the mix now and again to get their primetime movies on schedule. Still, with the scads of promotional material they use, I wouldn't think that would be a big problem.

Third Rail is an eight minute short without dialog, so of course it's approach can be considered arty. A man comes into a train station and sits on the same bench as an attractive woman. They flirt and strike up a bit of conversation solely through the use of facial expressions. In the back and forth between them, she challenges him to go down on the tracks and touch the third rail - which, if you don't happen to know, carries a strong current that powers the trains. The man approaches the tracks, filled with uncertainty, but also the need to prove himself. And, without spoiling such a short film, I'll just say it moves on from there.

Short films benefit from the need to be very simple, but also have to be much tighter in every facet to work. Third Rail won a special Kodak Selection prize at Cannes and also an award from the International Cinematographer Guild. Why? It's all about mastering the grammar of film. Making this conversation work without words requires subtle nuances not only in the performances, but more so in communicating through each shot what is going on. There's no time to really do much else with the film, but it accomplishes its very specific goals quite admirably, and is an excellent example of its form.

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