Film run-time: 10 minutes | Starring Samuel Cuevas, Grace Fournier, Bonnie Hay
Written and Directed by Matt David Johnson, Music by Alexz Johnson and Brendan Johnson, Produced by Matt David Johnson and Alexz Johnson
“The Dishwasher“, a 2016 short film by Matt David Johnson, is an expression of a faceted love, one conveyed through food and contained in filial affection. A dishwasher, studying to be a chef, secretly uses his diner’s kitchen in the after-hours to hone his cooking ability, while the dishes he prepares there form an unusual relationship he has with a street prostitute.
Told exclusively through the perspective of the silent protagonist, Johnson’s adroit direction brings out a tale that is immersively visual, subtle details of which emerge only on a second viewing as being integral to the plot’s dramatic arc. In crafting a film that is inherently fluid without dialogue, Johnson reaches close to an unalloyed cinema that stays true to the sui generis of film, the montage.
As a result of the distillation of actions into a series of irreducible scenes, the film achieves a causal quality that gratifies as the story fulfills its cause-and-effect propositions. In one instance, a criticism of taste converts into an adjustment of craft that satisfies because of it; in another, a rejection of a proto-self conforms to a reduction of the current self, which ultimately buys the protagonist time to appeal to the prostitute’s heart.
In conflating food with emotions and the expression of self with cooking, “The Dishwasher” is effectively an ode to the culinary art, a medium as vast and ineffable as the uncharted soul. To complement that idea with a cinematic style that essentializes the foundations of film art is a most clever touch, as it underscores both the film’s purity of articulation and the story’s noble, nonverbal intuitions.