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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Little Man’, big screen success

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    Equal parts tragic and diabolically funny, “Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure” draws a remarkable amount of thought-provoking material from a subject that, on first inspection, seems less suited for treatment as a feature-length documentary than it would be for a 15-minute segment of “Robot Chicken” or “Saturday Night Live.”  

    Certainly not for the faint of heart, the film — which debuted to wide critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and opened as a special screening at the Loft Cinema on Sept. 30 — seems all but destined to see the same fate as the subject at its center: Appreciated by those who have seen it, and tragically overlooked by the greater many who wouldn’t understand it.

    Wickedly hilarious, Australian filmmaker Matthew Bate chronicles the rise of “Shut Up Little Man!,” a series of angry audio recordings that became an underground sensation in San Francisco long before the phrase “going viral” ever existed. The recordings, made by twenty-something roommates Mitchell D. and Eddie Lee Sausage, document the brutal and often times physically aggressive shouting matches of their next-door neighbors Peter and Raymond, two aging alcoholics who — as depicted in the film — have little better to do than get mind-numbingly drunk and threaten to murder each other.

    It goes without saying that the bulk of the film’s hilarity is drawn from the recordings themselves, with Raymond — adamantly homophobic and drunk beyond the capacity for rational thought — repeatedly calling Peter a “cock-sucking piece of shit” and bellowing, “If you want to talk to me, then shut your fucking mouth!” while Peter, equally drunk and (as we learn later on) openly gay, retorts with shrieks of “Shut up, little man!” and “Nobody wants to watch you cut your toenails!”  

    Being that the film relies so heavily on audio, though, duty falls on the filmmakers to devise an engaging enough visual strategy to satisfactorily correspond, and to this end the film bats about .500.  

    It could be said the greatest weakness of “Shut Up Little Man!” is ironically its biggest strength; often times, the film is so aurally hilarious that the images onscreen serve little to no purpose, meaning one could close his eyes and have the same experience as if he had kept them open. In fact, Bate’s use of reenactments — featuring actors in the roles of Peter and Raymond — serves only to strip the film of perhaps its most interesting element: The mystery surrounding what exactly these two nut-jobs look like.

    What’s truly compelling about “Shut Up Little Man!” though, is its second half, during which Mitchell and Eddie find themselves vying for ownership of the recordings after Hollywood takes an interest in them. This raises questions of morality that stretch beyond basic notions of copyright and into the realm of human ethics, leaving us with a film that, aside from being darkly entertaining, is likely to have its most attentive viewers engaged in conversation long after the house lights come back on.

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