La Petite Mort: The 48-Hour Film Project (Short Film)

16 May


Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I was going to pass on reviewing this one. I like this five-minute short film quite a lot, but I figured it would have been very tough to review. It has no story, no characterization, and no real setup-payoff. When you get down to it, Matt Owen’s “La Petite Mort” is just a bizarre, well-crafted, darkly funny music video. In other adjectives and adverbs, it’s twisted, ingeniously executed, rigorously edited, and when it is all said and done, strangely engaging to watch.

This is a horror story fit into a music video style, as two men—Tommy (Chris Kindrick) and Tammy Shuttles (Joe Maneiro, in a dress)—serenade their love for one another in a quite unusual but very unforgettable love song. But the video is intersected with moments of graphic violence in a torture-room that makes it seem like an unusual romance was intersected with elements of “Saw” and “Hostel.” The result is strangely intriguing.

There—it’s that simple. I love this five-minute short film made by Brick Hut Productions for the Little 48-Hour Film Project in summer 2012. That’s enough of a review right there, given what little it has and yet how much of an impact it has. If any Little Rock friend/filmmaking-acquaintance ask me what I think of it, I say I loved it. But there is one important detail that I may have overlooked that changes everything (for the better). It’s not just that “La Petite Mort” is well-shot, cleverly-edited, and, for a music video, has a tune that I practically dare you to forget once you’ve heard it. It’s that it was all done—planned, filmed, edited, and completed—within a little less than two days. That is very, very impressive.

I’ve participated in the 48-Hour Film Project twice already. Let me tell you—it’s not simple. It’s a challenge for filmmakers to do what they can do within 48 hours of preparing, shooting, and finishing a short film. Given that limited time, it’s quite complicated to do, and even more so to make a short film that really stands out among the other competitors’ films. And while making the film, there’s always a great deal of conflicts (such as disagreements) and a lot of pressure on the filmmaker in charge of the crew. What’s important is for the competitors to do their best and have fun with this filmmaking test.

I’m not sure how the making of “La Petite Mort” went for Brick Hut Productions, but I imagine they took advantage of every hour they had to make it happen. I imagine a lot of coffee was involved to keep them alert, especially the film’s editor who had to edit the song with the sinister deeds the singers do in their free time. The result is just brilliant—it’s a corny love song (with not the best lyrics but a memorable melody) between two men, intersected with gruesome scenes of torture and murder. it’s ironic, dark, and yet somewhat (intentionally) amusing at the same time, and I think the song is more memorable because of the subject matter—it’s that deliciously ironic dark aspect. Who these victims turn out to be, revealed midway through the short, is beyond ingenious.

“La Petite Mort” is a weirdly ingenious short film that hardly seems to have a flaw in what it needed to be. And given some of the projects made in competition for 48-Hour, that’s really saying something. What else can I say, except I love this short film and the energy that was put into it.

NOTE: The short is in a festival run right now; hopefully sometime soon, it will be posted online for you to see. When it is, I’ll post a link immediately.

OTHER NOTE: When I do, be aware of these three 2012 48-Hr. requirements the film needed—a singer character (Tommy or Tammy Shuttles), a melon for a prop, and the line of dialogue, “What do we have here?”

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