DocFest 2011: Shut Up Little Man: An Audio Misadventure
Some of you, especially those that follow my Twitter feed, may be familiar with my current neighbour issue, so it was with those guys very much in mind that I took in this screening of Matthew Bate’s Shut Up Little Man: An Audio Misadventure. Deja-vu doesn’t even begin to cover it, alas I hadn’t actually thought of recording my neighbours arguments; it turns out it could be quite a profitable business.
Shut Up Little Man: An Audio Misadventure retells the story of a late 1980′s American pop culture phenomena, at the centre of which lay two very unusual men, Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman, a pair of argumentative friends who live next door to college graduates Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D. Unable to bear witness to the arguments of Peter and Ray for any longer, Eddie and Mitchell decide to record said arguments, before distributing them virally on cassette tape. Before long the aggressive exchanges become something of a national success, with the tapes adapted into comic-books, puppet shows and even a Hollywood movie. Its a bizarre subplot of the late 1980′s/early 1990′s that I was wholly unfamiliar with prior to Bate’s documentary, but is a fascinating story nonetheless.
Peter Harkett and Raymond Huffman are alluring subjects. With one an overt homosexual, and the other the ultimate homophobe, Eddie and Mitchell use this documentary as an opportunity to revisit the pairs relationship, and as an attempt to dissect and understand just what was going on next door.. In the words of Daniel Clowes, the writer behind such “underground” comic-books as Ghost World and Eightball magazine, who actually drew the “characters” in to a comic strip (see pic. below) the pair come across as “Realistic but cartoonish” at the same time, like some kind of post-modern sitcom characters. The “odd” Odd Couple if you will.
As the popularity of the tapes rose so did the responsibility of Eddie and Mitchell, and the film does head down serious street for a great portion of the latter half of its running time. As the subjects of rights and legalities rear their heads, accompanied by a pretty heavy argument concerning consent, the film can’t help but falter, and to lose a bit of steam. Alas any such obstructions are overcome by pictures end, as thoughts turn to the psychology of the two troubled men at the heart of the film. Its moving stuff, especially in light of the manner to which we are introduced to Peter and Ray. The exploration of a pre-digital viral campaign was a real eye-opener too, with any presumptions that the viral is a product solely of the digital age dispelled wholly.
Shut Up Little Man bears all the hallmarks of the typical Sundance, Morgan Spurlock-style documentary with crossover appeal. In a manner not disimilar to Spurlock’s film yesterday, Shut Up Little Man draws the viewer in with a humourous premise before flipping the tone in to one ground in sobriety. In a strange coincidence, it was announced just tonight that Tribecca Film have picked up the theatrical distribution rights to the film, so I’m confident that Shut Up Little Man will feature on all your radars in the not too distant future.
Here’s the trailer for the film.