As I had mentioned in an earlier blog post, my wife and I have recently moved into a new apartment on the opposite side of Chicago from where we once were. It is a nice little area, with lots of little shops and quiet streets on one side of the neighborhood, and a bustling gay community on the other. All in all we are loving it out here, well away from the sirens, jackhammers and jackasses that populate the downtown area of every major city. It is a nice, quiet place.

Most of the time.

Our neighbors on the other hand, although recently getting better, aren't so big on the whole "quiet solitude" thing, having...interpersonal sessions that last long, long into the night, and expressing their enjoyment of said times, quite loudly, throughout the act. Their bed, or more precisely, their headboard, just so happens to occupy the space directly next to our living room as well. Needless to say, we have one wall where pictures cannot be hung for risk of being knocked off.

This noise has been a source of irritation for Wife, as she sees it as an invasion of our space. I on the other hand look at it as having happy neighbors; which, when push comes to shove, could be much, much worse.

"Shut Up Little Man!" makes my point quite well, I think.

Finally, I won one!!

"Shut Up Little Man!" tells the story of two men who, upon leaving rural Wisconsin for L.A., find themselves living next to some of the loudest, craziest, most crass old men in the world. To protect their sanity, the duo record the nightly fights, and the tapes eventually find their way into the late 80's underbelly of the Alternative Arts Scene, or ASS (I know it doesn't work as an anagram, but tell me you haven't met an "alternative" artist and not thought, "Now there goes one, giant ass"). Soon the recordings take on a life of their own, and we get a glimpse into the lives of the people making pop art and money on the sounds of two, bitter, drunk old men.

While the subject matter of "Shut Up Little Man!"  is interesting, and more than a little funny, I couldn't shake the feeling during the film that everyone involved forgot at some point, just for a second mind you, that these recordings were of living, breathing human beings. Oh sure there are a few throwaway moments where they mention wondering how these two men lived together, about their relationship and how they didn't kill on another; and a few interviews with the men done well after the initial recordings; but even then they felt like side show attractions. "Come on down and listen to the angry, bitter homophobe! Laugh at his bigoted views to feel better about yourself! Don't worry, he's dead, he can't fight back!"

I'm not saying it isn't fun to make light of loud assholes, hell it is what get's me through the work day most days, but this film takes it to another level. In fact, I dare say this film has an air of smugness about it that is unmistakable. When you make a documentary about someone, you HAVE TO feel more than amusement for them. You have to want to know what makes them tick, what fuels their dreams, what they want of life, what they fear, what they love. This film answers those questions only for the recorders (One loves money, the other seems to be a little more reflective of what he has done, and almost wants to make amends for birthing the tapes into the world, going so far as to hunt down one of the last people to know the old couple to find out more about their lives together). With the aforementioned exception, everyone listens to the recordings and laughs, watches the interviews and laughs, strokes their little soul-patch goatees and laughs. At one point we hear one man mention that he can almost understand why his sister thinks we should pity these old men, but then remarks that hearing the more aggressive of the two say "Shut Up Little Man!" in an interview is like Evil Knievel coming out of retirement for one last jump and nailing it.

We aren't talking about comedians or showmen here, they are people. People who lived a life, and found themselves at the point where booze and anger and depression were all they knew. Finding out what brought them to that point is where a story lies, not following two assholes who want to profit off of the loud noises their one time neighbors made while at the same time pretending to be sensitive by harassing another old man with questions regarding their sexuality, when he clearly doesn't want you anywhere near his apartment, his person, or his life.

In a way this film is the perfect sum of its parts; it begins with voyeurism, and continues until present day. What set's this film apart from something with any emotional depth however is that, never once, does it ask itself if that is OK.

Grade: Mixed - On a technical side this is a really well made documentary, and so I give it a solid B+, but on a emotional side, which cannot be escaped in a review for a documentary I give it a D.
12/9/2012 10:21:38 pm

OMG where do you find these crazy things???????


Leave a Reply.