DVD Review - Shut Up Little Man!

Peter Haskett in "Shut Up Little Man!"
This movie documents one of the most prime examples of audio vérité. Audio vérité is "found sound" or tape recordings that have captured people being real, either angry or frustrated. One recent type was the rant by Christian Bale during his Terminator Salvation shoot, which was posted online and became viral.

Matthew Bate's documentary focuses on particular tape recordings that were made from 1987 to 1989. This was before the idea of online viral videos on the Internet. This was before the proliferation of digital media. The tape recordings are actually that. Bate's film resurrects the cassette tapes made by Eddie and Mitch, two guys from Wisconsin who moved to San Francisco in 1987.

We're briefly introduced to these guys and only get a vague sense about them before being thrust into their obsession of tape recording their next door neighbors. Eddie and Mitch lived in a crappy, apartment building, nicknamed the "Pepto Bismo Palace." It was known for its paper-thin walls, and, in the apartment next to Eddie and Mitch were two old men who argued very loudly, cursing and yelling at each other, often all night long.

The two old men were named Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman. The two didn't work. They barely left the apartment. They lived together peacefully but frequently they got drunk and would have intense screaming matches. As Eddie and Mitch recorded them, Peter and Raymond's personalities were revealed. For Eddie and Mitch, recording the two old men became a sociological, psychological or anthropological study.

The amazing thing about this movie is how the audience begins to share in Eddie and Mitch's obsession. At first, spying on these two cantankerous elderly people is annoying but then it becomes amusing. Once the tapes start to spread, others start to share in the obsession as well. There are then those who wish to profit off these tapes and these two old guys. That's when the obsession turns to competition.

If you want to understand the root of reality TV shows, Bate's documentary gets at it. It shows that voyeurism goes beyond an empty curiosity. It's a need to see the foibles or the failings in other people, a yearning to see people at their worst or at their lowest. It also raises compelling questions about copyright, which in light of recent Internet piracy cases are very relevant.

There is also a quietly riveting, if heartbreaking moment, when Peter Haskett who is a gay man is confronted years later in the wake of his "found sound" being made into a cult phenomenon. It's analogous to what happened to Jack Rebney in Winnebago Man, which is premised on an audio vérité-type moment too. This movie though gets more at the human condition and is very powerful in the end, very moving.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains strong language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.

For more information, visit http://shutuplittleman.com/


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