Description (from the IMDB):
A brief yet tense phone conversation between politically connected powerhouse Tom Buchanan (Mark Grant) and a desperate lower class thug named Judd (Eric Scheiner) over Buchanan’s bisexual wife Daisy (Jennifer McCartney), her working class lover Lolita (Christy Scott-Cashman) and Bartlesby (Angel Connell), the enigmatic head of Buchanan’s personal security force, results in an interlocking series of actions which culminates in a brutal murder. Thereafter the Buchanans in a subsequent phone conversation grapple with the fallout from the crime, its alleged resolution, and the effect the incident has had on their open marriage.
Written and Directed by Angel Connell
BENEATH THE VENEER OF A MURDER is presented as an experimental film; standard movie fare presented in a non-standard way. The film runs about 7 ½ minutes, but less than 3 minutes is actually “on screen,” the rest of the story is told via voice over on the opening and closing credits. BtVoaM’s screen time is exactly what is sounds like it should be: a murder. The opening and closing credits are the parties involved with that murder, and their phone conversations about the circumstances that led to, and from, the act portrayed on screen.
BtVoaM is an interesting idea, and really unlike any other film I’ve ever seen. Yes: a murder because of shady dealings and lost money is nothing new in the annals of filmdom. This story happens all the time. What is interesting about this portrayal of this very common story is the fact that it’s basically all exposition, veiled in mystery. Before the murder there is a phone conversation foreshadowing it, after the murder there is conversation about what happened after the events on screen, and all of the time there are subtle (and some not so subtle) hints and clues as to the full back story.
Upon first viewing, I was not very happy with BtVoaM. As a screenwriter / director myself, I have always been in the mindset of “show, don’t tell.” I HATE it when a movie feels the need to give you all of the info and back story right away through some crappy device like “here’s my old mentor calling me on the phone to talk about what we’ve been doing the last ten years” or something like that. It makes me feel talked-down to, like I’m stupid and couldn’t figure this out myself. At first, BtVoaM felt like a lot of telling, not much showing. Seriously, it’s a 7 ½ minute film with more than 4 ½ minutes of credits with voice-over, how could it NOT feel that way? I was going to write it off as such, but decided to watch it again before doing so.
When I re-watched BtVoaM I realized that while there is a lot of “telling,” there is a lot more to the story than what is being told. This is an interesting experiment because there is a lot of exposition, but yet, there is a lot that is merely hinted at rather than flatly explained. The title, BtVoaM, is perfect, because there is a lot going on beneath the veneer, below the surface of the film.
On the technical side, BtVoaM is a well made film. The video quality is crisp, the lighting well done, and the sound is easy to hear and understand. The only issue I really had with it on the technical side was the directing of the voice-overs. It felt like the actors were overcompensating for the fact that we can’t see their faces (and a lot of acting is physical ) by trying to add a lot more expression to their voice, which then did not feel like real phone calls because people just don’t talk like that in real life. This is a small issue in the grand scheme of things.
Overall, BtVoaM grew on me, and after a couple of viewings I started to get what it was trying to do, and enjoy the ride it was taking me on. I still have an aversion to telling instead of showing, and while I did feel that there is a lot being held back in the telling, BtVoaM is still a lot of talking with little action. I did find it to be an interesting experiment and something completely different from anything I’ve seen in a long, long time. I look forward to seeing what else Angel can do.
Overall 6.5 / 10
BtVoaM on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1806809/
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