Sundance 2011 – Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure
If you were into indie rock in the early ’90s like I was, you may recall a famous audio recording that went viral way before we heard the now infamous Christian Bale rant on the set of Terminator 3. The audio recordings were known as “Shut Up Little Man!” and were recorded in 1987 in San Francisco by Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D., who at the time were living next door to an elderly couple, Peter Haskett (a flamboyant gay man) and Raymond Huffman (an angry homophobe). Peter and Ray drank incessantly all night and while drunk, did nothing but yell, scream and physically abuse one another. Out of fear for their saftey, instead of reporting them to the police, Eddie and Mitchell decided to record the insane rants through their window and then send the audio tapes to friends. Cue to a few months later and with the help of friends, friends of friends, and so on, the tapes became a cult hit on the underground music and comic book scene and inspired CDs, comic artworks by Dan Clowes (Ghostworld), stage plays, music covers by Devo and several film projects. Part of the appeal in listening to the tapes lie not only in the outrageous but unintentional humor, but also in the mystery of who Peter and Ray are and also–why do they live together?
After many failed film projects, Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure is now a documentary that covers the entire phenomenon by exploring the boundaries between privacy, art and exploitation. (Since Eddie and Mitchell never had permission to record Peter and Ray’s arguments, was it legal for them to distribute and copyright the tapes?) “The SULM story shows us how real lives can be turned into art, mythologized and sold as entertainment,” reveals director Matthew Bate, in the film’s press notes. These themes seem more prescient today given the nature of digital culture.” The film also explore the current state of viral video, as well as some classic “audio verite” recordings, such as one involving Orson Welles reading a frozen peas commercial.
Since we’re dealing mostly with audio recordings, Bate does a great job in trying to keep the film visually engaging, often using still photographs and employing motion effects and recreating Peter and Ray’s life inside their apartment with stylized re-enactments.