Documentary as mockery and cruelty and voyeurism and exploitation, “Shut Up Little Man!: An Audio Misadventure” is also often pants-pissingly funny, the kind of movie that used to open underground film festivals, but barked its way into Sundance 2011. In 1987, two very young men move into a “ramshackle shithole of a place” in San Francisco; their neighbors, a flamboyant gay man and an ostentatious homophobe do verbal battle by night and day. Director Matthew Bate positions what “Eddie Lee Sausage” and “Mitchell D” did as “audio verite,” in the tradition of duplicating and circulating all manner of strange audio cassettes: recording their rumbustious, obscenely shouting neighbors the way in olden days you’d tape a prank call. Even under the credits, we’re already treated to the tumbledown litanies of swears, oaths and “motherfuckers” and soon, “Shut up little man!” Tapes ensued, comic books, cartoons, live performances. The world has known of them for years, especially admirers like Daniel Clowes and Ivan Brunetti, who are among the figures who rehearse their favorite lines along with recordings: “You always giggle falsely!” As Clowes says, doffing headphones with a grin and quiet admiration, “Such genius. The way they throw words around. But they’re so joyless.” With Edward Guerriero, Mitch Deprey, Mike Mitchell, Bob and Ursula Mothersbaugh, Henry S. Rosenthal, Tony Newton, Mark Gunderson, Christy Brand, Gregg Gibbs, David Stein, Dan Augustine, Douglas Levy. 90m. (Ray Pride)
“Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure” opens Friday at Facets.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.