The curious documentary film “Shut Up! Little Man, An Audio Misadventure,” is quite unlike anything you have ever seen. Chronicling the unlikely cult history of a series of audio recordings, cassette tapes of politically-incorrect neighbors and their drunken rants, the film is a comedy of sorts. It is a treatise on privacy and a voyeuristic tale that makes one question our collective fascination with odd-ball characters.
Director Mathew Bate expertly weaves documentary footage, both audio and still photos, with scant re-creations to tell the tale of a pair of young men who found humor and curiosity when their San Francisco neighbors started to argue—loudly. What starts as an annoyance, quickly becomes entertainment and soon notoriety among family and friends. What follows, after years of underground tape swaps, in a pre-internet world, are fears of ownership and legal maneuvering relative to potential dramatizations on stage and film, of this odd audio relationship.
The cult nature of the entire incident is a trip back in time when everything was not at our fingertips and crank calls were possible, even before caller ID. Once the shock of the argument’s language and hatred wears off, the film shifts gears and follows the audio-tapers on a quest to find and understand the disembodied voices that they had archived. A journey of discovery ensues and the larger issues of privacy, and in fact friendship and companionship, take center stage.
At times sad, touching and depressing, the film also is funny as we all know people who perhaps speak without thinking. Hopefully the neighbors are not recording it for YouTube.
“Shut Up! Little Man” is playing at the Loft Theatre starting September 30. 3233 East Speedway, 795-7777 for showtimes. LoftCinema.com