Beneath the Veneer of a Murder is easily one of the best film titles I’ve read in years, so I had extremely high hopes for the short film (falling into the “judging a book by its cover” trap they so often warn you about). Unfortunately, filmmaker Angel Connell’s film left me less than impressed.
Set by two audio-only phone conversations that bookend a short live scene, Beneath the Veneer of a Murder is guilty of the most basic of filmmaking rules: show, don’t tell. The opening phone conversation, over titles and black, does set the stage, and is therefore more forgiven, but the end phone conversation, which runs while the credits roll, so overwhelmingly explains things beyond the little bit that you see that I couldn’t find the point of making the short at all. If, in the end, all you’re going to do is tell me this story about what was going on, that I didn’t get to see at all, then why does it have to be a short film? Why not a short story?
Therein lies the disappointment and frustration. The story told via audio-only actually sounds like a pretty complicated, possibly compelling noir adventure, and is something I might actually watch… except I don’t get to do so, instead treated solely to a short live-action sequence of a man menacing a woman over money that has no real novel or interesting aspects to it outside of the context contained in the phone calls. But, again, if the only way to provide context in a short film is to spend the majority of the time explaining what’s going on bluntly via audio-only phone conversations, why make this a film? The fact that the IMDb page for the film has practically the entire phone conversations transcribed in the quotes section shows the problem: if you read those, the short REALLY has no reason to exist.
If the purpose of the short was to fuck with the audience’s expectations, then I give a subversive tip of the hat, and I’m an optimistic enough sort to give a little bit to that possibility. But even with that possibility in play, the short still didn’t work for me.
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