By KJ Doughton | January 17, 2006

Hammering together despair and frustration with a cinematic nail gun, North Carolina director DJ Summitt follows up his Troma-distributed “Doomed to Failure” with a downbeat experimental short that makes “Taxi Driver” looks like a Tony Robbins motivational tape.

In bleak, washed-out images, “Clarinet” observes a defeated young man wandering his house, lamenting a failed life. He flatly sifts through a refrigerator. Via voice-over, he reminisces of playing a beloved clarinet for ten years before the instrument was stolen.

Initially, the recollections have a mellow, calming effect. “The reed was fresh, like it was just cut off the tree,” describes our musician-in-mourning. Soon, however, Summit’s subject becomes spiteful, quoting FT Martinell’s doomy Futurist Manifesto and acting out in increasingly odd ways.

Summit and filmmaking collaborator Zac Hayes drop visual hints of their protagonist’s progressively worsening downward spiral. And they make everyday images – running water in a sink, items on a television surface – look anxiety provoking and ominous. While the intimate, surreal flavor of “Clarinet” echoes Luis Bunuel, its understanding of personal frustration suggests the power of a Martin Scorsese/Paul Schrader collaboration or a raging Trent Reznor tune.

Depicting turmoil, angst and depression with surprising impact during its compact, six-minute running time, “Clarinet” is a drearily effective look at an unfulfilled life.

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