By David Finkelstein | March 4, 2004

A noirish experimental narrative about a man beseiged by calls from creditors and anxiety about a cheating girlfriend. The young protagonist tries to fend off the increasingly threatening calls he receives from the bank, while imagining his girlfriend is getting high and getting it on with another guy. He deals with his problems by stripping and masturbating, while having fantasies of the girlfriend forced to give a b*****b to the creditor, intermixed with a fantasy about beating the girlfriend’s lover to a pulp. It’s not a pretty picture of how to deal with life’s pressures, but then, haven’t most of us been there at one point or another?
Filmed in elegant black and white, “Grinder” is an interesting stylistic hybrid. Some of the costume elements, settings, and camerawork resemble 30s noir, yet the push button phones, references to “computers” and the techno score are set firmly in the present. Many stylistic devices are used to give this film the look of a fevered dream rather than of reality: frequent changes of focus, deep shadows, and dialogue which is not synced with the images of the speakers (who generally don’t even move their lips while ‘talking’.)
Sound is very important in the work of the 14A Consortium. I had the interesting experience of first watching this piece while listening to the sound on the poor speakers of my video monitor, and I found that it intrigued me as a stylistic experiment, but that it had little emotional impact on me. For my second viewing, I used my stereo heaphones to listen to the full score of music, atmospheric sound effects, and subtle, underplayed dialogue, and I found it made the film an engrossing emotional experience of paranoia, anxiety and fantasy. 14A has created a well-paced, good-looking short with an emotional punch, despite the cliched storyline.

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