Bill (Guy Mack) and Tony (Tom DeMar) are a couple of winos caught up in their usual routine, standing drunkenly outside a hospital and watching the dead bodies get collected by the local mortuary. Tonight is a little different, however, as the two decide to steal a dead body for laughs… or something. These two aren’t known for thinking things through, save perhaps how to procure more alcohol.
But they succeed, stealing a body, wrapped in a sheet, back to their apartment, where they drink and ponder what to do next, the gravity and illegality of the situation setting in a little bit. Things only get more warped and disturbing when they open the sheet to reveal an attractive, dead woman (Irena Eremina).
Gregory Flitsanov’s short film Mermaid of Venice is based on the Charles Bukowski short story, “The Copulating Mermaid Of Venice, CA,” and that explains quite a bit. There’s just something to how the narrative manages to capture two individuals, that are a mix of drunk, revolting and pitiful, in a way that keeps your interest throughout. Much of their actions are along a more scumbag designation, but somehow the film wraps up with less of a condemnation than an overall sadness for not just the two drunkards, but humanity.
My main criticism is the short film’s length, pushing slightly over thirty minutes. While the pacing does work with the film, the slowness of the men as they contemplate and drink is appropriate, you do wonder if perhaps a few less shots of the two passing their jug back and forth might make for a shorter film. Again, it does work as it is, but for those less inclined to give this film a full shake, that running time will be a hindrance.
Additionally, the acting isn’t always the greatest, though it more ebbs and flows than it picks a consistent mediocre (and much of the challenge is staying drunk-like and delivering some Bukowski dialogue). This actually accents the way the boozy guys live, coming in and out of coherence, so what could be deemed less than impressive on the acting front winds up being passable-to-appropriate here.
Overall, Mermaid of Venice succeeds because of how it handles its main narrative and characters, which is a straightforward presentation without judgment. They make questionable choices throughout, but the film just shows us, often with a visual feeling of separation (which is probably for our own good), but somehow not causing a lack of engagement with the film. The result is a film populated by two guys who you don’t really think are evil or bad so much as pathetic and drunk.
They make horrible choices which lead to awful things, but there aren’t any criminal masterminds here. They’re driven by whim and impulse, borne of an inability to filter or hinder those motivations due to their constant alcoholic stupor. It doesn’t make what they do okay, it just makes it all the more depressing.
This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.