Beneath the Veneer of a Murder (2010)
Director: Angel Connell
Writers: Angel Connell
Starring: Christy Scott Cashman, Eric Scheiner and Mark Grant

The Plot: This short film details a high stakes con-game between several people. There’s Tom, the well-to-do husband of Daisy. Then Judd, the psychotic friend of Lolita who is looking to extort money from Daisy. Bartlesby is the head of Tom’s security and is roughed up by Judd after he attempts to track down Daisy who he fears has decided to turn her back on him. On top of everything, all of these complicated twists and turns are revealed with only one live action sequence.

The Review
Short films at this point are nothing new to me as a reviewer. For Varied Celluloid however, there haven’t been that many sent our way in the eight or so year lifespan that this website has thankfully endured. Although it isn’t the very first, I would say that Beneath the Veneer of a Murder is certainly the shortest film that we’ve ever covered here on the site. After being contacted by director Angel Connell to review his seven minute short, he was very explicit in warning that his short was very experimental. If you know Varied Celluloid though, you know that experimental is our bread and butter.

Connell’s short is a different kind of experimental than one might expect. Indeed, when I was told that it was a narrative exercise with a focus on experimentation I just assumed I could expect a lot of weird religious imagery and maybe an angry teenager prattling off on the soundtrack while the video dipped in and out of focus. Not the case. While Connell’s work here is certainly in the experimental vein, he doesn’t delve heavily into the abstract. The ultimate point of the short seems to focus on the audience themselves. The focus seems to be on the precision of narrative within the film medium and the divisive way that filmmakers can create and shatter illusions. All of this wrapped up in a film-noir aesthetic!

There are essentially three main portions that make up the film. One live action scene plus the opening and closing credits. Normally credits are disposable, but Connell manages to make them an intricate and fundamental part of his short by disclosing all of the expositional dialogue within these two sequences. This is handled in the form of two phone conversations between two different parties. Each segment gives us a tad bit more information about the overall “plot” revolving around an act that could very well lead to murder. Connell plays with the rules of narrative and cinema by purposefully making his short very obtuse and difficult to wrap your head around. Although it wasn’t the surrealist piece that I expected, Connell manages to craft a short that is far more confrontational than a simple barrage of imagery.

The introductory and concluding phone calls are so stacked with HUGE chunks of exposition that its easy to lose track of the five different characters mentioned within the short. Connell also intentionally throws up a poem during the opening credits that has some bearing on the plot but seems to be more there as a temptation towards distraction. His short shows how easily manipulated the audience can be and demonstrates the power of our mind to rely on conventional forms of narrative to provide us with necessary information. Beneath the Veneer of a Murder seemingly works as a brain exercise in that regard.

The Conclusion
While certainly not a feature that audiences will rush out in droves to see, its a title that I would definitely recommend you give a shot if the opportunity to watch it ever becomes available to you. However, you absolutely HAVE to sit through it twice in order to wrap your brain around the excessive plotting found in this very short seven minutes. I give it a three out of five.

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