Monday, May 29, 2006

The Most Beautiful Man in the World

Directed by Alicia Duffy, UK, 2002, 6 minutes.

With her loyal dog at her side, a young girl struggles against the pains of boredom. She yawns. She stares. She lies on the ground and seems barely awake. In short (pun intended) nothing much is going on. After a series of quick glimpses into her extremely boring life, we get a longer shot of the girl riding her bike in bored circles outside the house. Her dog watches on. Finally, the girl drifts into a field of tall brown grass in pursuit of said dog and happens upon a shirtless and sweaty man who is petting her wandering pooch. "That's my dog," she tells the man, which is consequently her only line in the short. The man spots a beetle crawling beneath the strap of the girl's thin tank top and carefully removes it with his fingers, presenting it to her in his cupped hands. Enter evil mother, who stands forbiddingly in the doorway of the house. The girl runs back, leaving the most beautiful man in the world behind. The short ends with a last glimpse of the young girl hypnotised by the blue glow of the television.

With almost no dialogue and very few sounds (only a few ambient noises) this short appealed to me because of the emotion that comes from the sparseness. The initial set up is quick to deliver a series of strange camera shots-- extreme closes ups as well as shots from high above and directly below. These angles give a clear perspective of the girl's looming boredom. The lack of sounds create a frustrating silence--noise would at least provide something to listen to, but alas, this girl doesn't even have the luxury of arguing neighbors.

What's truly intriguing about the film is the sensual meeting between a girl who can't be older than 10 and a man who isn't any younger than 30. She is immediately enamored with his glistening body. It's almost a set up for a trashy romance novel, except the age difference sent chills up my spine. The situation was both sexy and completely inappropriate at the same time. Does the man feel a physical attraction to the girl? Is he a pervert? Some kind of child molester?? Probably not. He's probably just a nice guy picking a bug off of a little girl. But the scene begs to differ and every movement is soft and loving.

The Most Beautiful Man on the World represents how a film can use perspective to skew what's actually going on in the scene. A close up on a girl's shirt strap and the touch of an older man goes from helpful to sexual. The sensual nature of this film is entirely wrapped up in its direction. Had the scene been filled with music and wide camera angles, it would have represented just another boring episode in the girl's boring day.


Middento said...

Wow -- that's quite a powerful little short. I espeically like the "thud" administered through those last few shots. It makes me wonder about the man -- and indeed reminds me of a short that we'll be watching in class later this semester by Lynne Ramsey.

Jessica said...

Jeff-- in response to your comment on my evaluation, I'm not sure I believe the man could be the girl's father. I believe the scene is so purposefuly sexual. I don't know if it would achieve the same level of sensuality if it was meaning to go for a father-daughter tie.

Daniel C Hopkins said...

This short certainly puts a high degree in still life mise-en-scene and jump cuts. I faintly remember other shorts made this way.
The interaction between the man and the little girl certainly seems suspicious but only we the audience and the mother assume the worst case scenario.

Jay said...
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Jay said...

In terms of finding generic forms of comparison (i.e. short stories, etc.) for the short films we are viewing, the essence of this particular short reminded me of a poem. This is to say, if the short had to be "adapted" into written form, I think a poem would best capture the feel. In terms of the technical, I liked how the wooden fence was framed in the shot where the girl walks around it, out into the field. For me, the fence, in that shot, was serving as a barrier into the "wilderness." It reminded me of the way fences can work in certain westerns, separating the protected domestic space from the dangers and adventures of the wilderness. Also, like everyone else, I liked the ambiguity of the girl's encounter with the man in the field. The long shot where the man stands up, stretching out to his full height, his waist making an "eye line" match with the girl's head, was particularly striking. Thanks for sharing this short.

Christine said...

I agree with Jess; this guy doesn't seem to be the father, especially since the girl doesn't show any recognition and is quick to say the dog is hers.

I really like Jay’s idea of how boundaries are working. When the mother slams the door, and we see the (sad/confused) girl, I wonder if the director is also trying to same something about the guilt associated with consciously/ subconsciously transgressing boundaries (physical, sexual, etc)..or at least being caught. This could apply to both the man and the girl.

ltpalm said...

What a great short film! There’s so much here in such a little amount of space. What’s lacking, however, are concrete details. Ambiguity is always intriguing though it hinders our understanding, and in this case it seems to have divided our class opinion. So, let me weigh in… I must admit that I read Jessica’s review of the film way before I viewed the actual film, so when I initially viewed the film I was expecting the man to be a complete pervert. However, after looking at the film again and thinking about the title, I do believe that this “beautiful man” could in fact be the little girl’s father. I believe that Jay’s boundaries exploration helps validate this theory. From the beginning, like Jessica notes, the girl is alone and bored. However, there is more to it than that. This is a girl that wants to escape this house, boredom, and loneliness. Why? Perhaps because she’s missing / longing for / being kept away from men, or specially, her father. When her mother is on the phone, the girl looks out the window and this shot obviously conveys a desire. The ELS of her riding in circles outside again proves her boredom and longing for a journey beyond the “boundaries.” So, when she leaves the fenced in area, she does so willingly looking for something, not just her dog. When she meets the man (her father?) this is a very delicate and gentle interaction, not overly sexual. When her mother discovers the interaction she isn’t frightened for her daughter’s safety or angry at the “stranger,” rather she is more annoyed. She then “locks” her daughter back inside, back to the loneliness of the house away from the man. The man remains outside in the same spot. This isn’t a pervert afraid that the mother has been frightened to call the police. Instead, this is a man longing, probably as much as the young girl, to see a loved one who perhaps does not even know/recognize him.

Rhead said...
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Rhead said...

The girl's encounter with the shirtless man intrigues us because it is unexplained and, in that ambiguity, possibly aberrant. Whether sexual or simply sensual, the experience marks an abrupt shift in the girl's solitude and, as becomes apparent from her mother's nonplussed expression, a transgression of house rules.

Whether a simple stranger or the girl's estranged father, the man's chance appearance in the girl's world suggests a solution to the nascent boredom of childhood house arrest. The appeal of stranger may be sexual but is more likely circumstantial. The touch of another human being is many things both postive and negative, but is always one thing: the introduction into a foreign landscape.

Though attractive in his own right, the most beautiful man in the world is, for the little girl, the most beautiful becaus he is the only one in the world, and with his touch the girl's world grows beyond that which the TV can offer.