Dirt (Chel White, 1998)
[originally posted 27Nov2001]
Chel White (The PJs) directs his first live-action piece, a short based on a small clip of Joe Frank’s amazing radio play The Dictator. Evan Knapp (in his first screen role since 1988’s Permanent Record) plays Frank’s dictator, but only a single aspect of him, the dirt-eater. While it’s probably unfair to judge a four-minute film against a three-hour radio drama, it should be obvious that White’s dictator is a bit less developed than Frank’s. However, White does an excellent job of getting across the bleak dadaesque feeling of Frank’s low-key comedy with his straitlaced delivery; given the subject matter, any director would be tempted to go over the top, but White plays it nice and easy, and comes up with a more effective piece in the process.
The music, a kind of off-key noir, is supplied by Portland noise god Daniel Menche in (to understate the case) something of a different light than we normally see him. It blends seamlessly with the film, which is something of a surprise (the original Dictator soundtrack actually uses Enigma’s megahit “Sadeness” as its background, and I never thought anything else would go so well with this clip).
Definitely worth watching. Perhaps a teaser of a full-length three-hour Dictator film from White? One can only hope. ****
The full short.