‘Meek Marianne’ directed by Blake Fitzpatrick ‘La Petite Mort’ directed by Aaron Burk ‘Hollywood Hospitality’ directed by Brad Paulson Starring Tiffani Fest, Blake Fitzpatrick, Peter Lofstrom and Andrew Mandapat Indie Film Review by Catherine Pearson
Trilogie de Tragedie is an indie film comprised of three individual stories, all distinct in narrative but tied together by the same leading actress (Tiffani Fest) and the theme of tragedy. The first of the three short films, Meek Marianne, shows the coming together of two strangers whose lives intertwine and interests collide in a dramatic finale. The second film La Petite Mort, by stylistic contrast, is a narrated short that begins with shots of a man tattooing his own body and opens out into a full and frank exposition of his personal life. The third and final film, Hollywood Hospitality, follows the story of a young, homeless, failed actress who is taken in by a passer-by, an opportunity she takes full advantage of whilst remaining suspicious of him.
The trilogy of films has evidently been inspired by the aesthetics of French New Wave cinema. Not least because all three parts are shot in black-and-white, there is clear experimentation with film form occurring, with sudden jarring close-ups, snappy editing and effects that appear to simulate the imperfections of 35mm film on the digital image. In the first short film there are moments when the entire image switches to negative for a few seconds and the layering of two images, one on top of the other, is played with.
The narratives of the three stories also echo the subject matter of the New Wave films, addressing social concerns from street-level in the case of ‘Hollywood Hospitality’ and looking at the lives of those who are rejecting the convention in ‘Meek Marianne’. Of course it cannot escape notice that the film, despite being filmed in America and performed wholly in the English language, has a French title and in addition runs French subtitles throughout all three parts, all of which are introduced in French titling; a clear stylistic choice to pay homage to its inspiration.
The issue that arises from the use of subtitles and experimental effects is that the frame can get very ‘busy’ at times. In the introduction to the first film the screen is initially filled with the title of the film in French, the acting credits and French subtitles for a spoken soundtrack that plays over the top. It is difficult to know where to focus. In a similar way we are next introduced to the image of two characters layered on top of each other whilst the subtitles cut across the bottom of the screen. Of no benefit to an English-speaking audience, they soon become an interference that can disrupt the image when the focus of the shot is in the lower portion of the frame.
Tiffany Fest’s strong acting carries the film and adds cohesion to the three very different stories. Each story has something striking about it to engage its audience; the first has a strong plot, the second some great visuals and the third an unexpected character development. However, it is difficult not to wish that the editing had been more ruthless as there are moments, particularly in the final instalment, where the script continually covers the same ground in the form of dramatic monologues that become quite relentless.
Trilogie de Tragedie has some hits and some misses but ultimately has bold intentions and admirable creative flair.