Apr 3, 2013

Death to the Eagleman

*This post is part of Nathaniel's Hit Me With Your Best Shot series.

For the first time in the series, we're choosing favorite shots from short films; two short films, to be precise. I've seen one of them, The Eagleman Stag, countless number of times and the other, Death to the Tin Man, was new to me.

The strange thing about the endlessly fascinating, marvelously rich Stag is that multiple previous screenings didn't help one bit when it came to choosing a single favorite shot. Michael Please's curio is realized with such panache, with such innovative technique that every frame in its short running time packs an incredible amount of detail within its very, very simple construct. Though labeling it 'simple' rather downplays the beautiful achievement of this meticulously crafted film. (Just take a look at this must-watch making of video to see how the "mysterious white material from the back of the cushion" becomes the core of this elaborate design).

Usually the shot that I choose is one that thematically summarizes the film; or one that resonates with me emotionally; or one that is, for aesthetic or thematic reasons, the shot that I remember from the film most vividly. That approach fails me here, because The Eagleman Stag really has no fat to trim; and from start to finish, it maintains its mysterious splendor. So, for no other reason than its enigmatic beauty and its visualization of the film's title, I've opted for this image of Peter, the film's hero(?), as he momentarily begins to transform into a stag. It occurs during a sequence in which Peter's life, or a hallucinated version of it, flashes before his eyes as he lies on his deathbed. The insects he performed his scientific experiments on take over his memories as he shrinks to their size. In this particular shot, which lasts about 2 seconds, he literally becomes the eagleman stag.

In Death to the Tinman, Ray Tintori's sweet and bizarre romantic comedy, Bill, the protagonist, loses his body parts to a curse and multiple accidents. His best friend, Paul, a "disgraced engineer" who is unusually older than Bill for a best friend, redesigns every bit that he loses and produces them from tin. Bill, eventually made up completely of tin, with only his heart and eyes intact, loses Jane, the love of his life, to the meat puppet, a reincarnation of his own body - without the eyes and the heart, of course. To win Jane back, Bill becomes a revolutionary who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, redistributing the wealth as Jane had taught him from one of her university books.

It's a strange concept, but interestingly enough, the film comes off as anything but concept-y. There is a human truth to its almost one-note, simplistic exploration of love that fits well within its stripped-down aesthetics. And there are more laugh-out-loud moments in its 12 minute run time than the average Hollywood comedy playing at your local multiplex. In the lead-up to the shot above, Bill has run across town, wreaking havoc on the properties of the rich before coming to Jane's window to boast about his revolutionary heroics. Jane, who is visible from the window as she's talking to the meat puppet, rejects his advances and shuts the window. Tinman feels dejected but a fellow activist puts a hand on his shoulder and utters the hilarious words "the revolution needs you." For some reason, this one-liner made me laugh really hard and sometimes sheer comic value is enough to make a shot resonate more than anything else.


  1. thanks for pointing out that making of. I honestly can't believe how this film looks and how quickly its images rush by in direct opposition to how long you want to look at them.

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