SHORT FILM REVIEW: The Other Place
THE OTHER PLACE-- 4 STARS
An indecisive pretty boy man in a pinstriped suit saunters up to two people, a man and a woman (Cameron Diskin and Shoshana Bush). They are tied up to chairs with bags over their heads in a small empty church with a crude neon sign reading “You are so close to almost there.” That glowing sentence carries a symbolic metaphor for both the spurts of suspense in The Other Place and its own impact as a short film. Brimming with dark noir style and set in an indeterminate place in time, the film is a red-hot poker prodding for provocative reactions.
The imposing, unhinged, and unidentified man is played by the film’s writer and director Lee Amir-Cohen. The dashing chatterbox is brandishing a revolver in his hand as he begins to pull out rhetorical questions talking about whether or not to pull trigger. His loquaciousness is answered by a blond moll of a femme fatale (Amanda Maddox) who comes off more as the puppeteer than the puppet. That’s the scene set by The Other Place and it is quite worthy of titillating examination from discerning audiences of pulp with a punch.
In just under eighteen minutes, The Other Place makes a rotten and seedy setting pristine with eyebrow-raising execution. Director of photography Sing Howe Yam frames and swings with a clean camera work to swirl within this seething cauldron of a slow boil. Shot on 35mm, Yam coyly hides threats and clues just out of frame to reserve for reveals yet to come. Editor Douglas Scott hones in on that desired atmosphere and the music of Isabelle Engman-Bredvik and Gerardo Garcia, Jr. cements the tone with weighty unease. Nary a hair or whisper of this film is out of place.
Lee Amir-Cohen shows little to no limits with the film’s words and his own performance in The Other Place. The audaciousness is impressive and he is a revelation waiting to happen. Dashes of kink and savagery mix within him to create moments of shock and heat shared with Amanda Maddox. He has crafted something creepily captivating in front of and behind the camera. Where the “so close” metaphor comes into play is with depth behind the resolution. The dynamic of Lee and Amanda’s twisted relationship begs for more rumination and presented purpose. Contracted properly as a short film that leaves you wanting more, this shot glass of venom is a properly measured jolt.
LESSON #1: ARE YOU GOING TO BARK ALL DAY OR ARE YOU GOING TO BITE?-- The majority of The Other Place spins like a chamber piece with this lesson’s quote from Reservoir Dogs in mind at its center. The bark can sting as much as the bite with the right acidic words.
LESSON #2: WHO CONTROLS WHO IN A TOXIC RELATIONSHIP-- The visible and invisible bonds between the two perpetrators plays on the puppet and puppeteer struggle. Who’s pulling the strings? Who speaks the leading voice? Who is on the leash and who is holding it?
LESSON #3: DESENSITIZATION FROM VIOLENCE-- Amir-Cohen’s character asks “Do you think after you do enough bad s--t that it starts to feel normal?” Maddox answers with a cryptic remembered quote of “revenge proves its own execution.” An exchange like that triggers the question of what emotional bloodletting is left in violent people. These two don’t care, but do you?