To date, Ms. Michaud has worked on over twenty projects, including eight short films. We recently received two of her latest films, and the craftsmanship contained within show a young artist that is bound to make her mark as she explores the genre. She unabashedly declares herself a feminist, and the two films we’re reviewing explore that term from different angles. One short contains a positive “girl power” message while the second tells a cautionary tale of a problem women face far to often due to skewed perceptions of beauty in our culture.
In her short film Snuff, Ms. Michaud twists the traditional gender roles in the stalker/victim dynamic on its ear. The grainy, black and white footage along with the pan and scan aspect ratio give the presentation the appearance of a seedy underground video discretely ordered from and delivered by the most private of video warehouses that cater to a very specific and disturbed clientele.
A brief opening shot depicts the stalker and auteur (Martin Plouffe) preparing his tools for the hunt. From here the camera switches to the first person point of view, further creating the illusion that the intent of the film was to allow the buyer to imagine himself in the shoes of the killer. After the male picks out his victim, a lone woman blissfully unaware while catching up on some reading on a park bench (Isabelle Stephen), we bear witness to him silently waiting for her to leave, then him following her home before he breaks in to her apartment.
This is the point at which the film makes its shift, and it’s the final two shots that flip the standard on its ear, giving the film its female empowerment message. I won’t spoil it, but the final shot of the intended victim toasting her stalker with a glass of pinot noir makes for a powerful and ironic message.
For storytelling purposes, the film eschews any dialogue. Instead, the soundtrack combines a pulsing, alarm-like bleat throughout its run time, interspersed with synthesized keyboard reminiscent of a John Carpenter sound track. That shriek is present throughout the film's run time, and it really helps build a tense atmosphere.
The second film Ms Michaud sent is her latest short, Hollywood Skin. Shot mostly in one location, a young actresses apartment, the film takes a minimalist approach in conveying a story that could be ripped from any struggling actresses’ own experiences.
An aspiring young actress (Sucre la Creme) moves to Hollywood with visions of making it big. Unfortunately, while she possesses head turning beauty by every day standards, her womanly curves leave her on the outs of a media community where dangerously thin frames are passed off as the desirable norm.
Without bludgeoning her audience with a cudgel, Ms. Michaud deftly pulls back the curtain on one of the most troubling aspects of our culture. Hollywood Skin is a unique and personal story, and one that wouldn’t have the same perspective from the male POV, not in a world where Kevin James can land leading roles in a romantic comedy while younger women need to starve themselves to be noticed and older actresses without the last name Streep find themselves marginalized with coveted roles few and far between. Ms. Michaud could stick the “inspired by true events” tag at the front of the short as one could pluck stories with similar circumstances (aside from the grim ending) from a near endless well of sources.
For those that want to learn more about these two films, along with a dozen other shorts Ms. Michaud has produced these past few years, click over to her online portfolio for Quirk Films at www.maudemichaud.com. Ms. Michaud also has a documentary in the works providing an in-depth look at female horror creators and fans, for more details, check out the project’s official site. All Things Horror will screen both Snuff and Hollywood Skin with Ms. Michaud (and her mom, how freaking cool is that) in attendance for a Q&A as part of our June 2nd program at the Somerville Theater. Tickets are available on our site.
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