A French dwarf writer fucks a stuffed bear with a can of New England Clam Chowder. A man, named Pig, threatens to shoot himself while his girlfriend breaks up with him over the phone. A decrepit naked old man, Tyree, fucks an imaginary woman in a hotel room then shoots himself, only to come back and tell us about the amazing book he is going to write. Pig and Slob, his buddy, go to an automatic car wash and shoot heroin. Then, as the film’s title finally rolls on the screen, a single ex-cop fucks his daughter’s teddy bear with a hot dog.
Period Piece, the 10th film in Giuseppe Andrews’s (actor from Cabin Fever, 2001 Maniacs, and Independence Day) ever increasing canon of completely polarizing cinema, is a slap in the face if you’re not prepared for it. Take John Waters at his shock heights, a sizable helping of Harmony Korine’s Gummo, and a completely amateur visual aesthetic you have a vague idea as to what kind of film your in store for. This is as no budget as it gets. It was shot using a handheld digital camera with enough competencies to at least keep things in focus, and edited together in a slapdash throw-it-all-against-the-wall style that shows how badly the director had to force feed his actor’s dialogue. While DIY cinema is something I always stand behind and watch regularly, this film takes that to a whole new level. There is even a good inch or more at the top of the screen on my Troma copy that is cropped black, making the ugly 4x3 image seem even smaller.
Period Piece chronicles the story, if you can really call anything in it a traditional narrative, of people who are blinded by their sexual obsessions and are isolated in the worlds created by them.
While most people wouldn’t gleam this synopsis at surface level, it becomes apparent once one decides to describe it in any detail. Humiliation, depravity, obsession, abuse, and death course through every frame of this film making what seems to be nothing more than a freak show, take on multiple meanings. The non-linear nature of the film and its crisscrossing storylines make for an experience that could hold up very well on multiple views; that is if one were willing to retake the harsh and depraved trip more than once.
The film’s content is beyond crude, with most of the dialogue containing the words “pussy”, “motherfucker”, “fuck”, “piss”, and “cum” in just about every sentence. Tyree, the 90-year-old man who adorns the DVD cover, is naked throughout the majority of his screen time. Anyone not prepared to see a very shriveled up old man dancing naked with a dead pig that has a knife sticking out of it’s eye socket better not even bother to toss this one in the DVD player at all. I could go on and on with descriptions of things that would make you go “WHAT THE FUCK?” but to ruin it all would go against what is trying to be accomplished here.
There is no gradual climb toward a climax. From frame one you are forced into its full tilt bizarro world. You either get on for the ride or reject it completely. The hard thing to digest is whether or not it is supposed to come off as a comedy, drama, or horror show. Not one scene is ever played out in a way that would indicate how you’re supposed to feel about it. I personally couldn’t take my eyes off of it because there was no telling where it was going to go at any given moment. The obnoxiously drunk trailer trash that litter this film do and say things that will illicit some sort of reaction out of you regardless of what side of the fence you sit on.
As the title hints toward, Period Piece is commenting on where we are at now. The dead pig that Tyree dances with is named Society. He gouges out its eyeball with a knife and slow dances with it. The obvious metaphor showcases how our society has become so desensitized to shock and depravity, that nothing really bothers us anymore. We dance and live with it daily on our television and on the Internet. This film, however, isn’t shock for shock’s sake. While initially you’ll be drawn to the freak show spectacle, eventually its themes become apparent and the message of disgust with itself takes over.
Whether or not one sticks around long enough to see Period Piece’s gradual inward turn is completely up to the viewer’s patience.
Period Piece is not a film for everyone, or even most shock-meisters for that matter. Having seen one of his other shorts, Dribble, I can say that there is definitely a distinctive and singular voice at work here. However, I could see that this style of film, which appears to be similar in both pieces I have seen, could get old really quick. While I would definitely recommend it to people that can handle this brand of low brow trailer trash cinema, it isn’t something that most will ever want to revisit, no matter how hard the keys to its message ask you too.