❉ Nick Clement on Noel David Taylor’s dry and darkly humorous directorial debut.
“Meta comedy like this is a delicate balancing act, and there’s an almost waking-nightmare effect that this film has, and one of its strengths is how it uses absurdist comedy to tackle something very relevant – the hypocrisies and idiocies of an industry that, for all intents and purposes, seems to live and breathe and thrive off those very things.”
Films that revolve around the inner-workings of Hollywood never seem to go out of style. With filmmakers, that is. They are inextricably drawn to their own creative process, and while audience enjoyment varies all throughout this sub-genre of film, there’s something to be said about self-reflexive art that peers into the abyss of what constitutes “art.” Writer-director-star Noel David Taylor has pulled a two-trick pony with his directorial debut, Man Under Table: he’s seemingly exorcised some personal demons while telling a relatable story about professional frustration.
This super-low-budget indie takes a very dry and darkly humorous, if too-oblique approach, to the nature of how storytelling is born, and how delusional people are often calling the shots at the upper levels. And while the rough production elements give off a whiff of souped-up-student-film, there’s lots going on in the dense narrative, which is always operating on more than one track.
Set against a virus-ravaged Los Angeles, with green toxic gas polluting the air, Man Under Table follows the exploits of an unnamed screenwriter, referred to as “Guy” (Taylor), in the end credits. He’s writing a movie, or so he claims to be, one of which eerily reminds of the film we’re watching. He’s got a few contacts in the biz, but he’s very much on the fringes of the big show, and his jealousy and resentment of the various morons who have made it large is upfront and evident.
Always being harassed by “content creators” at local bars, Guy gets involved with an up-and-coming director named Jill Custard (Katy Fullan), and her creative collaborator Ben (Ben Babbitt); they may or may not be romantically involved, too. The project they embark upon starts to intertwine with reality, and with the film we’re all watching unfold, with heady results that speak to the difficulties of getting films made in today’s landscape without sacrificing your artistic integrity.
Meta-comedy like this is a delicate balancing act, and while some of the performances contained in Man Under Table feel quite rough, that might be by design; there’s an almost waking-nightmare effect that this film has, and one of its strengths is how it uses absurdist comedy to tackle something very relevant – the hypocrisies and idiocies of an industry that, for all intents and purposes, seems to live and breathe and thrive off those very things.
The miniscule budget works in the film’s favour in numerous instances, as Taylor and his crew inventively find ways to further exasperate the characters and their predicaments with odd-ball, homemade-feeling production design. Taylor comes from a short films background, and that’s very much apparent, as Man Under Table contains some very-nifty passages and small moments. I’ll be curious to see what he delivers next. Man Under Table premiered at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival, and is currently streaming on ARROW PLAYER.
ARROW will be home to a number of exclusive extras for Man Under Table, including a making of featurette, deleted scenes, a commentary from Taylor, a Man Under Table music video, and a number of Taylor’s early short films, including The Hermit and Dos Hombres.
❉ Watch ‘Man Under Table’ first, from August 2nd 2021 – head to ARROW and start your 30-day free trial. Available on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV; iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at www.ARROW-Player.com. Subscriptions are available for £4.99 monthly or £49.99 annually.
❉ Nick Clement is a journalist for Variety Magazine and motion picture screenplay consultant, as well as a critic for websites We Are Cult and Back to the Movies. He wrote the introduction to the book Double Features: Big Ideas in Film, which was published by The Great Books Foundation, and is currently working on a book about the life and work of filmmaker Tony Scott. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.