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Above the Bar

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Life of the party: Filmmaker Chris Smalley (left) stars in his "The Silver-Tongued Devil."
  • Life of the party: Filmmaker Chris Smalley (left) stars in his "The Silver-Tongued Devil."

It's a classic comedy set-up: One fateful night, a drinking man ruins his life, and the next day must scramble to restack all the blocks. Only this Jekyll's more Hyde than most. His drunk self hates his sober self so much that the dipsomaniacal pranks are expressly designed to sabotage that blameless fellow's job, relationship and existence as a whole.

What makes Chris Smalley's hilarious short "The Silver-Tongued Devil" even more notable is that it's narrative, from a young local filmmaker best known for his experimental work. A Smalley retrospective highlights the April 13 Film Kitchen, which also features work by Andy Kelemen and David Stokes.

Smalley, 27, frequents local screenings with vivid work like "Rain on Lights" (2009), a near-abstract piece set to experimental music. In his "Momentum Trilogy," Smalley explored a formal theme. "What Lights!" documents a trip down one of Pittsburgh's inclines that never happened: It's a composite of individual frames from each of five such journeys. Likewise "S.P. @ 24," a composite drawn from five of Smalley's own walks toward the camera, and "Sundown Showdown," a collage of five North Park sunsets, shot on Super 8 film.

But Smalley started his career making narrative comedies. His "Bumboozled" (2004) is effectively a live-action Warner Bros. cartoon, recast with a homeless man as the Roadrunner and a suburban homeowner as Wile E. Coyote.

"Silver-Tongued Devil" was actually conceived years ago by Smalley and a friend, and realized in collaboration with Matthew Day, a fellow Pittsburgh Filmmakers staffer (who's also Film Kitchen's curator). The film starts with its tipsy anti-hero (played by the bearded Smalley himself) accusatorily asking his boss, "Who is the most incompetent boss to ever walk the face of the earth?"

Smalley also screens an offbeat short documentary. "Emmett Frisbee Presents: Pittsburgh" finds artist and performer Frisbee touring some favorite local spots. "I wanted to make it have a feel of sitting down with Emmett and having a drink," says Smalley.

 

TV commercials are usually seen as anti-art. Andy Keleman wants to change that. "My ideal commercial is a commercial outside the commercial form," he says.

Keleman, who studied film at Pitt and Pittsburgh Filmmakers, is just 24, but already he's had editing jobs at both WQED and KDKA. 

A promo piece he created for KDKA, for instance, homily evokes that schoolkid's joy: a snow day. An online promo for the Carnegie Library cleverly depicts just how deeply some people get immersed in their reading.

Keleman's also made imaginative ads on spec for such name brands as Wonder Bread, Kodak and Crayola. A piece he created for a contest sponsored by Dove lotion even aired on national TV, during the 2008 Oscars.

At Film Kitchen, the Buffalo, N.Y., native shows his demo reel featuring these ads and more. It's wittily titled En Plein Airwaves. And whatever its other merits, the reel recently earned him a job ... at a local ad agency.

 

Film Kitchen 8 p.m. (7 p.m. reception). Tue., April 13. Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., N. Oakland. $5. 512-681-9500 or www.filmkitchenpgh.org

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