Frederick

By Traci Hays | Drama
A famous artist has an idea for a controversial project. Then a detective investigates.

Frederick is an artist, gallery owner and art world scion struggling with inspiration and fresh ideas. His work isn't resonating or gaining any attention, and critics mock his paintings as derivative.

But after a period of agitation, he comes across a new set of ideas that pulls him into a more sinister direction in his work. His own life and self also seem to darken -- something that doesn't escape the notice of a detective investigating a series of local murders.

Directed by Traci Hays and written by Josh Mann (who also plays the lead role of Frederick), this short dramatic thriller is a cerebral exploration of how far one artist will go for inspiration, and just how far he will go to achieve it. Told with a stylized panache that suits its main character, it moves quickly and builds up a central mystery about the blurred lines between life and art.

The storytelling quickly immerses viewers into a stylish but cloistered milieu, a pocket of the art world in its mix of grit and glamour. Accompanied by a foreboding, rich musical score, the film quickly lays its intriguing building blocks in place, almost like a Cubist painting. Each piece of the story offers a slightly different angle on Frederick, from his ravenous need to make his mark to his contempt for the uncultured around him.

Frederick is the namesake and central character of the film, and his decisions and perspectives drive the momentum forward. With terrifically stylized dialogue, Frederick is played by Mann with commitment and intensity. Frederick is erudite, embittered, cold and driven, with an unmistakable dark side. He's compelling to watch because he simply doesn't care about the people around him, and he's willing to pursue his creative vision to its extreme ends.

The dramatic question becomes how far he will go to succeed, and just how blurred the lines are between his dark art and his real life. When a detective enters the picture pursuing a series of murders, the pace intensifies -- sweeping into a thrilling, surprising conclusion that's richly ironic.

What makes "Frederick" so compelling and resonant is how the film's surprises dovetail with the apex of Frederick's vision, implicating both his gallery audience and even viewers themselves. Through deft storytelling and moody stylishness, the short tantalizes with its possibilities of violence and sensationalism. It fulfills them, with a twist -- one that provokes questions of why we want to delve into the darkness, what we hope to find there, and what that says about us.




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