Lights Out Electric House is the story of an art-deco building, from foundations to rubble, in 17 minutes.
This documentary short film is an unusual film to be asked to review. As with so many documentary shorts the film struggles to find a balance between giving us enough of an overview to make sense of the subject matter whilst also focusing in on specific enough details to cover the story in a compelling and fulfilling way. However what’s important here is that in telling the story of a building and its inhabitants director Nicolas Motte does strike a couple of key and affecting emotional notes.
The primary story here is that of a group of artists who transform the building from a derelict wreck into an art gallery just weeks before it is due to be demolished. This is the beating heart of the film and although the short’s choice to look back at the building’s history in the 50’s is interesting, it’s the sort of material that needed to be saved for an hour long documentary. Motte does find an emotional center on which to hang his story, and the futile but noble race against time is a strong center to have chosen, but he needed to focus in on that and the various stories that inevitably surrounded it for a short of this length.
All of that being said this is an interesting insight into a building’s surprising history which feels professionally made and sensitively handled. It doesn’t quite deliver enough to be truly memorable, but as a brief snapshot into a community, a damned building and the art which brings them together it is insightful and affectingly melancholy.