By (TK) Published on .

Steve Stein is a senior editor at Cutters in Chicago, and like many post people, he makes short films on the side. But Stein has had some very unexpected success with his two-year-old, eight-minute OuvrĂ© La FenĂȘtre, which is billed as a "French existential comedy." It's been screened at a score of film festivals, and its plaudits include a special mention from the jury at Aspen and the Founder's Award at the Chicago Alternative Film Festival.

"Especially with a film audience, it pretty much kills," says Stein, 32. "It plays off the whole auteur theory. They get all the jokes. I never thought it would get further than my living room." It stars a chubby guy who muses about life and love in the New Wave French manner, all heard in a fractured Franglais voiceover (done by Stein himself) with English subtitles. "It's based on a true story," says Stein. "I was hanging out with the guy in the movie [Steve Keith], and he was sitting in a chair watching TV and smoking a cigarette, and he couldn't reach the ashtray. Instead of getting up, he constructed a device with a straw so his cigarette could reach. I thought, Damn, what a great way to show a character. It grew from there into a Breathless parody as well as a general French cinema parody." It's now part of a planned trilogy, and part two, Fermez la Porte, should be ready next month. "The first was about ennui," Stein says. "The second is more about angst."

Stein has another interesting extracurricular activity. On picture day at Cutters, "we were told to bring a prop," he explains. "So I brought my sock rope, which is now about 75 yards long. When I retire a pair of socks, I wash them one last time and add them to the rope. It started as a cat toy, but as it got bigger, I realized, This is becoming a piece. And if there's a fire, they'll

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