Sunday, May 16, 2010

Born without arms

In light of our discussion, I had to re-watch Julien Donkey-Boy.

The hose scene:

[If I was laughing "uncontrollably" (and I don't doubt that I may have been), it was probably largely due to my not having seen the film in a long while and then being nervous about showing to you and Carey a film that I have a personal investment in which I know is usually not well received by anyone.]

[As far as laughing at "inappropriate" things, Abby will tell you that I did laugh hard during Breaking Bad Season 2 when an ATM machine falls on a man's head.  I still chuckle thinking about it.  That was the episode before or after the one with the severed head strapped to an exploding turtle.  I'm writing this in my living room and Abby just commented that I've had a big grin on my face while writing whatever I'm writing.  See?] 

Back to Julien Donkey-Boy.

It's actually the father and the brother Chris in the hose scene, not Julien (I did misremember this).  

The humor comes from the father (who is HERZOG!) saying things like, "Be a man," and "don't be a moody brooder" as he douses his son in cold hose water.  Really, it doesn't change much if it had been Julien.  

The father is not "just" an abuser and his family victims.  He is a father who loves his children, but doesn't always express this "appropriately."

There is horror (extremely uncomfortable at times) here AND love.  The father is misguidedly trying to help improve his son(s).  The father also very much has his own mental/moral/spiritual problems.

[The hardest scene to watch (which also has its own humor) and also the worst reflection on the father comes later when he does completely verbally abuse Julien.]

I hazard a guess that your "problem" with the hose and wrestling scenes and others is that you are still only seeing through one perspective.  Korine has the audacity to love and side with the father as much as with the more obviously sympathetic Julien or any of his siblings.

What's really important is that immediately after this scene (the hose scene) of strained family dynamics and a brief cut to Chris alone and painfully asserting his manhood, we get a scene of the sister singing the Agnus Dei, pleading as it were on behalf of her family.

-Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.-

This is the heart of the film.

Later, the wrestling scene is among the best in the film.  When Julien, the Jammin' Jammer, yes, in bra and undies, is being pinned by his brother and being yelled at by his father to be serious, he declares repeatedly "I love you, Chris."  This is heart-rending soul-stopping schlock, yes it is. This is living wisdom, wrapped in flailing flesh and failing words.  Yes it is. 

More than this..

When the sister hits the ice and the baby dies, there is an amazing scene after this when Julien steals the dead baby.  For a moment, he is absolutely clear in his communication.  Sober as death.  The remaining few minutes are devastatingly lovely.  Call it melodrama if you must.  I won't deny it.  

You can't stop me from crying.


I do concede to you the inexplicable opening involving what appears to be the spontaneous murder of a young boy over a turtle.  I don't know what to make of it.  I think I may have brought up to you in the past my idea that not every image in the film is to be trusted (masturbating nun, hm?) and that the editing/construction of the film attempts to reflect Julien's schizophrenia at times, not necessarily a "factual" narrative.  I tend to forget that opening sequence of the film when I think about it.  I don't know.  I don't even have a clue.

Julien Donkey-Boy is also a magnificent technical achievement.  The editing (including the sound editing) is probably the most important element, but I think the cinematography is also great.  The DP was Anthony Dod Mantle who has since then established himself as one of the more exciting and excellent DPs now working.

Because of all of the above and all that I've previously stated and for so many other reasons that I can't properly understand or articulate, I love Julien Donkey-Boy.  A desert island pick and an obvious inclusion on my top 50 that I have yet to compile.  

I'm really eager for you to see Mister Lonely.  I want to hear what you think of it.  Your last paragraph about Korine does have me excited.  

It's refreshing to hear your criticisms and reluctant praise.  I think that many of your objections are valid even if I can't share those objections.  I hope I'm doing a decent job of showing why I love Julien Donkey-Boy and conveying the reasons why I think Korine should be valued as one of our greatest current filmmakers.  Your post makes me want to revisit Gummo, which I haven't seen since college- at least a decade ago!

Unrelated to everything above, I did catch The Ghost Writer the last day it played at Cinema Saver.  All I can say is that I enjoyed every minute of it and don't care if I never see it again.  A perfect summer movie (even if it was released a couple of months ago!).  

So far, 2010 has been an odd year.

1) Alice in Wonderland
2) Shutter Island
3) The Ghost Writer
4) Iron Man 2
5) Kick-Ass

I'm still hoping for much better.


Storm and Stress said...

I’ll definitely have to give that film another try. You did more than a decent job of walking me through the film and helping me understand why you love it. I want to love. Korine seems like a cool dude and even if I don’t understand it completely. I remember when we were talking about the question of perspective, whether or not certain scenes were supposed to be from a schizophrenic point of view. I will say that even if this was the case I think that it doesn’t quite work, still its one of the most exciting things about this director. Without the editing trickery or the structural inimitability I don’t think we would be talking about this film. I didn’t mean to knock the ending for being “melodramatic” but I remember thinking that the film had one thing going for it up until that point, an odd consistency. That scene felt like it was imported from another film, though I remember it being completely devastating.

It’s been a fun discussion and one that I’m sure we’ll continue in years to come. We DO both need to make a top 50 list at some point.

I’ve been continuing my 1950s and 1940s viewings, I’m currently checking out films from 1957. It’s funny because this is the year that I was going to originally start with but felt extremely overwhelmed when I saw the list of films that I would have needed to watch in order to put together a decent list.. I have seen all but two of the films that you let me borrow, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I love 90% of them. Am I a pushover?

The Kurosawa films are all revelations. I never would have thought that IKIRU would be my least favorite film by the director. THE HIDDEN FORTRESS and THE QUIET DUEL have shot to the top of my list, right behind SEVEN SAMURAIS (that film is unstoppable). I liked STRAY DOG a lot, but it took about thirty minutes for me to get hooked. GUN CRAZY is incredible, one of the most visually ambitious “b-movies” that I’ve ever seen. I still need to check out THE FALLEN IDOL, my 1949 list is finishing up soon.

gocod said...