In Paris, a young American who works as a Michael Jackson lookalike meets Marilyn Monroe, who invites him to her commune in Scotland, where she lives with Charlie Chaplin and her daughter, Shirley Temple.
Notorious Baltimore criminal and underground figure Divine goes up against a sleazy married couple who make a passionate attempt to humiliate her and seize her tabloid-given title as "The Filthiest Person Alive".
Constructing this film through random scenes, director Harmony Korine abruptly jettisoned any sort of narrative plot, so here we go: Solomon and Tummler are two bored teenage boys who live in Xenia, Ohio. A few years ago, a tornado swept through it, destroying more than half the town and killing the same amount, including Solomon's father. The film, from there, chronicles the anti-social adventures these two boys have. These include sniffing glue, killing cats, having sex, riding dirtbikes, listening to black metal, and meeting a cavalcade of quirky, bizarre, and scary people. These include a man who pimps his mentally ill wife to our anti-heroes, three sisters who play with their cat and practice becoming strippers, a black midget fending off the sexual advances of a troubled man (played by the director Harmony Korine), a 12-year-old gay transvestite who is also a cat killer, Solomon's mother who seems to be the only glimpse of sanity, two foul-mouthed six-year olds, and most ... Written by
There is an actual Xenia, Ohio. And a tornado really did hit there in the mid-1970s. See more »
During the skinhead boxing scene in the kitchen, a crew member's hand is visible holding onto a piece of equipment or railing on bottom left corner of screen. See more »
Xenia, Ohio. Xenia, Ohio. A few years ago, a tornado hit this place. It killed the people, left and right. Dogs died. Cats died. Houses were split open, and you could see necklaces hanging from branches of trees. People's legs and neck bones were sticking out. Oliver found a leg on his roof. A lot of people's fathers died, and were killed by the great tornado. I saw a girl fly through the sky, and I looked up her skirt. Her skull was smashed. And some kids died. My ...
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I described "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover" as part of the urine in a bucket movement of art. That's not quite fair -- Greenaway had an obvious craft, intelligence, and eye for stunning visual beauty. This film, however, is urine, with or without the bucket. Its makers would no doubt hide behind that mask of "realism," and that's fine. But does anyone who sees this movie come away with anything other than awfulness? That's what I asked myself about ten minutes into this film. Does the movie reveal great truths about us or the world in which we live? Maybe, though I'm not quite sure. If this movie has any value to the average moviegoer, that's it.
I'm sure that aspiring directors interested in cinema verite would gobble this up, as would the self-important proponents of the Dogme 95 movement. (Apparently, Korine's next film, which I have but haven't yet watched -- "Julien Donkey-Boy" -- is the first American film to use the Dogme 95 rules.)
I was ready to hate it. In fact, I wanted to hate it. I wanted to reject this as the bowel movement of some no-talent film graduate. But I couldn't, and I can't.
It's something like "Kids" (a film Korine wrote), or some other Larry Clark concoction. It's a hard-to-take movie that would probably anger most, intrigue some, and bore the rest. (I was angered only a few times, during the scenes of animal cruelty -- nothing gets me writhing in my seat quicker.)
The main idea or "story" here is just a stream-of-consciousness tracking of a number of white trash kids. The main character, Solomon, and the kid who plays him, Jacob Reynolds, is very interesting. It's a shame he hasn't been in anything since 1999, according to IMDb. The narrator, who to his/her credit (I never did figure out who it was) is only talking for a small amount of time, is extremely annoying. He/she is full of that fake out-of-breath gaspiness that sounds absolutely forced. It's the only part of the movie I really didn't like. (Well, I guess I could have done without the pretentious slow-mo.) There is no character or voice-over -- even that of the sometimes narrator -- to inform us about these characters. By the end of the movie, I knew some characters, briefly glimpsed others, and didn't quite know how they all fit together. This is a good thing.
Maybe I'm becoming desensitized to grossness (or maybe this movie exists in only grossness, making individual bits of it hard to identify from one another), but an early scene in the movie, where a mother and (I think) daughter are trying to make their chest seem bigger with tape is sort of sweet.
There is a lot of offensive, amoral stuff here: a girl describes, in a voice over, being molested/raped by her own father; the two main character boys sell dead cats to a grocer; Solomon, who looks about 13, and his older friend pay a man to sleep with an overweight, dimwitted girl in her dollhouse-like bedroom. There's also a sort of murder. ("Sort of" because...well, you'll see what I mean when you watch the movie.)
I wanted to keep watching. I wasn't repulsed by the movie, which early on seems to wallow in its own filthiness. Some people maybe waited for something profound to occur, to "legitimize" the film, a la "Breaking the Waves." Well, I'll tell you now that there isn't. And there doesn't need to be. This movie is like the enemy of another I liked, "Joe the King" about poor children. That film was like "The 400 Blows" times ten -- it had hope for something better. This movie has no hope -- it sees nothing wrong with itself.
There's a criticism people like Charles Taylor throw around about filmmakers like Korine, that their characters are inspected like bugs caught in a glass jar, heartlessly. The only scene in this film that felt that way to me was one where two skinhead brothers are fighting with each other in a kitchen. Aside from that, the movie, I thought, was very inviting. It's just up to you to accept the invitation.
However, Korine walked a fine line here. Obviously, attempting humor is always a good thing, but when you're dealing with characters and subject matter such as this it would be so very easy to mock your characters, and no doubt some people misinterpreted Korine's few honest jokes as just that. (Like one hilarious moment, with Solomon in a grungy bathtub filled with black water, where he's served supper on a platter by his mother. He takes a drink of milk and instantly pats his mouth to make sure he remains presentable.) Linda Manz, that wonderfully elliptical philosopher from "Days of Heaven" plays Solomon's mother, the eccentric tap dancing kind.
There's a scene (and that's all the movie is -- a serious of scenes) when two boys shoot another boy with toy guns that seems to represent the darkest side of America. The shot boy, wearing pink bunny ears on his head, lays on the ground, frail, looking like a strange version of Jesus. It just really got to me. Another scene where a boy and a black dwarf (or midget, I don't know the difference -- something about proportionality) are sitting on a couch, and the black guy says he's gay, and then the other boy comes on to him. It sounds like a really bad SNL sketch, but it's somehow touching.
A lot of these characters I just wanted to give a hug. However hard it is to believe, this film is, in the end, bursting at the seams with love. The rather obvious and wrong-headed claim is that all this movie does is try to shock and disgust. That's not true. It shows a vision of reality, as Korine sees it, and asks its audience to accept it. Very simple.
If I had to guess, I'd say about 75 % of mainstream moviegoers, including the most sophisticated film buffs, would strongly dislike this movie. And judging by the IMDb rating and general consensus by most of the reviewers here, I think I'm pretty close to being right. The hate and writing-off that movies like this get, ultimately, perplexes me. I mean, I figure that if a 17 year-old, relatively basic moviegoer like me can wrestle with a movie to see its faults and its triumphs, then anyone else should be able to do the same. (I loved reading one review of "Julien" where the reviewer told the readers what Korine's fans liked about his movies, as if they're a group of non-thinking drones.)
I don't know who my top filmmakers are right now (I'm so under-viewed with movies in general that it's sad), but Korine, with this film, has a special place.
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