6.7/10
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Julien Donkey-Boy (1999)

A portrait of the effects of schizophrenia on family life is the central focus.

Director:

(uncredited)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Brian Fisk ...
Pond Boy
...
Pearl (as Chloe Sevigny)
...
Father
Joyce Korine ...
Grandma
...
Chris
Miriam Martínez ...
Teenage Girl (as Miriam Martinez)
Edgar Erikkson ...
Bearded Man
James Moix ...
Dancing Man
Victor Varnado ...
Rapper
Oliver A. Bueno ...
Bowler
Roger Harris ...
Bowler
Josseph Padilla ...
Bowler
Olivia Pérez ...
Bowler (as Olivia Perez)
Freddie Perez ...
Bowler
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Storyline

"O, mio babbino caro" plays as a woman skates gracefully. In contrast, little is graceful and daddy is not dear in Julien's world. His father listens to blues wearing a gas mask; dad prods, lectures, and derides Julien as well as Julien's brother and pregnant sister, while grandma attends to her dog. Julien is different, schizophrenic. He wears gold teeth. He bowls, sings, worships, and chats with a group of young adults with disabilities. His sister's child is probably his own. He talks on the phone, imagining it's his mother, who died in childbirth years before. He may be a murderer of children. From his point of view (perhaps), the film follows this odd family for a few weeks. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, some sexuality and disturbing images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

13 September 2000 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Dogme # 6 - Julien Donkey-Boy  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$11,845 (USA) (8 October 1999)

Gross:

$80,226 (USA) (5 November 1999)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was shot from a 124-scene treatment of sorts; essentially only general descriptions of scenes ("The sound of hard wind," is all it says for Scene 8. In Scene 58, "Julien's brother tries again in vain to kill the swan."). All the dialogue was improvised by the actors, except for one scene where Julien is talking to his "dead mother" on the telephone. See more »

Quotes

Father: You're going to be a winner; just don't shiver. A winner doesn't shiver.
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Connections

Referenced in Big Love: Eclipse (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

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Performed by Oval
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User Reviews

A work of real filmic art
20 November 2001 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

Harmony Korine's Julien Donkey-Boy, is nothing less than real filmic art. It chronicles a day or so in the life of Julien, a teenage schizophrenic, and the other family members he lives with: his sister, his frustrated and abusive father, played nicely by Werner Herzog, (of all people), his younger brother, and his grandmother.

The effect is like watching Leave it to Beaver on acid--a haunting picture of a family paralyzed by their own dysfunctionality, so pervasive it is that it virtually crushes any hope of what most of us would call a "normal" life. The real tragedy is knowing that we are merely glimpsing a fictional account of what many real families with similar situations have to endure. The film isn't a success solely due to its effectively disturbing chronicle of a mentally ill teen, but rather, HOW it chronicles the life of this character. Korine is a master of using film to communicate story and messages, specifically through the use of editing, cinematography and visual effects. This is amazing, since at only 27, Korine has more visual ownership of the medium than do most directors with twice his experience.

Yet, Korine's movies are not popular. Most people wouldn't have a clue as to what's going on in them. This is because Korine uses visual symbols and other filmic elements to reveal the plot and character development. And he does this masterfully. For example, in one scene, we see the images as if on a videophone, frame-by-frame, with erratic cuts in the action. Yet, the sound flows as normal. Korine uses this technique to symbolize the main character's fragmented view of the world -- a view that is dramatically distorted from our own. This is brilliant filmmaking -- an example of "show, don't tell" yet through use of film form rather than character action.

Indelibly, it is Korine's unconventional film style, of which a good deal looks experimental, yet all of which is handled expertly, that will also keep him at the fringes of the film world, barring him the popularity he deserves. This is too bad since he brings as much to the art of independent film as Scorcese does to the Hollywood film. Yet Korine will never have the accessibility of the other.

In this film, Korine reveals the character of Julien not only through his actions, but via his reactions to those around him and to his environment. This is a hard task for a filmmaker to achieve since those who don't know the particular "reason" for a scene or for its purpose, will be lost. The film demands an aggressive viewer, one who wants to share the boldness of the director's vision, while deciphering it through his or her own knowledge of film conventions and prior knowledge.

Julien Donkey-Boy is not as emotionally powerful as Korine's previous film, Gummo, yet it is just as important in what it has to say about film as a medium of communication, and, about the people who are living at the margins of society.


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