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.
A series of hazy 8mm vignettes, accompanied by a soft, lilting voice over, in which girls skulk around schoolyards, spray graffiti, drink, smoke, pose and embrace, evoking the loneliness, confusion and overwhelming wonder of growing up.
"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
In preparation for his role, Ewen Bremner worked for several months in an institution for the criminally insane in Queens, New York. He had to take courses in first-aid, hygiene ("a half-day course in washing my hands") and crisis management before he was given the job. See more »
You killed the Jews, you killed the hippies. You killed all the mother's titties.
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To represent the life of a schizophrenic through the medium of film, would be quite challenging, really. How could you possibly relate the total random madness and desperate attempts at self-control of a madman onto film? One would be wise to choose Dogme 95, as the life of these unfortunate people seems to be affected by and largely governed by, a series of rigid and obtuse beliefs, regimens or rituals put in place to form some sort of foundation in an otherwise random, "crazy" existence. They then hold fast to this foundation for dear life - white knuckles. Since these "rules" they live by come from insanity in the first place, and are not typically adaptable, or flexible, as life would require them to be, everything they attempt becomes convoluted and lost in madness and confusion. And so everything is completely unsettled, because they can't adapt. Dogme 95, with its odd, rigid requirements, vis-a-vis the "Vow of Chastity" (www.dogme95.dk) goes a long way toward capturing that dynamic.
This film comes pretty close to nailing the day-in, day-out obstacles that mentally ill people must encounter, making something as simple as a bus ride to work a harrowing adventure fraught with slopes. The whole thing reminds me of the LSD scene in "Easy Rider" with the call girls in the grave yard. That was as close as I have ever seen to a realistic depiction of an acid trip in a film (you'll have to trust me on this one folks...), and this film has the same feel of reality to it. Almost as if it were a film about a schizophrenic, directed by and acted by schizophrenics. It's amazing.
Bremner is brilliant. I didn't even recognize him until I read the credits, and afterward I believed that he should have been awarded for this outing - just completely convincing. Almost as if this were a documentary. He just acts so completely mentally ill, it's amazing. He even somehow affects not only the dress, but the postures, facial expressions and characteristics that make him appear to be genuinely mentally ill. Wow.
Herzog's character is just so completely weird and obtuse and out of place in our culture that he is perfect here. Makes you wonder about other people you see walking around.
Not hugely entertaining in terms of plot, but a real treat for someone who wants to be compelled by the film maker's art. Harmony Korine is way smarter than me and you, folks. And I think it's way cool he can get his hands on film equipment. He is pushing the envelope, which is a lot more than I can say for most directors. Safe is boring.
Regard this film in the context of the first scene when Julien has his encounter with the "Pond Boy" and a plot emerges. What we see within the first two or three minutes is just astoundingly disturbing, and will clearly have consequences on the rest of Julien's life - all of their lives. Relate the rest of the film back to the first scene, and it's really rather sad. Everything that ensues has that hanging over it. You know that no matter what those people do, some day there will be a knock on the door and everything will unravel. Or will it? How could they be any more odd and troubled than they already are?
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