Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ewen Bremner, Chloë Sevigny, Werner Herzog, Joyce Korine, Evan Neumann
Written by: Harmony Korine
Directed by: Harmony Korine
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexuality and disturbing images
Running Time: 94
Date: 09/07/1999

julien donkey-boy (1999)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Jackass Surpassing

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Is Harmony Korine the future of cinema or a pretentious twit? Most people will vote in the latter category, but my money's on the former. I was one of a small handful of supporters of Korine's wonderful-horrible Gummo (1997), a movie about bored and lost teens who, among other things, hunted cats. Korine's new film julien donkey-boy is more cohesive, but equally good. Ewen Bremmer (Trainspotting) stars as Julien, a schizophrenic patterned after Korine's uncle, who works in a school for the blind. His sister Pearl (Chloe Sevigny, currently in Boys Don't Cry) is pregnant by an unknown father. Their brother Chris (Even Neumann) wrestles on his high school team, and their domineering father (played by the great film director Werner Herzog) torments them all. There isn't much of a plot here, but realistic characters and touching themes are consistent throughout. And the performances, especially Bremmer's, are amazing. The ending, however, is an emotional karate chop that most people will not be able to stomach. Korine shot julien donkey-boy following the Dogme 95 manifesto, a list of filmmaking rules drawn up by a group of Dutch filmmakers (including Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg) in order to purify film. To adhere to Dogme 95 Korine even went so far as to hire cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, who shot Vinterberg's The Celebration (1998). The armless cardsharp and the rapping albino are just two of the treasures in this extraordinary movie.

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