Tuesday, January 24, 2006

MOVIE OF THE MONTH Harmony Korine's JULIEN DONKEY BOY is a mess of a film, but what kind of mess?

Ana Marie Cox, before her stint as Wonkette, dismissed the movie as "at once repulsive and cliched." Many others agreed.

But there are flashes of exceptionally vibrant filmmaking in this difficult work, a portrait of a schizophrenic and his family. Werner Herzog's performance as a bullying father, in particular, is mesmerizing: Herzog musters a kind of easygoing brutality that is sometimes comic, sometimes deeply disturbing--and sometimes both at the same time. (Ewen Bremner, as schizophrenic Julien, is also frighteningly persuasive.)

The film does seem to lose energy in its last half hour, as Korine's fragmentary plot gives way to a more conventional narrative, moving ultimately to a straightforward, if bitter, conclusion.

But the movie's many moments of searing, discomfiting truth make it very much worth watching.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.