by iF Magazine
Harmony Korine, the boy (OK, heís now all of 25), who shocked us two years ago with his debut feature GUMMO is back with another feature, this time shot completely on digital video. A schizo film about an actual schizophrenic (Korineís institutionalized uncle), JULIEN-DONKEY BOY stars Ewen Bremner (TRAINSPOTTING), Chloe Sevigny (KIDS, GUMMO) and famed Euro director Werner Herzog (FITZCARRALDO). More a series of vignettes than an actual narrative film, JULIEN opens with a murder (thatís never explained) and closes with a still-born baby being cradled in a kidnapperís arms.In between these haunting bookends, we get Korineís unique brand of entertainment: an armless man doing card tricks, an abusive father hosing down his son to make him a man, an entertainer stuffing four lit packs of cigarettes into his mouth, rants, raves and all-around uncomfortable situations. Korine, something of an enfant terrible (at 19 he wrote the screenplay for the controversial KIDS), is a walking confrontation and contradiction: his in-your-face brashness can turn an audience on as fast as it can make them turn away in disgust.
"JULIEN is a dense, often difficult experience."
The hero of our tale is Julien (Bremner), a metal-toothed, wild-haired schizophrenic, who sings, ponders and cares deeply for his pregnant sister. At heart a warts and all family drama, JULIEN is the story of the lovable but damaged Julien, the most unlikely lead of the decade, the boy-man who must contend with an abusive ether-inhaling father (Herzog, in a delightfully whacked out performance), while wrestling a mad brother.
Corine, who strives to tell ordinary stories in extraordinary ways, goes for an ultra grainy, almost dreamlike portrait that was achieved by a combination of spy cameras (several actors wear contraptions with mini digital video cameras hidden on their person), and the use of professional actors mixing with unsuspecting street people (shoot first, get permission later). The resulting mosaic - visual rant - mess is a unique entertainment guaranteed to delight and shock audiences. To naysayers JULIEN and GUMMO are nothing more than pretentious shockfests starring a variety of freaks and geeks. His supporters however, including this writer, find his stunning visuals and bizarre humor nothing less than a revelation.
At times the grain gets so thick the images are nearly obscured and the film (in its best moments) descends into a trance like experience. Dialogue wise, because 90% of JULIEN was improvised the results range from revelatory to mundane. (With great risk comes great highs and lows). Shot under the Dogme 95 manifesto (a list of do's and doníts implemented by several get-back-to-basics filmmakers led by BREAKING THE WAVES director Lars Van Trier), JULIEN is a dense, often difficult experience.Whether or not you feel the need to seek this film out depends on if you want to see the future of cinema portends. ---Alfredo Garcia - iF Magazine (http://ifmagazine.ifctv.com)
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2235&reviewer=119
originally posted: 10/16/99 01:19:18