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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Harmony Korine|
scr Harmony Korine, Avi Korine
with Diego Luna, Samantha Morton, Denis Lavant, James Fox, Werner Herzog, Leos Carax, Anita Pallenberg, Richard Strange, Joseph Morgan, Melita Morgan, Rachel Korine, Quentin Grosset
release UK 14.Mar.08; US 2.May.08
07/UK Film4 1h52
You are not alone: Morton and Luna
Korine is back with another deliberately quirky film that definitely has its charms. It's probably impossible to ever really understand what he's on about, but there are some accomplished sequences and terrific performances along the way.
A Michael Jackson impersonator (Luna) performing on the streets of Paris meets a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Morton), who invites him to her commune of characters in the Scottish Highlands, including her husband Charlie Chaplin (Lavant) and daughter Shirley Temple, plus the Pope (Fox), the Queen (Pallenberg), Abraham Lincoln (Strange), James Dean (Joseph Morgan) and Madonna (Melita Morgan). As they prepare a show for the neighbouring town, they discover that their herd of sheep is ill. Meanwhile, nuns in the rainforest discover a miracle of faith that their local priest (Herzog) wants to show the Pope.
Punctuated with the titles of various Jackson songs, the film is loaded with fascinating themes as it examines issues of identity, community and faith from a seriously askance angle. Korine's direction is sharp and assured, and draws the humour and irony from every situation (perhaps a little too much at times). The film is often witty and astute, especially when it looks at this group of people who are living as cultural icons.
The problem comes with figuring out where to go with these ideas, which seem to scatter ever wider as the film progresses. And then there's the strangely unrelated story of the skydiving nuns, which never quite integrates. But along the way, there are some terrific sequences, mainly centring on the truly bizarre love triangle between Michael, Marilyn and Charlie (who Marilyn notes sometimes looks more like Hitler!). These three actors are especially good, and give the film a solid centre even as everything spirals out of control.
At one point, the story seems to strain toward one of those Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney romps where they put on a show in the barn for the whole town. But Judy and Mickey never turn up, and the commune's theatre piece is hilariously ramshackle. As is the film as a whole: worth the price of admission, but only if you leave your expectations at the door.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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