It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Aren't we all way beyond being shocked by sexual fetishes simply because they exist? Haven't we all stopped thinking, Ohmigod! That's a guy in drag! or Ohmigod! That's a dominatrix! or Ohmigod! She's tattooed! or having any kind of reaction to body piercing, which no longer even qualifies as a fetish, except when practiced on body areas we are unlikely to see, anyway.
We live in a time, a sad time, when some fetishes are even marketed to children. Consider the dominatrix Barbie doll. Of course films that are about sexual fetishes can be fascinating. Remember "Secretary," about S&M, or "The Crying Game," about transvestism, or "Kissed," about necrophilia. All very good films. But in simply observing the fact of a fetish, the old frisson is gone. I mention this because Madonna still gets intrigued, I guess, simply by regarding a stripper sliding down a pole.
"Filth and Wisdom," the pop-music star's directing debut, is a pointless exercise in "shocking" behavior, involving characters in London so shallow that the most sympathetic is the lecherous Indian dentist (Inder Manocha) who is supposed to be a villain, maybe. The central character is A.K. (Eugene Hutz, lead singer of the group Gogol Bordello), a rock singer who moonlights as a male dominator and will dress up like a ringmaster and whip you if you pay the big bucks. He is a fountain of wise little axioms, of which one is actually profound: "The problem with treating your body like a cash register is that you always feel empty."
A.K. is the landlord for flatmates Holly (Holly Weston) and Juliette (Vicky McLure), and also their unpaid adviser, who steers Holly into stripping at a lap-dance sleaze pit. Madonna thinks it's funny or sad or something that Holly is not too good at hanging upside-down from the pole and erotically sliding down it.