xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
Is there an audience for movies like Harmony Korine's "julien donkey-boy"? The campus film freaks who used to support underground films have migrated to slick aboveground indie productions. There's no longer a fascination with films that are difficult and experimental. They can't fill a classroom these days, let alone a theater. Korine, who at 25 is one of the most untamed new directors, belongs on the list with Godard, Cassavetes, Herzog, Warhol, Tarkovsky, Brakhage and others who smash conventional movies and reassemble the pieces.
Werner Herzog, the great German free spirit, is indeed one of the stars of "julien donkey-boy," which is the story of a schizophrenic, told more or less through his own eyes. The film's style is inspired by "Dogma 95," the Danish manifesto calling for movies to be made with hand-held cameras, available light and sound, and props found on location. Korine shot his basic material using that approach, and then passed it through a lot of post-production stages, so that at times it looks like abstract art seen through a glass, murkily. (The outtakes on the Web site look like straightforward digital video; the movie rarely does). "julien" doesn't always work in its individual moments, but it works as a whole. It adds up to something, unlike a lot of movies where individual shots are sensational, but they add up to nothing. The characters emerge gradually from the kaleidoscopic style. We learn that Julien (Ewen Bremner, from "Trainspotting") is a schizophrenic who lives at home with his bizarre father (Herzog), his fairly normal brother Chris (Evan Neumann) and a sister, Pearl (Chloe Sevigny), who is carrying Julien's child.
Life in this household consists of mind games, wrestling matches and family fights. Herzog, as the father, is the ringleader. At various times he listens to bluegrass music while wearing a gas mask, lectures on the world championship for talking birds, praises "Dirty Harry" movies and belittles his daughter's musical ambitions: "Why don't you tell your sister she is never going to learn to play this harp? She's a dilettante and a slut." Sometimes this is funny. Sometimes it is sad. Some of it takes place so completely within Julien's mind that we can't be sure what really happens--the opening scene involving an attack on a boy and his pet turtle, for example. Other scenes take on a heartbreaking realism, as when Pearl has a miscarriage at an ice rink, and Julien takes the stillborn infant in his arms, carries it home with him on the bus and hides under his covers, cradling it and weeping.
The experience of seeing a movie like this is shocking for most moviegoers, and while some are stimulated by it, most resist and resent it. That's as it should be. No movie is made for everybody. "julien donkey-boy" is hardly made for anybody. It seems at first to be merely a jumble of discordant images ("Freaks" shot by the "Blair Witch" crew) but then, if you stay with it, the pattern emerges from the jumble.