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Adam Ignatov
Adam Ignatov

Julien Donkey-Boy(1999) Fixed

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.

Julien Donkey-Boy(1999)

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.

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.

Korine's background is well-known. He was a skateboarder in New York when his screenplay about his friends was made into Larry Clark's "Kids" (1995), a harrowing portrait of street kids and their society. His second film, "Gummo," unseen by me, won festival prizes at Venice and Rotterdam, and was despised by a good majority of mainstream critics. Now comes "julien," and it demonstrates that Korine is the real thing, an innovative and gifted filmmaker whose work forces us to see on his terms.

Note: In a "confession" published on the movie's Web site, Korine kids "Dogma 95" at the same time he genuflects to it. He admits that although "Dogma" requires all props to be found on location, he imported a can of cranberries from a supermarket. And he apologizes that Chloe Sevigny, his real-life girlfriend, was not really pregnant in the movie ("I did try, though") but only had a pillow stuffed under her clothes. He proudly adds that the pillow was found on the location, in his grandmother's bedroom closet. All this at 041b061a72


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