Thursday, December 11, 2008

DJG's Movie Morning Monday

Mister Lonely * * * * 1/2
Directed by: Harmony Korine / 2008

I’d been hearing about the so-called genius of Harmony Korine for over a decade now, but I'd never seen it. His “Gummo” and “Julien Donkey-Boy” didn’t impress me much and I appreciated his daring screenplay for “Kids” more than I actually liked the movie. Seeing him appear as himself on late night talk shows was funny, but also pretty juvenile, uncomfortable and unprofessional. I was beginning to think either he peaked way too young or that he just wasn’t my taste. That is until I saw his third directed movie, which was the charm for me. With “Mister Lonely”, Harmony Korine has finally found how to speak with his voice and ironically has found this in a movie about finding one’s own identity. Though “Mister Lonely” borrows a few tid-bits of dramatic element ideas from movies like “Hud”, “Magnolia” and “Even Dwarfs Started Small” (at least from what I saw), it creates a unique vision and story, unfolding into a fascinating and magical film, one of the most imaginative and hypnotic of 2008. In his film Korine sheds light on finding identity by showcasing a group of impersonators who have come to live together in a castle on a farm. It’s a childlike “Neverland” type of place, filled with a hodge-podge family of Marilyn Manroe, Abraham Lincoln, Madonna, Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Sammy Davis , Jr., Shirley Temple, Buckwheat, James Dean, The Queen of England and The Pope (I think that’s all of them). Each one you’ve seen a thousand times before, but you can’t help but look from afar at the person hiding behind. And many times I found myself connecting with them, especially Diego Luna’s Michael Jackson. After a performance on the streets of Paris and the weight of isolation and loneliness mounting, Michael Jackson is the last to join when he is offered the invitation by Marilyn Monroe (Samantha Morton). While watching all the look-a-likes go about their daily routines and chores, I wondered about how people who strived so hard to maintain somebody else’s identity, a fantasy life, over their own individualism would wish to keep so isolated from the world. They seemed to beg for attention by playing dress-up as some of the most recognizable people in pop-culture. But, then the family revealed their greatest show on earth, a small shack of a theater house that they had been working towards to share their gifts to the world. It’s really something special, until harsh realities shake the foundations of their fantasy world to twist an already twisted perspective on life. In-between scenes with the castle of impersonators, Korine mixes in some breathtaking shots of a team of skydiving nuns who in the film miraculously survive their jumps without parachutes (which is kind of left to viewer interpretation but fits really well in the film). They are lead by a airplane pilot priest played to delight by director Werner Herzog. In many ways I used to see Harmony Korine as a little Herzog in training, but I now feel confident that he’s finally got his own wings. He’s really one to keep watching.


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