Thursday, August 01, 2013

Dogme #6-Julien-Donkey Boy

Originally Written and Posted at on 9/27/ 09 w/ Additional Edits.

Julien Donkey-Boy/Dogme #6 tells the story of a young man who wanders around New York City while dealing with his schizophrenia. He also encounters his own dysfunctional family that included his gasmask-wearing, abusive father, his pregnant sister carrying his child, and a blind figure skater. Written by Harmony Korine and shot on digital video that was transferred to 16mm and later blown-up into 35mm film by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, the film shows Korine's unique approach to the Dogme rules. Starring Ewan Bremner, Chloe Sevigny, Evan Neumann, Joyce Korine, and legendary German director Werner Herzog.

A young schizophrenic man named Julien (Ewam Bremner) is wandering around his New York City suburbs rambling incoherently and such. Living with a family that included his grandmother (Joyce Korine), his aspiring-wrestler brother Chris (Evan Neumann), his pregnant sister Pearl (Chloe Sevigny), and his gasmask-wearing father (Werner Herzog). Julien often spends his time with people with mental disorders and such including a young, blind figure skater named Chrissy (Chrissy Kobylak) as Julien often rambles on through his schizophrenic state of mind. With Pearl trying to find clothes for her newborn child and doing other activities. During a check-up on her child, a doctor asks who her father is but photos revealed that it was her brother Julien whom she has a maternal relationship with.

Julien's father however, is still dealing with the loss of his wife as he listens to blues records, talk with an armless man, and often abuse Chris in order to make him tougher for his wrestling career. The dysfunctional family often has a hard time dealing with day-to-day struggles as Julien would call his sister, who pretends to be their late mother while Julien continues to embark on strange events with his friends including an albino who claims to be a black albino which he raps about. During a wrestling practice for Chris, it doesn't go well when Julien doesn't want to play along. Julien spends more time alone and with Chrissy whom he falls for despite the fact that she's in her adolescents. When his father finally confronts the dysfunctions, things get really bad as Pearl is forced to defend him despite her own abuse from her father. During a day with Pearl and Chrissy, things go fine until something bad happens that leads to tragedy.

Since the film is a Dogme film in the purest sense of form. The director does break some rules in order to make his story more presentable. One rule which is against superficial action including murder has an opening scene involving murder. Another rule broken is the use of music that's not performed live while a rule involving a woman who isn't really pregnant is also broken due to a prop that wasn't found on location. The fourth rule that got broken was due to some of the camera work where at times, it was immovable and was placed in hidden places which broke the rule that all cameras had to be done and held by hand.

Despite the rules broken that was confessed by the director, the film does still manage to be unique due to its use of still shots, edits, and camera-work to convey the schizophrenic mind of its title protagonist. Though the film has an unconventional narrative by screenwriter Harmony Korine. The film plays like a scenic collection of fragmented stories but the main narrative of this dysfunctional family living with a schizophrenic is still there. Plus, the scenes and events in the film do tell a story that relates to the main plot, or lack thereof. The script and direction by the director works with wonderful style. Particularly through the distorted photography of Anthony Dod Mantle whose camera work is described as ugly at times but layered with beauty. Notably a scene in a skating rink that shows through its distorted, grainy photography its beauty through the scenes.

The editing by Valdis Oskarsdottir is unique in conveying the film's schizophrenic tone along with jump cuts and freeze frame to show the film's still shots. Sound recordist Brian Miksis does some amazing work to capture the film's natural sounds, notably the horror in the film's third act. The music used in the film is a mix of blues, hip-hop, and orchestral music from Puccini and Straus to convey the loneliness of Julien's father.

The film's casting is unique with several actors doing amazing performances including a cameo from indie-rocker Will Oldham, Alvin Law as Julien's father armless friend, and Joyce Korine as the grandmother. Chrissy Kobylak is great as a blind skater who seems very wise and is in fact, blind. Evan Neumann is great as an aspiring wrestler dealing with all of his family dysfunctions and such. Chloe Sevigny is brilliant as Pearl, a young woman who is dealing with her pregnancy as loss as she often plays a harp for the song Freres Jacques.

The legendary Werner Herzog gives an amazing, sprawling performances as an abusive, distraught father who wears a gas mask, drinking cough syrup, and doing all these things. One great scene involves Herzog's description of the film Dirty Harry that is imaginatively told. Ewan Bremner is great as the schizophrenic Julien by sporting gold teeth, an American accent to replace his native Scottish, and doing all sorts of things. His performance is a mixture of chaos and sadness as the depth he brings into this troubled character is truly amazing.

Julien-Donkey Boy is an incredible film that features an amazing cast and extraordinary visuals. It is definitely one of the key films of the Dogme 95 movement as well as one of the most fascinating portrayals about family dysfunction and mental illness. In the end, Julien-Donkey Boy is truly a tremendous film from Harmony Korine.

Harmony Korine Films: Gummo - (Mister Lonely) - (Trash Humpers) - Spring Breakers - (The Trap (2016 film)

© thevoid99 2013

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