Plot: What’s it about?
Julien (Ewen Bremner) has some problems. You see, he seems like a normal enough person, but in fact…he doesn’t seem that normal at all. Julien looks strange, acts strange, thinks strange, and in truth, he even smells strange. But Julien doesn’t bring all these problems onto himself, as he was born with many of them and even with all sorts of help, he is doomed to live with his ailments. In addition to being a plain old offbeat fellow, Julien is a schizophrenic and as a result, his friends and family must deal with his problems as well. His father (Werner Herzog) has some issues also, but they stem from Julien’s troubles, which anger and frustrate him to no mortal end. In this world filled with chaos driven poetry, all sorts of abuse, and all kinds of other problems, what will become of this family and their troubles?
After his work on Kids (writer) and Gummo (writer/director), I was looking forward to Harmony Korine’s next piece, Julien Donkey-Boy. This film was made under the Dogme rules of filmmaking, which means the very basics are in effect, but little else. As much of the natural scenes as possible is captured, which seems like a good idea, but here, it simply marks the picture down. This one is loaded down with unusual moments and strange characters, but it all seems very forced here, which sort of lowers the value. It seems as though Korine tried to outdo Gummo with offbeat tones, but it just doesn’t pan out here. I do love the basic premise and the acting though, which help keep the movie from being a total disaster. I suppose this is a decent overall film, but Korine tries too hard here and it shows, as it lacks the natural feel present in Gummo. I usually like unusual cinema, but in this case, offbeat does not equal artistic or great. The limitations of the Dogme format also impose problems on this one, which doesn’t help things too much. This is not as good as Gummo, but it is worth a look and I am very pleased New Line has given this title a disc.
I think the cast here is headed up by three performers, who form a strong basis for the film as a whole. I remembered Ewen Bremner (Snatch, Pearl Harbor) from his role in Trainspotting, so I was impressed when I saw his work here. Aside from the loss of the thick accent, he also takes on a whole different persona here, sometimes to eerie levels in fact. Bremner seems so natural and real in this role, it can make you wonder at times and that is very impressive. I think he has a solid future ahead of him and I hope to see him in more roles sooner, rather than later. Although he is best known for his direction, Werner Herzog works as an actor here and simply put, his performance is incredible. Perhaps I am biased as I am a serious fan of his, but man, Herzog seems very believable here and that shocked me somewhat. The third member of the film’s lead trio is Chloe Sevigny (The Last Days of Disco, A Map of the World), who is good by all means, but fails to keep up with the other two, which makes her look a little off. Nonetheless, these three form a more than solid core, which is more than enough to carry this motion picture, even with Korine’s less than stellar direction.
Video: How does it look?
Julien Donkey-Boy is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This film was shot on digital video, so it looks rough and with some visual limits from the Dogme regime, the image looks even rougher at times. You can tell this was shot on digital, as the image looks hazy, foggy, and murky at times, never does this effort seem as though it were shot on film, which is a shame. The colors and contrast are thrown off as well, thanks to the equipment and techniques used here. In the end, this looks pretty much like a home video film and since that is pretty much what it is, I suppose New Line has done the best they could with the materials.
Audio: How does it sound?
As I am sure you can imagine, this film has little in terms of dynamic audio presence, so don’t expect to showcase your system with this disc. The included track is a front channel based presentation, but it seems to handle the material well enough. The music and sound effects come off well enough, but again, this isn’t the kind of film to test your system with. The dialogue sounds good also, but the equipment used doesn’t offer the crispest vocals, which can be distracting at times. But I think this sounds much like it should, so all is well in the end. This disc also houses English subtitles, which are always nice to have on deck.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a fifteen minute behind the scenes featurette, which includes cast & crew interviews, as well as some clips from the flick. I do like the interviews, but this seems like the usual promotional shorts we’re used to, which is a let down. You can also view two deleted sequences, some talent files, and the film’s theatrical trailer.