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  Julien Donkey-Boy One For The WinnersBuy this film here.
Year: 1999
Director: Harmony Korine
Stars: Ewen Bremner, Chloë Sevigny, Werner Herzog, Joyce Korine, Evan Neumann, Chrissy Kobylak, Alvin Law, Victor Varnado, Carmel Gayle, Virginia Reath, Mary O'Hara, Brian Fisk, Tony Mullica, Will Oldham
Genre: Drama, Weirdo
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Julien (Ewen Bremner) suffers from extreme schizophrenia, which can lead him to do regrettable things such as what he does today, while out in the countryside. He meets a boy (Brian Fisk) who has found a turtle there and Julien is delighted to see it, but the joy clouds his mind and he attacks the boy, killing him because he does not know his own strength. He buries the body and heads for home, soon forgetting that he ever met his victim never mind murdered him, but with Julien's damaging homelife, which he shares with his father, brother, grandmother and sister, it's not surprising he has ended up the way he has.

For the first American Dogme 95 film, we turn to Harmony Korine who apperently saw the inherent madness in the movement when he applied its rules to his work, reputedly a decision taken shortly before the film was to be shot. If co-instigator of the rules, Lars Von Trier, had made his film The Idiots with normal people pretending to be mentally defective, then Julien Donkey-Boy looked at things from the other perspective, the mentally unfortunate attempting to get along in the world just like "normal" people do. The entire experience takes place through the eyes of the lead character, which does not make for easy viewing.

It's to Bremner's credit that he is never less than convincing in the title role, but then he is assisted at every turn by characters who are either outwardly normal but internally messed up, or those with physical disabilities who are inwardly perfectly fine. Alas for Julien that his immediate family are the most messed up of all those he knows, featuring as they do a spacey Chloë Sevigny as Pearl, the sister he has made pregnant, or Werner Herzog as his plainly insane father, who pushes brother Chris (Evan Neumann) to physical endurance tests for an upcoming wrestling competition.

So as Chris climbs up the stairs of Julien's home with his hands, or is hosed down with freezing water by the father, we follow the protagonist through his typical day, which might include bowling with the blind or simply ranting on street corners. Korine and his crew used hidden cameras to capture Bremner's antics with the public, and judging by the final scenes, the actor was very brave - or lucky not to receive unwanted attention. As with the director's previous film Gummo, there's a sense that you're watching a parade of weirdness for its own sake, and the attempts to tug the heart strings have a queasy mood.

Some of it can be quite funny, as Herzog, for example, is always good for a laugh whether performing bizarre monologues or trying to drink medicine from one of his slippers. The scene where he explains to Julien why his son's ramblings will never be as good as the finale of Dirty Harry has a ring of truth about it, though perhaps not what the filmmakers intended. Elsewhere, there is a blind ice skater (Chrissy Kobylak), armless card tricks from Alvin Law, you can play "Spot the Will Oldham" (the musician is there somewhere) and at the party, Korine offers a valuable record of cigarette magician Tom Mullica's act apropos of nothing much. The insistently grainy and shaky photography may be an approximation of Julien's mindset, but it can make the film too closely resemble the home movies of some hopeless family you're lucky not to have met, and did not represent much of a progression for Korine's ouevre, whether Julien's point of view is reliable or not.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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