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      Julien Donkey Boy
    It's not that easy being grainy

    The twisted family of "Julien Donkey-Boy" is captured — in a concept pioneered by Danish directors — in low-res, jerky, cinema-verite fashion by the mind behind "Kids" and "Gummo."


    Harmony Korine — co-writer of "Kids" and maker of "Gummo" — borrows a concept from some experimental Danish directors in a bid to show America's most messed-up family in "Julien Donkey-Boy."

    Written and directed by: Harmony Korine.
    Cast: Ewen Bremner, Chloe Sevigny, Werner Herzog, Evan Neumann.

    Related links: Official site
    The Danish concept is Dogma 95 (in Danish, Dogme 95), under which directors swear to make films with no artifice — using one handheld camera with one mounted light, no special effects, no sound dubbing, no props, and so on. (You can check the Dogme 95 web site for the movement's whole manifesto.) The result in the first Dogma film, last year's amazing "The Celebration," seemed to be just what the Danes envisioned: a hard-hitting no-nonsense story in which the rules set the filmmakers free and all the energy went into the story and the acting. The occasional jerkiness or graininess of the picture doesn't get in the way.

    "Julien Donkey-Boy" doesn't quite work that way. Korine doesn't make a carefully structured movie within his technical limitations — he blows the plot to pieces and exults in the fractured film quality as shards of shattered story clatter across the screen. He takes the Dogma idea and uses it in his own way.

    That's not to make "Julien" out to be a work of supreme idiosyncratic genius — let's just say it's hard to forget. It's scene after scene of disturbing behavior by members of an extremely troubled family. Julien (Ewen Bremner of "Trainspotting") is a gawky young man who rants on the street and is capable of wit, affection and shockingly unfeeling brutality. His pregnant sister Pearl (Chloe Sevigny of "Kids," "Gummo" and the current "Boys Don't Cry") is at least enough in touch with reality to go to the doctor and buy baby clothes, but she's an eager participant in the family fantasy life. The father (director Werner Herzog), who remains unnamed throughout the film, rides herd on all his kids but especially on Chris (Evan Neumann), a strapping high-schooler who is fighting a losing battle between trying to achieve normalcy in the outside world and coping with the insanity at home. This father-son relationship is a carbon-copy of the one in the movie "Shine," but in a setting that's closer to "Eraserhead" or "Freaks."

    Korine deserves to be taken seriously for creating an uncompromising film that merges pictures, sound, characters and style into a daring vision. But most people who see "Julien Donkey-Boy" will leave the theater disturbed and it will take a special kind of odd-movie aficionado to appreciate the feeling.

    OCTOBER 15, 1999

    Reader comments on Julien Donkey Boy:

  • julien donkey boy   from elmore dangerass, Jan 12, 2001
  • Re: julien donkey boy   from Vulvaland, Apr 19, 2001

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