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Simon Read [Film Festival 06.23.10] movie review horror drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Werner Herzog
Writers: Werner Herzog ^ Herbert Golder
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 8 out of 10

Ah, Werner! My old friend, so good to have you back again so soon! Herzog's latest since his more mainstream (but still very worthy) Bad Lieutenant remake / adaptation, is an extremely strange tale of a young man who holds-up in his suburban home after possibly committing a murder. The film opens with detectives Vargas and Havenhurst (Michael Pena and Willem Defoe) getting the call, arriving at the scene and trying to patch together exactly what Brad McCullum (Michael Shannon) has done, and who his mysterious 'hostages' are. They interview his fiancée, Ingrid (Chloe Sevingny) and the director of the Greek tragedy he was acting in, Meyers (Udo Kier), and through flashbacks and memories we are told the bizarre tale of Brad, and how he came to carry out a brutal act on the person he loved most in the world.

I wasn't at all sure of what to expect going into the cinema; on the one hand Herzog's older films are unsettling creations, masterpieces of real Film and often he'd risk his life in making them (working with Kinski alone is a life threatening act), but his more recent work has been in documentary form with the great Grizzly Man and Encounters At The End Of The World, that is until he made his own Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans last year which was a wild back comedy, and Cage's best performance since Adaptation. My Son, My Son seems to inhabit a similarly warped world to Bad Lieutenant in that a cameo of Cage hiding behind a police van smoking his lucky crack pipe would not seem at all out of place. It's a very clean and crisp film, but the focus is on the unusual and the other worldly, with these memory vignettes from each character interviewed. We see Brad on an adventure holiday abroad; witnessing the death of his friends in river rapids he warned them not to try traversing. There are domestic scenes in which his mother buys him a piano and he demands a drum-kit, "But I bought you a piano, you always wanted a piano!" she cries - "It's you that's made me not want the piano!" he complains. When he meets and becomes engaged to Ingrid they live together with his extremely overbearing mother - she interrupts their life together constantly and tries to force jell-o pudding on them - they decide to move out. Brad stomps around the neighbourhood where his mother lives and points to random houses, "I'll buy that one!", but Ingrid explains that he has no money, "I plan to come into some money!" he insists. We're not convinced.

The central performance from Shannon is astonishing, as Brad has such a complex personality, always obsessing over his pink flamingos, "My eagles in drag!" he coos. Visiting his uncle's (Brad Dourif - working with Herzog again) ostrich farm and marvelling over the creatures; "They're dinosaurs in drag!" He's a bit like a complicated and fussy mental patient whose link with his mother is strong but stifling, although he seems to need her somewhat stabilizing influence. That is until he secures a part in Sophocles' 'Oresteia', and it sparks something in his mind, so he begins to follow, "his inner voice" and moves to a hotel in order to collect prescription glasses. His dedication to the role in the play and its tragic nature grows, as he feels he needs to inhabit the character fully; "Some people act a role, other play a part". He isn't gullible, as he rejects his extreme sports loving friend's attempt to guide him towards new age spiritualism as he sees it as obviously hokey. There's no clue offered about how his relationship with Ingrid, an innocent suburban girl, actually works. She must just like eccentrics.

Produced by David Lynch (who else?) the film is peppered with his trademark weirdness, such as the near constant flamingos motif, the dull suburban hell, Grace Zabrinskie's adoring mother act, Brad's inability to cry from his left eye only, and Udo's revelation that, "He once cried in a laundrette for four years until they remodelled it and used it for something else..." The Lynch vibe is at its strongest when Dafoe offers Kier and Sevignly a cup of, "Damn good coffee."

It's a tough film to fully categorize but I highly recommend checking it out. Herzog touches on many themes besides murder, such at the physical power of nature, the pleasurable act of voyeurism, guilt and tragedy. Is it freaky? Sure! But it's also thoroughly entertaining stuff and has stayed with me since yesterday. As a last example of the out-there humour of the film, as Havenhurst tries to explain the situation to Ingrid when she arrives on the scene, "We've tried talking to him, but he just keeps pelting us with oatmeal."

You're welcome back any time Werner.

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MrSatyre (12 years ago) Reply

"...a young man who holds-up in his suburban home..."

You mean "holes up". As in: crawling down a hole and pulling it in after you.


Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

This is correct. ... or you could pretend he meant it in a street slang way. As in: "ey yo hold up for a second... in your house."


projectcyclops (12 years ago) Reply

I meant it in a street slang way.


Chris R (11 years ago) Reply

I think many of your reviews are peppered with street slang. Like your use of 'brother'. Or 'pudding'.

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