Directed by Harmony Korine
Written by Harmony Korine
Produced by Cary Woods
Cast: Ewen Bremmer, Chloë Sevigny, Werner Herzog, Evan Neumann & Joyce Korine
1999/94 mins/Color/Dolby Digital Stereo
1:85.1/English/US/NTSC Region 1
Review from the New Line Home Entertainment DVD
JULIEN DONKEY-BOY is based on Harmony Korine's disturbed schizophrenic Uncle Eddy, who he originally wanted to cast for the role of Julien but with him being in a mental institution, it wasn't possible. Instead (after many visits with Uncle Eddy to understand his complexity, speech and mannerisms) Ewen Bremmer, of TRAINSPOTTING fame, was perfectly cast for the role.
The film is seen through the eyes of Julien, where we observe everything from a schizophrenic's distorted point of view. Ewen Bremmer executes a remarkable performance as Julien who sometimes shouts things as people pass in the street. His monologues are often weird and jumbled as a schizophrenic would be, but we also recognize that he is bursting with love. We see an individual with a mental illness portrayed as realistically as possibly - something one would never see from Hollywood - the scary, often ugly sides of mental illness, and simply not the cutesy drooler that is predominantly portrayed.
Julien lives with an assortment of interesting characters - his father, played by infamous German director Werner Herzog (NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE), who drinks medicine for a "natural high", and listens to bluegrass constantly while wearing a gas mask - his brother Chris (Evan Neumann), who is obsessed with wrestling and working out but appears to be pretty normal - his sister Pearl, played by Korine's (at the time) real-life girlfriend Chloë Sevigny (KIDS, GUMMO, KEN PARK), who enjoys playing the harp and is pregnant by Julien - and his Grandmother who is Korine's real-life grandma who loves her little doggy.
Life at home seems normal to the family, but for people on the outside it would appear quite dysfunctional. Herzog's character is obsessed with his son Chris being a "winner". He sprays him with a hose and says to put up with it and not shiver, "Winners don't shiver", asking him to balance, one-legged on a glass, while trying to pick up a cigarette in his mouth - to become a winner. Chris strives to be a "winner", moving up and down stairs with only the use of his arms, then to repeat it several times, as well as practicing wrestling on garbage cans. The family has their meals together where they sit, eat and converse. One occasion Julien recites a poem out of no where (showing the peculiarity of the characters), and his father says it's too "artsy-fartsy" for his liking, explaining about a scene he likes in DIRTY HARRY.
JULIEN DONKEY-BOY was filmed handheld with video cameras, props on set, no artificial lighting, no over dubs and so on, closely based upon Dogma 95, a certain Dutch way of filmmaking. In many scenes, the actors perform with real-life people while hidden spy cams are running which adds realism to the film. The use of DV gives a unique quality to the picture.
Besides Julien's immediate family, the movie also documents many other interesting people including a man that is a master with multiple cigarettes (he can light several, put them all inside his mouth, light more and so on), an albino black rapper, as well as an armless man that uses his feet and legs as his missing appendages. As I watched him, I was reminded of a man I went to see perform in my junior high school days at my local Arts & Culture Center. It just so happens that this was the very man named Alvin Law (who can also be seen in the X-FILES). Watch that sucker go, as he plays the drums with his feet!
This film will not be well received by the average moviegoer. Many possibly may be offended by it. Many will be bored with it, but what do you expect when most moviegoers attend Hollywood action movies mindlessly awaiting CGI explosions and cheesy one-liners! Similar to GUMMO in the way it carries a non-linear storyline, it also differs. JULIEN DONKEY-BOY is a catalog of images presented for our viewing enjoyment, but with more structure then Korine's first feature effort.
The saddening and harrowingly realistic ending is truly profound, and truly depressing. If you didn't enjoy GUMMO, you should still give this a try. If you are a Harmony Korine fan, why haven't you seen this film yet? You've got a lot of catching up to do - a North American release of KEN PARK should be right around the corner.
New Line presents JULIEN DONKEY-BOY anamorphic widescreen with a 1:85.1 aspect ratio. Due to being shot DV the film contains grain, but adds to the feel of the film. The authoring is top notch with no noticeable artifacting. The audio is presented in English 2.0 Stereo Surround and for a DV feature such as this it's great, with clear sound throughout its duration.
For the supplemental we get a Featurette titled 'The Confessions of Julien Donkey-Boy' which consists of interviews with a White Snake t-shirt clad Harmony Korine, Ewen Bremmer, and Chloë Sevigny. It's short, but it was cool to be able to hear a little of what Harmony and the others had to say about the film. Additionally there are two deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer and cast and crew filmographies. Even though I like the screen capture used for the cover of the DVD, the film is packaged poorly in a snapper case (ending with the plastic keeping the DVD in place, crumbling to bits no longer functioning the way it should).
This Film Features:
Review by Chris Mayo. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©