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Overall Rating
3.74

Awesome47.62%
Worth A Look: 11.9%
Average: 21.43%
Pretty Bad: 4.76%
Total Crap: 14.29%

3 reviews, 24 user ratings


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Julien Donkey-Boy
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by Dr Nick

"Hail King Julian"
5 stars

Harmony Korineís follow-up to Gummo, is one of the most honest and moving portrayal of mental illness ever put on screen. Slightly more accessible than Gummo, this should have given Korine the attention he deserves. But, as usual when it comes to truly original films, not many people could be bothered to see it. Which is a shame, as Julien Donkey-Boy is a modern masterpiece and the world is in terrible need of more films like this.

Ewen Bremner is almost scarily convincing as the schizophrenic Julian, who struggles to find his place in the world and in his own family. Having impregnated his sister Pearl (Chloe Sevigny), Julien spends most of his days with the less fortunate in life. After all, this is a Harmony Korine film, so most of the characters are people overlooked in the majority of films. Julienís universe is populated by armless drummers, people with various visual impairments and albinos. Together they provide a world where he can feel at home. When around his friends, Julian is calm and responsible. It is mostly when he is alone with his own thoughts or with his family that the schizophrenia really shows. His dominant and impatient father (played superbly by Werner Herzog) is to blame for much of Julianís behaviour. Without support and by constantly being subjected to criticism, Julien retreats to his own room, playing out role games with himself, where he can be in control of the situation. One involves Julian as King Julian, hanging out with Adolf Hitler and warning Adolf from showing his identity to the rest of the family, as they might not approve of Julian dealing with known nazis. While scenes like these are often very funny, they are delicately executed and at the same time very moving. Julien's sister Pearl is the only one that understands him in the family, and she plays along with his games, by phoning him and pretending to be their dead mother etc. However, their relationship is far more complex than just a simple-brother relationship, and although we're never explicitly told, we know that Julien is the father of Pearl's child. Julien's brother Chris wants to become a professional wrestler, something their dominant father supports and tries to stop at the same time. Subjecting Chris to various cruel treatments to improve his skills, the insults are never far away. The father is an extremely complex character, still in mourning of his dead wife. When he's is not dishing out insults or trying to discipline (actually, he gets other family members to do the disciplining) he wears gas masks and tries to get high by consuming various types of medications. And finally there's the grandmother (played by Joyce Korine, Harmony's own grandmother), an old woman who spends most of the film looking confused or playing with the family dog, Punky. So, all in all, your standard American family then? Well, not really, but while the characters might seem extreme in print, they are treated with utmost respect by Korine and like in Gummo, he manages to make the surreal seem real.

Julien Donkey-Boy was the first American film to be released with a Dogme-95 certificate, meaning that Korine had various rules imposed on him while making the film. In this case none of the rules seem to have any great limitations on the film, and it feels like it would have turned out exactly the same way without Lars Von Trier and his Danish comradeís strict rules. So, even if the Dogme certificate might have been more a publicity thing than anything else, it is still comforting that the first American Dogme film is at least as good as the original Danish ones.

Shot on digital video, under the supervision of DV master cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (whoís been responsible for the look of several other Dogme films, as well as Lars von Trierís Dogville and Danny Boyleís 28 Days Later), Julien Donkey-Boy has an almost hypnotic quality to it. Saturated colours and frantic editing gives the film a surreal, yet extremely realistic feel. With digital video thereís always room for experimentation and the film makes full use of hidden cameras, subjective cameras and still images to create subtle yet effective scenes.

Personally, I think this is one of the best (if not the best) digital films ever made, and is definitely a must-see for anyone with the slightest interest in independent cinema. As with Gummo, it may not be everyoneís cup of tea and the public persona of Harmony Korine is probably enough to put many people off the film. But to miss out on this would be a great shame, as Julien Donkey-Boy deserves to be seen, over and over again.

I cannot praise this film enough. This and Gummo has changed the way I look at films, and they both still fill me with an enormous sense of excitement. In a world where people consider Troy to be intelligent cinema, we really need people like Harmony Korine.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2235&reviewer=345
originally posted: 06/11/04 21:17:20
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User Comments

9/23/11 PAUL SHORTT WEIRD AND SORDID 2 stars
10/19/06 Indrid Cold The artiness is there in spades, but is a plot too much to ask for? 2 stars
7/30/06 Monique Fuckingfantastic!, Great acting Herzog and Bremmer. 5 stars
9/18/04 John great film, you need to be open-minded to enjoy this one 5 stars
8/16/04 tatum 100 minutes you'll never get back; Korine, leave the public alone! 1 stars
10/09/03 Goofy Maxwell Like watching Sycamore fam. from "U can't take it w/ U" w/ crack'd psyche & indifference. 3 stars
7/15/03 Eric Not the average film experience. Leave stale hollywood expectations behind 4 stars
5/28/03 clara beautiful and shocking 5 stars
5/14/03 If you're stupid, go and watch star wars The moral ambiguity of a touching incestual relationship is gorgeous. Beautiful 5 stars
4/18/03 Vambo Drule I thought it was a documentary. 4 stars
10/13/02 "Yes the shit." Worth seeing Herzog alone! Poor white folks epic. Must of cost a like 2 grand to shoot. 4 stars
3/06/02 Veronica Foxx aka The Raven-Haired Temptress Julien: Donkey Boy sucks Donkey Dick! 1 stars
8/19/01 Harmony Korine (the densest one) Worst piece of shit I have ever seen and I pump septic tanks. 1 stars
8/01/01 David Lynch Harmony can only shoot characters he feel superior to - in his case, retarded white trash. 1 stars
5/13/01 kenstillman While I watched this piece of crap, I felt like I was committing a criminal act 1 stars
5/05/01 Matt Carlson His most well done film yet.. Innovative use of camera. Great acting. Quite an experience. 5 stars
4/10/01 Dominique Leger crazy. harmony rawks my world. 5 stars
4/10/01 shankar equal parts pretentious, non sensical, pseudo intellectual bullshit and visual poetry 3 stars
4/05/01 Toktela Poetry in motion..Hypnotic...Genius 5 stars
3/07/01 J.Arcane Top show. A bit lighter than Gummo, but not much. 4 stars
3/01/00 Ionicera This is a different one 4 stars
2/22/00 The Mudshark Hated "Kids", Gummo was okay. This is a masterpiece. The story was straightforward, too. 5 stars
11/08/99 Max Kline Kids sucked...Gummo was even worse. Korine is a poser. 1 stars
10/16/99 Mr Showbiz Too experimental and random to satisfy. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Oct-1999 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Harmony Korine

Written by
  Harmony Korine

Cast
  Ewen Bremner
  ChloŽ Sevigny
  Werner Herzog



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