Equally respected and reviled, Harmony Korine has quickly established himself as one of the most unique voices in cinema today. As the screenwriter of "Kids" and the director of "Gummo", his gritty, non-linear approach to the cinematic form has created a chasm between those who embrace him and those who would rather dismiss him.
With his most recent effort, "Julien Donkey-Boy", - the first American film to be certified by the Danish Dogme group - Korine has created a surreal and disturbingly beautiful film about a young man trying to find a place in a world he doesn't quite seem to fit into. Armed with a minimal script outline, an arsenal of digital cameras and Lars Von Trier and company's "Dogme 95" guidelines, Korine's film glimpses into the life of Julien (Ewan Bremner) and his very dysfunctional family. Troubled by the voices in his head, Julien occupies a world made up of his overbearing father (filmmaker Werner Herzog), a wrestling-obsessed brother (Evan Neumann), the bind people who he works with and his loving sister (Chloe Sevigney) who provides Julien with the mother that he misses so much.
Much like "Gummo" before it, "Julien Donkey-Boy" is largely comprised of a series of images and scenes that manage to convey a story that all the words in the world could never tell. Korine's fractured-narrative style has been dismissed by some as being merely odd for oddity's sake. It is, however, his radical approach to film making that allows Korine's films to transcend the restrictions of traditional cinematic form and create a world for the viewer that is indicative of the characters he wishes to portray. Somewhat odd or raw and sometimes even ugly, the images in his film have a haunting beauty that sticks with you for a long time after you see them.
Like the previous films made under the "Dogme" guidelines ("Ceremony" and "The Idiots"), "Julien Donkey-Boy" is not an easy watch. It is, however, a rewarding cinematic experience. By stripping cinema to the barest essentials, the "Dogme" films allow for a creativity level that has been absent from films for quite some time. The filmmaker must challenge himself to tell his story with out the aid or benefit of a ton of postproduction and effects.
With "Julien Donkey-Boy" Harmony Korine has created a touching and disturbing film that further establishes him as one of the most unique talents working in the cinema today. Not for the squeamish or those who are not admirers of Korine's past efforts, "Julien Donkey-Boy" is a film not easily forgotten and an amazing experience for anyone looking for an alternative to increasingly middle of the road cinema.
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