31 May 2008

I Didn't Know You, Harmony Korine

Mister Lonely is, I suppose, a Harmony Korine film about professional impersonators, but I've been thinking about it for a week as brilliant shot after brilliant shot and hard time finding a brilliant shot to end on. Just a partial list: the hypnotic opening scene with Diego Luna/MJ trailing a kite likeness behind the tiny motorbike. That could have gone on forever and I would have stayed in my seat, starving. The iconic MJ and Marilyn Monroe walk through the park, shot with so much affection it burst into the theatre. The sequence of Marilyn in creek, slo-mo-ing her blown skirt moment. And none of those can even compare to the mind-blowing Buckwheat astride the miniature pony shot. The strangest fairy tale magic I’ve ever seen. I need to see again, to memorize more of his monologue/conflation of chicken, chicken breasts and women. Wow.

Some other brilliant scenes, like Abe Lincoln (I liked the impersonators picked for this film a lot: Lincoln, the Pope and the Queen over Elvis and Spiderman) spinning the red white and blue basketball in the strobe light, are somehow extraneous to the line of the film. But how can you really blame Harmony Korine, who came up with the best “I can’t believe they did not just kiss” scene in a while. Marilyn strolls into Michael’s room at the impersonator commune in sheepish Scottish country, rocking fabulous blue and yellow rollers and a bowl of strawberries (all the primaries nicely represented). The camera alternates between longing stares and slow bites of berry, Michael getting so close to her lips. And she turns out the door, loyal somehow to the brilliantly-acted asshole husband, Charlie Chaplin.

Much to my surprise, Korine brought Wong Kar-Wai to mind with the decadence, the bizarre lushness of the Highlands. This film has nowhere near the rhythm and timing of, say, 2046, but just pulling out individual sequences the comparison is there. Mister Lonely is surprisingly without memorable music (no “Billie Jean,” no “Man in the Mirror”) and so loses another chance to be inescapable. Post-2046 I hear Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” and see slow-motion ‘60’s Hong Kong (and that song kind of had a strong theme to it beforehand). But maybe I can just admit that I really wanted Korine sucker me with some Sam Cooke song.

It seemed the intrepid director could not quite find an ending to Lonely and gave us several. I could have cut things after the performance of the impersonator troupe. The horrible interruption of their wan singing walk home would have made a startling, true finish. Or I should have cut after the talking nesting doll sequence. Instead we get Michael wandering football-mad Paris as not-Michael (a “no one” according to his absurd impersonator “agent”). There is a voiceover I can’t remember and a loss of the power wielded throughout the film.

And what about the flying nuns??? We have Werner Herzog at full Loch Ness froth as a completely unbelievable and magnetic priest pushing nuns into the back of a prop plane from which the sky dive in sky blue habits. It’s lovely. I have no clue what it might mean, accept the connection of free-falling into death.

If nothing else, Mister Lonely makes me keen for the next Korine film. Having only seen, and been alarmed by, Gummo in my younger and more vulnerable years, it’s amazing that now have him at the top of my informal “directors to watch” list.

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