8 January 2010 | Quinoa1984
an example of the parts far outweighing the whole
"It's all a little confusing." No kidding. When you get a movie that says "David Lynch presents a Werner Herzog film", you know you'll be in for some weirdness. Though by the film's end I was under the impression, perhaps from being such a geek about both director's work (I've seen all of Lynch, most of Herzog) that it was more the Bavarian's doing and that Lynch wanted his name with it. Which is fine, but fans will find their interpretations as they will. For me it's a continuation not so much of a crime genre story like Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans, but of Herzog's oeuvre in general about man's plunge and practical capture by madness due to nature (i.e. Peruvian jungle). And for fans of the director, it should be quite an event to be able to possible walk from one theater in NYC or LA playing Port of Call New Orleans to see another playing My Son My Son.
And yet, for all of the good stuff going on in this film, I might be more inclined to recommend the crazy-but-lucid head-trip of Port of Call over the hit-or-miss affair of My Son My Son. In this case we get the story of Brad, a sometimes-actor who takes a cue from a Sophocles play he's acting in to kill his mother one morning with a sword he used as a prop for the play. As the cops surround his house (not knowing that he really has flamingos as hostages, naturally, named after Secretaries in the Johnson administration), his girlfriend and play director expound about his decline in his mental capacity. Some of this comes from his unhealthy relationship with his black jello making mother, and some of it from his disillusioned trip to Peru, surrounded by health freaks. Or, perhaps, something else triggered it that Herzog intentionally leaves a mystery.
Which, the mystery part I mean, would be perfectly fine. But the problem comes in the screenplay, and some of the acting, both counts that from time to time have given trouble in Herzog's work. The set-ups of the flashbacks are often unconvincing, and there's a disconnect I felt between Michael Shannon's character and his girlfriend played by Chloe Sevigny (I don't often beg for explanation, but really, why are they together, how did they meet, WTF man). And, sad to say for someone who always admires the weirdness, it almost goes to extremes into becoming meandering, a facet of Herzog's work that comes up from time to time, such as Even Dwarfs Started Small or Invincible.
But oh, such parts that make up this whole! When Herzog is able to really relay to a willing audience about Shannon's frame of mind through images, and how to construct the shots and landscapes of San Diego city or a Calgary interior "tunnel" or just random images like a piano playing by itself, it's truly wonderful. Hell, we even get images I hadn't recalled since Fata Morgana, where he has his characters intentionally (ala Brecht) stand in a frozen pose as if it's a freeze-frame, with eerie music accompanying them, and every so often you'll see an eye move or control of the body start to waver. What kind of balance is there for this character, or for the story about him? That the cinematography from Peter Zeitlinger is top-notch and surprising also should go without saying.
And yet saying it's somewhat of a disappointment from such a massive genius of cinema- and whether you like him or hate him Herzog's place in modern movies is wildly unique- I hope would mean as a compliment. Like, say, Synecdoche, New York, it's got incredible sights and moments, things of this world we haven't seen in a film in a while (or maybe ever) like ostrich farms and a 1920's gospel song put over cops with their hands up in a hostage scene. I just wish it didn't get TOO weird for me.