Sunday, February 21, 2010
MY SON, MY SON, WHAT HAVE YE DONE
A long, long train rolls by behind the credits. Havenhurst and Vargas, two homicide detectives from a different (and better, if more conventional) film, have their morning rounds interrupted by an 1154 call. Someone's dead.
The setup for this long-awaited David Lynch/Werner Herzog collaboration is juicy indeed, including a glancing encounter between Havenhurst (Willem Dafoe) and Brad McCullum (Michael Shannon). But once McCullum barricades himself in his home with a pair of hostages, all we can do is watch as the pieces of McCullum's bizarre history assemble, and wait for the situation to reach a boiling point. Or, in this case, not.
Over the course of the last several years, Herzog has been quickly lapsing into self-parody: the anti-nature ranting and bemusement over his human subjects' folly became tiresome in ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD. But while some of his routine had been skewered by the gonzo energy of Nicolas Cage in THE BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, the familiar Herzog tropes roll by in MY SON, etc. as if on a checklist. Though clearly supported and indulged by producer Lynch here, the styles of the two directors prove less than their sum (and there's some Lynchian checklisting here too, as Grace Zabriskie gives the same performance she's given in every Lynch project she's appeared in since TWIN PEAKS). Herzog tries to accommodate some Lynchian shots of suburban torpor-turned-hell, but his obsession with hard, ego-damaging reality doesn't mesh with Lynch's nightmares.
As for lead Michael Shannon, he offers another dangerously unhinged character to his gallery, but one wonders if he's able to grasp a character whose life is grounded in more conventional psychology. Giving him space here to make the attempt might have lent some context to his escalating derangement, but Shannon plays every scene in the same dully insistent monotone.
There's a growing audience for Herzog's comedy of detachment, and the numerous shots of flamingos and ostriches will surely tickle this crowd (as they did at the screening your proprietor attended). Those hoping that a producer with as strong an auteuristic bent as Herzog's would send him into new territory will be disappointed.
Here's hoping Absurda yields better material with King Shot, if financing allows.