February 10, 2011

Rabid Rewind: "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done"

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
starring Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny
directed by Werner Herzog
Industrial Entertainment (2010)

I found this first-time collaboration between Werner Herzog and David Lynch to be to less a psychological thriller than a scatological bore.

Perhaps not liking this film makes me a dullard, but I don't think it's unreasonable to want a psychological thriller to be at least a little bit thrilling. Alfred Hitchcock managed to do that time and time again, and while I not well-versed in the works of Lynch or Herzog, I would imagine they each know what they're doing to maintain their careers for so long. Oh, this is a weird tale based loosely on true events, and the source material is rich, but this ninety minutes of film would be better served as an enhanced interrogation technique than a feature film.

Michael Shannon plays a supremely odd and unsettling actor who murders his mother with a sword, essentially living out the role he plays in a Greek tragedy. I can say that his performance is commendable and probably the one redeeming thing I can recall from this movie. But the character is played so morosely and in such an antisocial manner, the idea that those closest to him don't have him committed is hard to believe. His fiance (Sevigny) simply stands by awkwardly as his mental state diminishes day by day, and his director spends more time fretting over the performance on stage than his manic nature everywhere else. His elderly, doting mother is the only one who eventually shows any signs of genuine concern, but by the time she's convinced she should do anything about him, he runs her through with a sword.

The cast is so stellar as the opening credits rolled by, I am astounded at how the finished product could be so utterly tiresome. The only thing worse than the film itself was the DVD extra, a featurette called "Plastic Bag." Do you remember that scene in American Beauty where that weird emo kid is videotaping a plastic bag in the wind and reveling at how wonderful it is? Well imagine an entire short film dedicated to the life cycle of a plastic bag--all the way to the landfill and beyond.

I must be a cretin, because after fifty minutes of this movie I was completely withdrawn emotionally and praying for it to end, even going to so far as to watch the rest of the film at 1.5X speed just to expedite the torture. If you have seen this film and liked it, please leave a comment informing me of where my ignorance lies. How does a movie with so many amazing ingredients leave such a bad taste in my mouth?

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