- Julien Donkey-Boy
name = Julien Donkey-Boy
image_size = 200px
producer = Scott Macaulay
writer = Harmony Korine
Ewen Bremner Werner Herzog Chloë SevignyEvan Neumann
cinematography = Anthony Dod Mantle
Fine Line Features
released = flagicon|USA 1999
runtime = 97 min.
language = English
amg_id = 1:181285
imdb_id = 0192194
"Julien Donkey-Boy" (1999) is the sixth
filmto be made under the self-imposed rules of the Dogme 95manifesto. Directed by Harmony Korine, it is the first non-European film to be made under the Dogme 95 "vow of chastity".
Flashing a mouthful of fake gold teeth, Julien (
Ewen Bremner) wanders the streets of New York City, mumbling nonsensical syllables to himself. He tries to avoid the abuse of his sadistic, cough syrup guzzling and gas-mask-wearing father ( Werner Herzog). He cracks a young boy’s head open with a rock. He befriends a blind figure skater. He wears a bra and underwearas he wrestles with his younger brother. And his sister, Pearl ( Chloë Sevigny) is pregnant, the father unknown.However, there is more cohesion and depth to this kaleidiscope of odd and sometimes-off-putting scenes than might first meet the eye.
For example, the youngest brother, in an opening montage of each family members' odd routine, is seen crawling up a flight of stairs, using just his hands, shoulders high, dragging his legs, just to make it to the top, stop, and run back down the steps to do it again---a scene situated between the sister dancing to classical music in a blue leotard and white tutu and the father drinking cough syrup to country music, each in their own room. This montage, situated near the beginning of the movie, introduces us to the family and simultaneously scatters the viewer (through odd, beautiful, gritty images), replicating Julien's schizophrenic nature.
This stair-crawling scene is uncontextualized in the beginning and forces the viewer to give it meaning or to see it as meaningless and odd, but as the story unravels, we realize that the father is an uber-abusive torturer, who, in one scene, sprays his shirtless son with cold water from a garden hose, out in the streets of their neighborhood in New York. The father repeatedly tells his son to not be a sissy, tells him not to shiver, tells him that real men don't shiver, and continues to spray him with the hose. As the film continues, it becomes clear that Julien's brother is a wrestler; the father has his son on a backbreaking workout routine and hazes him (with the water hose, and tries to pay his son to wear a dress, etc.) to "make him more tough," but there is something much deeper and darker about his abuse, stemming from a sinister desire for revenge on the son. So when we are reintroduced to the son climbing up the stairs on just his hands, wearing his wrestling singlet, the scene is not strange anymore but painful, depressing, and disturbing. In so many ways, mentally and physically, are the members of this family torn, tormented, and abused.
Writer-director Harmony Korine attempts to show the world through Julien’s eyes: a schizophrenic
kaleidoscopeof images — some hauntingly beautiful, some disturbing and violent. It was the first American film made in accordance with the Danish filmmaking manifesto Dogme 95. Shot on handheld digital video, the film was transferred to 16mm stock before being blown up to 35mm filmfor the final print. Korine used this unique method to give the film a low-definition degraded look.
Korine broke a few of the Dogme 95 rules in making the film. For example,
Dogme 95stipulates that all props must be found at the location of filming. Julien's dead baby is a prop and it is very unlikely that it was found at the hospital. Also, all the camerawork is supposed to be handheld, but this film uses hidden cameras, technically not handheld. Murders are forbidden, but the film opens with a murder. There is also non- diegeticmusic in the ice-skating scene (Oval's "Mediaton" from "Systemisch"), although it sounds like it alternates between diegetic and non-diegetic use. And finally, the director must not be credited; Korine is credited (however, the film only gives his name — it does not say "directed by Harmony Korine", just "Harmony Korine").
Despite these major transgressions, the original Dogme 95 committee endorsed "Julien Donkey-Boy". In an interview on the "Epidemic" DVD,
Lars Von Trier, Dogme 95 co-creator, lauded Korine's ability to interpret the rules creatively.
Samples from the film can be heard on the album "The Great Misanthrope" by a Czech hardcore band Thema Eleven. The same band used samples from "
Gummo", Korine's older movie, on their previous effort "DCLXVI: Choose Your Beast".
The song "Julien", by [http://www.myspace.com/bearhandsband Bear Hands] , makes repeated reference to the film.
* [http://www.harmony-korine.com/paper/main/f_julien.html Julien Donkey-Boy at Harmony-Korine.com]
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