Monday, November 2, 2009

Oh, no you didn't...

In his admonishing response to Manola Darghis' scathing review of the upcoming release Gentlemen Broncos, Richard Brody (of New Yorker magazine) went too far in his appraisal of director Jared Hess, no matter how good or bad that particular movie may be.

In light of the gratuitous bodily function jokes apparently present in Broncos, Brody claims the director that Jared Hess is most similar to--in all of film history--is none other than philosophical Italian provocateur Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Huh? Yeah. Peep this:
But then, she also thinks that Benjamin (Michael Angarano), the teen-ager at the film’s center—a science-fiction fantasist whose work is pilfered by a blocked, aging novelist and by a pair of local filmmakers—is a “rotten writer.” In fact, he’s the author of a new gospel, and Hess’s wondrously ingenuous filming of Benjamin’s visions are both as sublime and as crudely carnal as scripture itself. The grotesque bodily functions, human, animal, and alien, that the movie depicts unflinchingly—as well as the “unpleasant, unattractive characters” Dargis says the film is filled with—are the point. It’s easy to present the beautiful people and the scrubbed world as divine creations; Hess’s vision sacralizes what other filmmakers don’t. The director he’s closest to in this regard is Pier Paolo Pasolini (and Pasolini, too, had an extraordinary sense of the naïve, the repellent, and the ridiculous).
Now, I don't know how many of you are familiar with Pasolini's work, but it is nothing like Napolean Dynamite, Nacho Libre, or Gentlemen Broncos. Nothing. Unless you find semi-amusing fart jokes and frightening, ritualistic depravity to prove a philosophical point one and the same.

Comparing Jared Hess to Pier Paolo Pasolini simply because they both made movies about outcasts living on the fringes of society is like comparing Scorsese to Taxi director James Burrows because they both made projects involving taxi drivers. There is nothing funny about Pasolini's depravity; there is nothing insightful about Hess' fart jokes.

Here is a quick recap of Jared Hess' life and works:

He is a 30 year-old heterosexual Mormon who studied film at Brigham Young University, is married to his college sweetheart, Jerusha Hess, has one child, lives in Salt Lake City, and has co-written and directed three feature-length oddball-comedies with his wife, one of which (Napolean Dynamite) became a cult hit.

Now, here is a quick recap of Pier Paolo Pasolini's life:

He studied literature and philosophy in college, was drafted into WWII, escaped from a Nazi prison to join his mother as a teacher of children in remote villages, was persecuted by the state due to his homosexuality and candor, became an accomplished poet, journalist, novelist, playwright, photographer, filmmaker, linguist, and political activist, troublesomely preached that a shift to communism was the only way to save Italy, had most of his films censored at one time or another due to their stark exploration of the depressing lives people led in the suburbs of Rome and their focus on sexual themes, and was brutally murdered by being repeatedly run over by his own car on a beach near Rome, not long before the premiere of what Time Out recently dubbed "The Most Controversial Film of All Time," Salo, his magnificent and horrifying adaptation of the the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom, in which he calls out fascism for being not unlike sadomasochism.

Okay, so...a sheltered and ignorant Mormon (a Mormon, for Christ's sake!) out for cheap laughs by exploring the fictional lives of losers living on the fringes of society in Middle America is supposed to be comparable to a notoriously revolutionary, oft-censored, communist homosexual Italian poet/filmmaker who unflinchingly documented the darker side of humanity in his starkly realistic explorations of the depths of the mind and its potential for depravity? An artist whom intellectuals still revere 34 years after his death?

Ich don't think so, Richard Brody...

The confused Richard Brody


Sweet Jane said...

I still think it's weird that Napoleon Dynamite became the hit it did. We all had some version of that guy in homeroom, and it always struck me as deeply unsettling when I saw the jocks running around in "Pedro for President" shirts while slamming nerds around in the hallway.

That said, what if Hess reads this post, has a much needed soul assessment on his position as an artist, and does a Napoleon Dynamite/Salo mash-up? I'd love to see that dancing asshole in the shit eating sequence...

Karl said...

I think what this critic was trying to say was that watching "Nacho Libre" is metaphorically like being forced to eat shit, a la "Salo."

Goodtime Charlie said...


You said it--I stand corrected.