Only the lonely

Mister Lonely (DVD)

After 9 years spent in relative obscurity since directing his last feature, Julien Donkey-Boy, Harmony Korine has returned with a noticeable change in style and approach.

Mister Lonely, co-written with his brother, Avi Korine, tells the story of a young Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) who roams the streets of Paris and falls in love with a beautiful Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Samantha Morton). We learn almost nothing about what has lead these characters to such a peculiar fate, but things do become somewhat clear once Marilyn convinces Michael to join her commune of impersonators in the Scottish Highlands. Michael, reluctant at first, is charmed by the tales of this magical land, and with the prospect of being closer to his new friend.

The Harmony Korine of 9 years ago might have used this setup as a starting point to unleash an assortment of perverts, glue-freaks, black albinos, and amputees on the viewer, but it becomes clear he wants to get away from his nihilistic reputation, and away from the lifestyle that came along with it.

Rather than an opposing storyline, Korine chooses to string visual metaphors against the film’s main narrative. This is where famous German director Werner Herzog makes an appearance as an obstinate but compassionate Catholic priest, who is either intent on convincing a group of South American nuns that they can fly or hell-bent on orchestrating their destruction en-masse. This sub-plot of sorts contains some breathtaking shots of nuns riding bicycles through the sky which give the film a heavy-handed sense of wonder. Things don’t stay there for long though, and soon we have an extended take of a young Buckwheat impersonator riding a donkey through the woods proclaiming his love for chicken breasts.

To sum it up, this is among Korine’s best work. While it doesn’t touch Gummo in terms of cinematic recklessness and doesn’t have the cultural relevance of Kids (Directed by Larry Clark but which Korine wrote at age 19) however, its comment on identity and the process of ridding oneself of self-destructive dreams is a well-crafted, often hilarious, work of introspection.

Also note, guys, that stirring feeling in your shorts every time Samantha Morton appears on screen is perfectly natural.

Check out the DVD for about an hour’s worth of extra footage including a drop-dead funny routine of Michael and a bonkers Abe Lincoln (played brilliantly by Richard Strange) dancing with a megaphone, as well as a making-of featurette.

Colin Browne

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