Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Venice 2009: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

Inspired by true incidents and told mainly in flashback, this absurdist crime story/film noir may have been directed by Werner Herzog but bares all hallmarks of executive producer David Lynch.

Shown as the surprise selection in the Official Competition, the film centres on the clearly mentally disturbed Brad (Michael Shannon), a San Diego resident who’s killed his overbearing, flamingo-obsessed mother (Lynch regular Grace Zabriskie) in a neighbours’ house with a samurai sword then holed up across the road in theirs, having apparently taken two hostages. Outside, the police, led by Willem Dafoe’s detective, try to talk Brad into giving himself up with the help of Brad’s girlfriend, Ingrid (Chloe Sevigny) and, later, a friend Lee (Udo Kier), an amateur dramatics director for whom Brad had been due to star in a play, a Greek tragedy no less, about a man who kills his mother.

Mining Herzog’s cinematic back catalogue for inspiration (Shannon takes a trip into the Peruvian jungle to go white-water rafting) as well as Lynch’s (there’s a dwarf and much conversation about coffee) the film is evidently aiming for wacky and zany but winds up tedious and banal, with Kier, Shannon, Zabriskie and Brad Dourif, as Brad’s ostrich-farmer uncle, all clearly competing to see who appear more bonkers and deranged. The winner, by a nose, is Zabriskie.

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