Wednesday, September 15, 2010


There's never been a "cop film" quite like Werner Herzog's engrossing and bizarre My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?. I use the phrase "cop film" loosely because, as usual, Herzog subverts all your genre expectations, and has created a surreal, fascinating look at a man descending deeper and deeper into madness. Michael Shannon is incredible (when is he not?); he's able to convey "fucking crazy" better than any other actor out there. From his darting, menacing eyes to the way his jaw clenches when he's thinking really hard, Shannon has the market cornered on "obsessive/crazy." The plot is inspired by real-life events: a mentally disturbed man murders his mother with a samurai sword. Willem Dafoe and Michael Pena are cops who are called to the murder scene as Shannon has taken hostages and his holed up in a house across from his mother's. The film flashes back to show Shannon's fractured psyche and all of the events that contributed to him him reaching his breaking point (not the least of which was his freak-show mother). My Son, My Son was produced by David Lynch, and yes, it does have a Lynchian imprint at times. But this is Herzog's movie all the way. From the Peruvian jungle bits (was that stuff based on fact?) to the African bushmen to the stuff with the ostriches to the way Shannon resembles Klaus Kinski, this is yet another instance of Herzog unleashing another damaged -- yet incredibly interesting -- soul on the big screen and letting the audience take a trip to a truly weird place. So much seemingly random stuff happens in My Son, My Son that at times you're left thinking -- what the hell does this have to do with the main story? But then Herzog's genius kicks in and brings everything together to form a strange but complete whole; this is a film of acute angles, prickly sides, and odd moments. The musical score, while at times slightly off-putting, adds to the mysterious and unpredictable tone, and much like Herzog's other, better cop film, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, My Son, My Son takes the viewer on a wild ride through the mind of a troubled, deranged main character.

Note: This is an avant-garde film that many people are likely to become frustrated with; I'd recommend it only to fans of Herzog and to adventurous cinephiles.

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