Friday, April 5, 2019

A hedonistic bore

Full disclosure: The only reason I went to see The Beach Bum was as a nod to my SO, who has a celebrity crush on Matthew McConaughey. True, The New York Times had a major review of the flic by Harmony Korine, author of such classics as Spring Breakers (2012) and Trash Humpers (2009), so it couldn’t be all that bad, right? What it is, is one long monotonous depiction of debauchery in the form of Moondog, an inveterate hedonist. In fact, this character's got to be the hedonist’s hedonist. Nothing wrong with that. Pleasure and its pursuits should be a human priority, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, right? We first meet Moondog on a wharf in – where else? – Key West, Florida. He’s the partying boisterous best friend to all, with a joint in one hand and can of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the other. And a perpetual womanizer, though you’ve got to wonder what the attraction is. Okay, I’m not a woman, but he’s dirty, slobbery, not to mention a world class slob. But there’s an inkling of intelligence within that stoned bonhomie. Every once in awhile he sits down at a small portable typewriter (no laptop for him) and drums out stories that actually have critical value. He’s a kind of anti-establishment South Florida Charles Bukowski, the west coast skid row poet. He even recites a line of Baudelaire. The problem with this movie is that it’s simply one long stretch of the same thing. After about 20 minutes you get tired of the endless partying, craziness, outrageousness. You’ve got to wonder whether a character such as Moondog, in real life, at some point would have dropped the boozing, donned suit and tie, and found a job at an insurance company, just to break the sameness. I understand the filmmakers had a very good time on the set (which also features Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron and, appropriately, Jimmy Buffett) and one can easily see why. But what they’ve released on us, poor viewers, is unrelenting boredom in the form of hedonistic boorishness. 

Monday April 8 marks the debut of the new subscription-based Criterion Collection online movie channel. It rose from the ashes of the former art house website FilmStruck, which closed late last year. Unlike FilmStruck, however, The Criterion Channel will be available to moviegoers in the United States and Canada. Films in April include everything from those of David Lynch to Rainer Werner Fassbinder to Susanne Bier.  

One of the hidden gems of film festivals in the Detroit area is the annual Italian Film Festival, which is taking place all this month at various locations. The festival, sponsored by the Italian Consulate in Detroit, is absolutely free, and brings North American filmgoers a selection of contemporary Italian film. It opened April 3 and runs until May 5.

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