I have 495 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to maybe watch one thing for every five things I add, but now my library is full and I have to make room. Serious watching must begin. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking about you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but don’t have time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know if there’s something that’s been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for your queue and the next Monday for mine and so forth. Let’s do this.
What’s the movie? Dogtooth (2009)
What’s it rated? Unrated for all things graphic: like nudity, sex, and violence towards a kitty and some people.
Did people make it? Co-written & Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Starring Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Christos Passalis and Anna Kalaitzidou.
What’s it like in one sentence? If Michael Hanake and Lars Von Trier made a fairy tale…having never seen a fairy tale before.
Why did you watch it? Chewers made me do it.
What’s it about in one paragraph? It’s about a father and mother who home school their three children in a compound-like residence surrounded by a giant fence which the kids have never crossed. They have a lovely garden and a big swimming pool and the three children (one boy and two girls, all in their late teens\early 20’s) all seem happy living their simple lives, learning the lessons taught to them by their mother and father. But there’s something a little strange: During vocabulary lessons, the father teaches them the wrong definitions for some words. He tells them a “zombie” is a small yellow flower and that the “sea” is the name for a chair. They also think that the salt shaker is the telephone and that the airplanes that fly overhead are toys that fall into the backyard every once and a while. Everything is fairly “idyllic” until the father starts bringing home a female security guard from his place of employment to satisfy the son, sexually. This breach of the only reality the children have ever known has consequences no amount of planning could have predicted. To tell anymore would be a sin.
Play or remove from my queue? Play this movie the next chance you get. It might not be your kind of movie, but there’s only so many masterpieces out there, so it’s good to see the ones you can. There’s no mistaking that Dogtooth is a classic, even though it’s not conventional in any sense of the word and plays with taboos as if they’re nothing but a lark. It also never takes the easy route through the story. There’s a hundred different places I imagined the story going after the first 15 minutes but was so woefully misguided it made me feel like I needed to turn in my critic credentials. I didn’t though because I don’t have any. If I did, I would constantly be pulling out my critic badge to shut people up when they share dumb opinions like “Crash understands racism” or “Megan Fox is a real person with feelings.” What were we talking about?
Honestly, the only disappointment I had with the film was related to the expectations I had as a viewer. I was expecting certain aspects of the story to eventually come into focus that never did, and I blamed the movie for that instead of myself. I guess, as a viewer of a ton of films (the most of which are American), I always tend to expect things that are sometimes inherent to American films, such as an over reliance on explanation when a certain level of ambiguousness can work just as well. Sometimes I felt like Dogtooth was telling an amazing story, but only from the angles that made it seem mundane: angles that made an idea that was so refreshingly new to me (a father programming and conditioning his family to react to certain stimuli in unconventional ways) come across as ordinary and almost average. Which, obviously, was the whole point. The parts of the story I wanted to hear (like why the parents were training their kids in such a way) were parts that the film had less than no interest exploring.
Dogtooth is shot with such a subdued palate that, anytime there is a more conventionally framed moment, it carries much more weight than it would in a more stylized piece of film. Yorgos Tsourianis (The Yorg) has arrived with a style reminiscent of Von Trier, Haneke, Harmony Korine and even a little John Waters but without ever feeling redundant or clichéd. Watching the long takes of the kids playing their silly, made up games and doing their daily exercises becomes almost holy after awhile without ever feeling pretentious or boring. The film may feel a little monotonous at times but, without that monotony, how are we supposed to identify with these sad, grown children going through their daily routine?
I’m really trying not to over hype this movie, but it’s hard not to tell everyone whenever you see a unique voice taking shape. While watching this, I had the same feeling I had while watching films like Reservior Dogs, Fight Club and Caché for the first time, like I was seeing something remarkable. I felt exhilarated knowing that for every Birdemic that I review, there’s a Dogtooth around the corner, waiting to show me how nice it is to write about something that can actually be categorized as art. Keep in mind that it’s challenging art that will at times erupt in unanticipated violence or a graphic sexual encounter. It requires patience and a commitment to the very specific story that it’s telling, not the story you necessarily want to be told.
I know I’m being awfully vague with the story details, but I had no idea what this movie was about when I went into it and I really recommend the same experience for anyone interested. The less you know about this one, the better because I really think a detailed synopsis might create expectations the film isn’t interested in keeping. Each scene piles more and more onto this giant heap of “holy shit, no way”, that the final half of the film almost becomes too fucking abstract to stand. You should stand it, though, because it’s pretty perfect.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? It might not be that interesting but I thought it was pretty telling that the film has only made $110,197 in the United States. It amazes me which foreign films make bank here and which ones don’t. Someone smarter than me should compare and contrast high grossing foreign films in the US and see what commonalities they have. I would do it, but I quit comparing and contrasting years ago.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Eternity and a Day (never heard of it but Bruno Ganz is the star so count me in), Seven Samurai (is this the part where I embarrassingly say that this is the only Kurusawa I’ve ever seen and no it has no relation to Dogtooth), The Virgin Suicides (an excellent companion piece that would make for a fantastic and depressing as shit double feature), The Machinist (there are some surface comparisons but nothing thematic) and Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (watching P.S.H. go at Miss Tomei from behind is equally disturbing as some of the content of Dogtooth, otherwise not so much).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? Gummo, Caché, The Celebration, The Idiots and Mrs. Doubtfire (or maybe Mr. Giggles?).
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 4.0
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 4.7
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? I really want you to watch this movie so we can talk about it, but make sure you’re in the mood for something that’s going to take a little effort on your part. If you’re in a Strange Brew kind of mood, then I would hold off until you’re ready for some serious mind fucking and awkward silences when your significant other walks into the room and sees you watching a young man chase a cat with pruning shears.
Did you watch anything else this week? I saw Hanna in the theatre and was in love with almost every frame. The biggest villain of that film had to be Cate Blanchett’s mouth. The way she shaped words made me hate her more than I hate people who don’t use turn signals. I’ve never found it too difficult to move my finger three quarters of an inch but some people have cell phones to talk into or children to scream at and call adopted. I wouldn’t want them to have to make the effort. I also saw the premiere of Game of Thrones and could not have been happier. Winter IS coming… all over the face of every other show ever.
Next Week? It’s chewers choice next week so it’s up to you. Anything in your queue that you want to see but would rather have me vet for you before spending your hard earned time dollars consuming it. Have a great week, Chewers. Watch something good.