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Now available for home viewing: Lamb, Titane, Zeros and Ones

A reader request, an auto-erotic romance, and the latest from Abel Ferrara

Lamb: Feel for the father; he’s the one who has to walk home alone.
Lamb: Feel for the father; he’s the one who has to walk home alone.

Let’s end the year batting cleanup on three of this year’s oddities and curiosities, starting with a request. Several months ago, Lydia D’moch wrote asking why I never got around to reviewing Lamb. It opened at a time when movie theatres still topped my quarantine list, but I promised to get around to it as soon as it hit home video. A DVD found its way into my player last week. If the curtain image of the original Planet of the Apes still resonates after all these years, have I got a “man vs. beast” movie for you! Thanks much, Ms. D’moch.

Lamb (2021)

For a film so willing to forgo humor, it’s odd that director and co-writer Valdimar Jóhannsson chose to open with a droll, Hitchcockian groan. A brief introductory pass through a barn populated by a flock of well-rehearsed rams ends inside the farmhouse, with Maria (Noomi Rapace) removing a roasted leg of lamb from the oven. But really, it’s best that a film as carefully detailed as this gets its one fillip to the system out of the way at the outset, in order to clear a path for peculiarities that await. For the most part, it’s a two-hander — with no children to raise, Maria and her husband Ingvar (​​Hilmir Snær Guðnason) share the farm duties, which include playing midwife to the ewes. As if Shari Lewis’ prayers reached as far as Iceland, one of the flock gives birth to an upright Lambchop who, unlike the rest of the pack, is allowed to sleep in the house with the other domestic pets. Is this a case of animal husbandry gone berserk, or the harrowing tale of a family that regrets putting a child up for adoption? The sudden force that closes the picture is unlike anything we’ve seen this year, and that goes double for Ms. Rapace’s performance. Four stars.

Titane (2021)

Did you hear the one about the pregnant serial killer masquerading as fireman Vincent’s (Vincent Lindon) son who, while trying to burn a set of incriminating threads, accidentally set fire to her birth-parent’s home, incinerating them in the process? This is the same Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) who, in childhood, was involved in a near-fatal car wreck (dad was at the wheel). Upon her release from the hospital, instead of hugging her parents, Alexia planted a wet one on the car’s passenger window. Future attempts to self-abort make the ear-piercing in Videodrome look like a child’s recital of “Chopsticks.” And not since David Cronenberg’s Crash has a film embroidered a romance of the road in such intensely fetishitic detail. (Alexia’s idea of great sex is bouncing alone in the back of a lowrider.) One would sooner buy Julie Andrews as a man in Victor, Victoria than Alexis’ boy-with-child chicanery. It’s not enough for her to tape down her chest and belly to look like a boy. The method-slayer must next break her nose by repeatedly punching herself in the face. And that’s just the first half. The Chippendale’s fire house, complete with a mosh pit and hunky hose-handlers, is yet to come. Rather than continue on in the tradition of Cronenberg, writer-director Julia Ducournau chose to just say Noé, Gaspar Noé, who serves as a clear inspiration for many of the film’s more colorfully lurid moments. Alexia is obviously not Vincent’s long-lost son. For starters, it’s doubtful the lad had a scar above his right ear that offered a picture window view of his brain. Hip to the game, Vincent’s ex calms Alexia. The undeceived ladderman needs someone or another to believe in, so it might as well be her. A pickaxe to the colon is a lot for an audience to endure, but the gambol is worth the reward. Three stars.

Zeros and Ones (2021)

Is Ethan Hawke’s introductory greeting to the audience a spoof on the trendy pre-recorded “We want to thank you for choosing our movie” pitches, or a way of introducing the unwashed to the zonked-out world of Abel Ferrara? (A wrap-around segment informs us that it’s a plea to investors.) Hawke calls it, “Abel’s hit on what we’ve been going through for the past year or so,” and for a brief period, the empty streets of Rome are very much like what the world’s grown accustomed to. And what would a Ferrara film be without a deep dive into allegorical Catholic guilt — Jesus was just another casualty in what turned out to be a 3000-year war — chased by a couple of hookers and some blow? (It’s a sign of growth that even in the middle of a pandemic, the coke isn’t for our protagonist, but an informer who may help him find his brother.) There are deeply devout moments of Ferraraian grunge; the cigarette butts floating atop the bucket of dirty water used to water board a captive was a nice touch. But for all of the film’s isolated moments of brilliance, Ferrara doesn’t provide us with the framework needed to understand any of the relationships in the film. Nor do we know just how much involvement Hawke’s brother had with the hit. Not that one expects Michael Bay effects from Abel Ferrara, but for all the talk about blowing up the Vatican, questions remain about its veracity. Two stars.

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“Why do I have to be part of your regular crew to have fun?”
Lamb: Feel for the father; he’s the one who has to walk home alone.
Lamb: Feel for the father; he’s the one who has to walk home alone.

Let’s end the year batting cleanup on three of this year’s oddities and curiosities, starting with a request. Several months ago, Lydia D’moch wrote asking why I never got around to reviewing Lamb. It opened at a time when movie theatres still topped my quarantine list, but I promised to get around to it as soon as it hit home video. A DVD found its way into my player last week. If the curtain image of the original Planet of the Apes still resonates after all these years, have I got a “man vs. beast” movie for you! Thanks much, Ms. D’moch.

Lamb (2021)

For a film so willing to forgo humor, it’s odd that director and co-writer Valdimar Jóhannsson chose to open with a droll, Hitchcockian groan. A brief introductory pass through a barn populated by a flock of well-rehearsed rams ends inside the farmhouse, with Maria (Noomi Rapace) removing a roasted leg of lamb from the oven. But really, it’s best that a film as carefully detailed as this gets its one fillip to the system out of the way at the outset, in order to clear a path for peculiarities that await. For the most part, it’s a two-hander — with no children to raise, Maria and her husband Ingvar (​​Hilmir Snær Guðnason) share the farm duties, which include playing midwife to the ewes. As if Shari Lewis’ prayers reached as far as Iceland, one of the flock gives birth to an upright Lambchop who, unlike the rest of the pack, is allowed to sleep in the house with the other domestic pets. Is this a case of animal husbandry gone berserk, or the harrowing tale of a family that regrets putting a child up for adoption? The sudden force that closes the picture is unlike anything we’ve seen this year, and that goes double for Ms. Rapace’s performance. Four stars.

Titane (2021)

Did you hear the one about the pregnant serial killer masquerading as fireman Vincent’s (Vincent Lindon) son who, while trying to burn a set of incriminating threads, accidentally set fire to her birth-parent’s home, incinerating them in the process? This is the same Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) who, in childhood, was involved in a near-fatal car wreck (dad was at the wheel). Upon her release from the hospital, instead of hugging her parents, Alexia planted a wet one on the car’s passenger window. Future attempts to self-abort make the ear-piercing in Videodrome look like a child’s recital of “Chopsticks.” And not since David Cronenberg’s Crash has a film embroidered a romance of the road in such intensely fetishitic detail. (Alexia’s idea of great sex is bouncing alone in the back of a lowrider.) One would sooner buy Julie Andrews as a man in Victor, Victoria than Alexis’ boy-with-child chicanery. It’s not enough for her to tape down her chest and belly to look like a boy. The method-slayer must next break her nose by repeatedly punching herself in the face. And that’s just the first half. The Chippendale’s fire house, complete with a mosh pit and hunky hose-handlers, is yet to come. Rather than continue on in the tradition of Cronenberg, writer-director Julia Ducournau chose to just say Noé, Gaspar Noé, who serves as a clear inspiration for many of the film’s more colorfully lurid moments. Alexia is obviously not Vincent’s long-lost son. For starters, it’s doubtful the lad had a scar above his right ear that offered a picture window view of his brain. Hip to the game, Vincent’s ex calms Alexia. The undeceived ladderman needs someone or another to believe in, so it might as well be her. A pickaxe to the colon is a lot for an audience to endure, but the gambol is worth the reward. Three stars.

Zeros and Ones (2021)

Is Ethan Hawke’s introductory greeting to the audience a spoof on the trendy pre-recorded “We want to thank you for choosing our movie” pitches, or a way of introducing the unwashed to the zonked-out world of Abel Ferrara? (A wrap-around segment informs us that it’s a plea to investors.) Hawke calls it, “Abel’s hit on what we’ve been going through for the past year or so,” and for a brief period, the empty streets of Rome are very much like what the world’s grown accustomed to. And what would a Ferrara film be without a deep dive into allegorical Catholic guilt — Jesus was just another casualty in what turned out to be a 3000-year war — chased by a couple of hookers and some blow? (It’s a sign of growth that even in the middle of a pandemic, the coke isn’t for our protagonist, but an informer who may help him find his brother.) There are deeply devout moments of Ferraraian grunge; the cigarette butts floating atop the bucket of dirty water used to water board a captive was a nice touch. But for all of the film’s isolated moments of brilliance, Ferrara doesn’t provide us with the framework needed to understand any of the relationships in the film. Nor do we know just how much involvement Hawke’s brother had with the hit. Not that one expects Michael Bay effects from Abel Ferrara, but for all the talk about blowing up the Vatican, questions remain about its veracity. Two stars.

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