The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans -2009-

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Directed by Werner Herzog. 122 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre)

I love Port of Call so much that this will resemble a gush far more than it will a review. Nicolas Cage and Werner Herzog may be the greatest actor/director collaboration since Emily Watson starred in Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves. Cage turns in perfectly psychotic performance as Lieutenant Terrance McDonough, placing him right alongside Michael Corleone and Travis Bickle as a great American antihero. In spite of his latter-career focus on documentaries, Herzog hasn’t lost a step when it comes to narrative filmmaking. I’d say that Port of Call is the director’s best dramatic film since Fitzcarraldo.

Herzog wisely skips over the played out Mardi Gras and bayou bullshit that saturates most New Orleans based films, opting instead to show a grittier, post-Katrina side of the city (Andrew Dominik chose a similar approach while making Killing Them Softly). The film is a sincere character study of McDonough as he balances his addiction and corruption with his cases and personal life, but we know better than to think Herzog would make just any old cop-on-the-edge flick. And as always (with the exception of his documentary Wheel of Time), Herr Herzog does not disappoint.

Despite its dark marketing campaign and grim plot, Port of Call is a work of comic genius. McDonough never runs out of hilarious and clever ways to score drugs, make quick cash, and advance his investigation. Nearly every scene is memorable, and the reptile close-ups are Herzog at his head-scratching best. And the ending, with its rapid-fire plot resolutions, is beautifully implausible.

Aside: While the supporting cast is good all-around, a nearly-unrecognizable Jennifer Coolidge is especially impressive.

Aside: The screening preceded a discussion and Q&A with both Cage and Herzog, and it was as beautiful as you can imagine.

(Seen and written on 2014-04-04)

The Act of Killing -2013-

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Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. 159 mins.

 Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at Landmark’s Nuart Theater)

 Wow, I have been really tardy with my write-ups. I just returned from New York, and The Act of Killing was the last film I saw in LA just before my departure. Given the delay, everything I write regarding the film will be old news.

 But in case the hype hasn’t convinced you, believe it. The Act of Killing is probably the best (and certainly the most unique) non-Herzog documentary I’ve ever seen. Unsurprisingly, ol’ Werner was an executive producer on the film.

 Everyone and his mother has helmed a doc on the subject of genocide, and most of them speculate as to what the perpetrators were thinking as they committed their atrocities. Few of them take The Act of Killing’s approach of asking the actual killers what it was like for them. None of them (until now) allow the killers to reenact their crimes in any way they wish. The result is nightmarish display of theatrics and disregard for human life, as if John Waters had directed Shoah.

 The film is long, but I didn’t feel it all that much. There were several occasions when I desperately wanted the movie to end because the reenactments are so jarring. These actors / directors aren’t simply pretending. These are real people – and possibly the closest thing to real monsters this planet contains – gleefully recreating their crimes as they remember them. I wouldn’t call The Act of Killing “entertaining” in the conventional sense of the word, but it’s certainly unforgettable.

 (Seen and on 2013-07-30, written on 2013-08-13)