Sunday, October 23, 2016

Of parentage, parenting and naughty genetic experimentation: Anders Thomas Jensen's wacky/remarkable MEN & CHICKEN

The poster quote comparing this very odd film to a combination of The Three Stooges and The Island of Dr. Moreau is actually not that far afield. MEN & CHICKEN, the Danish/German co-production written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen (Adam's Apples, The Green Butchers) offers more proof, if any were needed, that Mr. Jensen's inclination toward the bizarre remains in full swing. In his latest oddball wonder, the filmmaker takes two rather weird brothers, having discovered that their suddenly dead dad is not their biological father, on a road trip to a very un-populated island on which they meet, greet and get to know their whole-lot-weirder extended family.
Further discovery ensues.

Granted that Mr. Jensen, shown at right, has peopled his movie with an array of characters so far from what most of us would call "normal" that it takes some adjustment to weather this movie. The adjustment is worth it, however, for beyond the very dark comedy and search for sexual outlet of the first maybe two-thirds of the film, the final half hour is so increasingly full of surprise, shock, dismay and hope that, should you persevere, you will leave the movie in quite a different state of mind and heart than you found yourself, even a short time earlier.

Much better-liked in England and on the continent than over here in the USA, the movie offers a combination of philosophy, religion, morality and education all wrapped up in black comedy, mystery and family that results in the kind of intellectually horrifying climax (in which the mystery we've been wondering about for most of the movie is finally solved -- but, don't worry, it's not via blood and guts) followed by a denouement that gives new meaning to the idea of "the other," while simultaneously proving almost unbearably moving -- all the more so because it is not "pushed."

The expert cast is led by two fine Danish actors, the peripatetic and versatile Mads Mikkelsen (above, left) and the not-so-well-known but equally fine David Dencik (above, right). The supporting cast of family "brothers" -- Nicolaj Lie Kaas (below, left),  Søren Malling (center, two photos below) and Nicolas Bro (below, right) -- is equally good, though their countenances are obscured by very effective make-up (all our boys here have a tendency toward the hare-lip and other varied deformities).

Because the movie spends a lot of its time on matters related to sex, along with the inability of this family of men to get any, it may strike some viewers as too crass or gross. Again, stick with the film. Its decision to rub our noses in certain things does have a point. (Dad's nickname, it turns out, is "The Sausage of Death," and not without good reason.)

A word must also be said for the Oscar-worthy set design and the amazing location in which much of the movie was filmed. This is a house to remember,  The special effects, too, are first-rate -- often barely there, and just for a moment or two, so that you may find yourself from time to time asking, Did I just see what I think I saw?

TrustMovies missed this film at the time of its theatrical release, as I suspect many of you also did. No matter. You can catch Men & Chicken now, via its Blu-ray/DVD/Digital copy debut from Drafthouse Films.and MVD Entertainment Group. Running 104 minutes and in Danish with English subtitles, the movie hits the street this Tuesday, October 25 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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