Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I definitely wouldn't wanna look inside the mind of Lodge Kerrigan. Everyone always talks about how disturbing and unsettling the films of people like Takashi Miike are, but the tension, creepiness and aggression in Lodge Kerrigan's films are on another level. Whats really unique about his work is that not only is it unsettling, disturbing and creepy, but he manages to do all that with minimal use of violence & blood. He's one of those directors you wish would put out work more often, with only 4 films under his belt in 18 years (he did make a film in 2002 with Peter Sarsgaard and Maggie Gyllenhaal, but the film used to make the movie wasn't taken care of, and he lost a majority of it). Kerrigan's 2nd film; 'Claire Dolan', the story of an irish immigrant working as an upscale prostitute in order to pay off a debt, is like a mixture of the ice cold feeling you get from watching one of Haneke's austrian films, the dry delivery from a Bresson film and the psychological instability of a Polanski film all mixed in to one pot. And Vincent D'Onofrio's amazing performance in the film is the highlight as far as I'm concerned (and he's only a supporting character). His mannerisms are super unique and you aren't sure if he's going to cry, flip out on someone or have a nervous breakdown through out the movie. In some scenes he's both; kind and intimidating (D'Onofrio makes great use of his size). There are shades of Deniro in 'Taxi Driver' within D'Onofrio's performance too. Both play lonely, emotionally/psychologically unstable taxi drivers who want to save a prostitute from her tortured life. There's even one scene in 'Claire Dolan' that almost feels like an homage to 'Taxi Driver': in the film, D'Onofrio briefly zones out and looks at a random woman who walks by him. The why the scene is shot and edited is almost exactly like the scene in 'Taxi Driver' when a young black kid walks past Travis, and he briefly zones out and doesn't take his eyes off of him. Even the shots of D'Onofrio inside his taxi, are similar to 'Taxi Driver', in that both are always suspicious of the people they pick up in their cabs, and are always looking in their rear view mirror in a similar way.
As most of us already know, roles played by "big guys" are usually one of two extremes: The big intimidating tough guy or the big 'ol softie. Lodge Kerrigan explores both of those characteristics well with D'Onofrio in 'Claire Dolan'. Forrest Whitaker, specifically in 'Ghost Dog', is another great film/performance that explores that. It all traces back to the original Frankenstein movie in the scene with the monster and the little girl.
In 'Ghost Dog', which is a loose remake of 'Le Samourai', Jarmusch recreates his version of that scene in Frankenstein when the little girl approaches the monster to be friends. Just like in Frankenstein, the little girl in ghost dog is totally unaware that ghost dog is a "monster" (as cool as he is, he IS a killer).

As far as the lead performance goes, Katrin Cartlidge is just as great in 'Claire Dolan' as she is in anything else she did before her untimely death. She's like the female Jon Cazale. Both actors died long before their time, but left behind a perfect acting record. Other great performances by her can be seen in 'Breaking The Waves', 'Naked' and 'Career Girls' (which is a movie I'm not too crazy about, but she's great in it). In the film she goes through every emotion possible, and makes it believable. Weather its the scene when her mother dies, the scene when she makes the 2 aggressive men who try to rape her back off simply by keeping her cool and just using words, or the tension on her face and in her body every time she interacts with her "pimp", played by Colm Meaney. I put quotations around the word; pimp, because Colm Meaney doesn't play your typical pimp in the film. In fact, you almost forget that's what he really is. In the film, you get the idea that selling upscale hookers isn't his only business. He wears a suit and tie in the entire movie. He's well spoken and polite (usually), and what stands out the most is that he never hits Claire at all in the movie, but we still get the idea that he's someone you don't wanna mess with, and we get to see that side of him in 2 scenes.
These days I've been getting more into to female performances under the direction of a female director (samantha morton in lynne ramsay's 'morven callar', isabelle hupert in claire denis's 'white material, marina de van directing herself in 'in my skin'), but Lodge Kerrigan manages to explore the female world without coming off like hes misogynistic or clueless towards women. In fact, 'Claire Dolan' paints a pretty shitty picture of the male race with the exception of Vincent D'Onofrio.
'Claire Dolan' is almost perfect as far as I'm concerned. So far, all of Lodge Kerrigan's film are connected by his continued exploration of mental illness (like Peter Greene and Damian Lewis in 'Clean Shaven' and 'Keane') or at least mental instability (as we see with D'Onofrio). As he states on the commentary track of 'Clean Shaven', Lodge Kerrigan is very much inspired by Polanski's work, and it really does show. I have yet to see his most recent movie, but hopefully it'll be playing at Toronto this year (which I'll be attending).


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