There are two conflicting critical impulses one has to fight off before ever seeing (and presumably honestly reviewing) a film like Madonna’s directorial debut "Filth and Wisdom," whose Berlin Film
Festival premiere yesterday was described by many as the hottest ticket
in town, even if that warmth was generated by a desire
to see La Madge commit acts of cinematic hubris. On one side is the urge to wield the long knife one’s probably been sharpening since the film’s presence at the festival was announced, and on the other is, perhaps, that wild contrarian compulsion to hold up the sure-to-be-maligned film as a misunderstood masterpiece. Unfortunately, no writer’s been willing to go as far as the latter in the reviews of the film so far, but there has been a lot of "Hey, it’s not actually awful!" A sampling of the range, from wretched to "huh":
Peter Bradshaw, Guardian: "Well, it had to happen. Madonna has been a terrible actor in many, many films and now – fiercely aspirational as ever – she has graduated to being a terrible director."
Leslie Felperin, Variety:
"Having contributed to arguably the worst films of some other big-name
helmers (i.e. Warren Beatty’s ‘Dick Tracy,’ John Schlesinger’s ‘The
Next Best Thing’ and Abel Ferrara’s ‘Dangerous Game’), Madonna seems to
have learned little about directing from her experiences in filmmaking.
Her stylistic approach seems most akin to that of late-’80s/early-’90s
pop videos, wherein story is often revealed without dialogue in
music-backed montages, the likes of which abound here. It’s as if she’s
taken her video for ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ as her main dramaturgical
Jonathan Romney, Screen Daily:
"While Filth And Wisdom may not quite inhabit the same Hall of Shame as
Shanghai Surprise, Body of Evidence and (God save us) Swept Away, it’s
likely to be forgotten as quickly as most of them. The big surprise is
that she’s chosen to make her directing debut with a cheap and cheerful
London ensemble comedy that’s no better or worse than the average
creaky low-budget Britflick."
Sheila Johnston, Telegraph:
"The movie is – disappointingly, perhaps – not an outright
embarrassment; there are even a couple of intentional laughs in it.
It’s not an entirely unpromising first effort. But the director would
do well to hang on to her day job."
Ray Bennett, Hollywood Reporter: "’Filth and Wisdom’ is unexpectedly sentimental, too, but the three leads are sufficiently engaging that while chaotic and more than a bit silly, the film in the end conjures up a surprising amount of goodwill."
James Christopher, London Times: "Despite its many shortcomings and an ending so mushy and neat it would embarrass Richard Curtis, Madonna has done herself proud. Her film has an artistic ambition that has simply bypassed her husband, the film director Guy Ritchie. She captures that wonderfully accidental nature of luck when people’s lives intersect for a whole swathe of unlikely but cherishable reasons. Altmanesque would be stretching the compliment too far, but ‘Filth and Wisdom’ shows Madonna has real potential as a film director."
Daily Motion has a clip from the film here.
+ Filth and Wisdom (Guardian)
+ Filth and Wisdom (Variety)
+ Filth and Wisdom (Screen Daily)
+ Filth and Wisdom: Don’t give up the day job, Madonna (Telegraph)
+ Filth and Wisdom (Hollywood Reporter)
+ Review: Madonna’s Filth and Wisdom (London Times)
+ indieWIRE: Madonna’s "Filth and Wisdom" (Daily Motion)