Ah, it’s been a while, By the way, did you hear Madonna made a movie?
“Filth and Wisdom” came out of its premiere at Berlin this year with some of the expected scorching reviews and a few others that noted, with a shrug, that the movie wasn’t actually so bad, which about reflects the reviews not that it’s reached theaters. And why not? As Manohla Dargis notes at the New York Times, the film “is a ridiculously easy target, but it also creaks and strains with more ambition than most mainstream throwaways that just recycle the usual guns and poses,” like, perhaps, the recent entry from Madonna’s soon-to-be ex. “[I]t does keep you interested from scene to scene, which is a more generous compliment than it might seem.” “Considering that everything she does is subject to tabloid scrutiny, I can’t help but respect the courage it took for Madonna to make, and then show to the public, a film as honest, unpolished, and staggeringly naive as ‘Filth and Wisdom,'” adds Eric Hynes at indieWIRE, who sums up Madge’s filmmaking as “by turns exciting, tedious, disarming, and god-awful.”
Scott Foundas at the Village Voice allows that “there’s an undeniably funky charm and abiding can-do spirit” to the film, and offers this “message to the director”: “Don’t quit your day job just yet, but in the category of multidisciplinary artists moonlighting as filmmakers, I’ll take you over Julian Schnabel any day.” “‘Filth and Wisdom’ isn’t laughable or embarrassing,” agrees Andrew O’Hehir at Salon. “[I]nstead it’s rather sweet and 100 percent recycled, which might not be a bad way of describing its creator at this vulnerable time in her personal and professional life… It’s dumb. I sort of liked it.”
Ed Gonzalez at Slant offers sizable analysis of how Madonna’s persona is reflected in the film, “if this is the beginning and end of Madonna’s directorial career, it would be fine, because Filth and Wisdom presents a sweet, grimy, convincing enough portrait of people struggling to make something of themselves”
And of course there are other who weren’t pleasantly surprised: “The movie is short on wisdom, but it might have gotten by if it had had better filth,” sigh Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman, while Anthony Lane at the New Yorker suggests the film seems to have been made on a budget of $365.23. “With any other name behind it, [this] pseudo-philosophical ode to Kabbalah teachings would get cast into the enormous slushpile of festival rejects that only a few intrepid selection-committee members have been forced to sit through,” writes Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club. “Paying audiences aren’t usually subjected to projects this amateurish.”
[Photo: “Filth and Wisdom,” IFC Films, 2008]