Milwaukee Film Festival - Tchoupitoulas and Klown - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Milwaukee Film Festival – Tchoupitoulas and Klown

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Tchoupitoulas (2/5)

Tchoupitoulas takes the form of a documentary following three young brothers through the New Orleans nightlife, though it plays more like a collection of extra footage from a documentary, and many of the scenes lack a feeling of authenticity. The one thing the filmmakers have done incredibly well is evoke a distinct and haunting tone with some beautiful shots of empty and abandoned areas that contrast the vibrancy of the rest of those they encounter. The one scene truly worth seeing features the boys coming across what appears to be an abandoned cruise ship at an empty dock and exploring the inside of it with equal measures excitement and fear.

This is all too little spread too thin, however, with the rest of the movie regarding everything they see and everyone they meet with a detached monotony mistaken for dreamlike cinema vérité—here are scenes that should showcase some of the most interesting people and unique locales that one could hope to find, and yet much of the time it's like the filmmakers accidentally left the camera on after their initial interactions, and what we're seeing is the bored aftermath. Conversations with those encountered and/or more time spent with the three young men who act as our de facto guides through the city would have made for a genuinely interesting experience, but somehow they've managed to make New Orleans seem boring.

Klown (4/5)

Klown is a ruthless, uncomfortable, vulgar, and sometimes mean-spirited comedy based on the Danish TV series of the same name. It's also hilarious. The movie concerns three characters: Frank Hvam and and his friend Casper Christensen (both played by actors of the same names—if I were an actor in this movie, in these roles, I would not be using my real name), and Frank's 12-year-old nephew Bo. Frank is, simply put, an idiot. He is so clueless as to his own actions and their repercussions that it's a credit to the acting that we kind of believe this is a character that could exist. Casper is like a combination of Thomas Hayden Church's character in Sideways and Bradley Cooper's general demeanor in The Hangover, and his reckless bravado propels the two into a number of situations the likes of which cannot be described here. The two find themselves on a debaucherous canoe trip—the endpoint of which can only tastefully be described as a very diverse international bordello run by the elderly leader of their book club—saddled with Bo, who Frank has essentially kidnapped in order to prove to his pregnant girlfriend that he has “father potential.” And if you think the premise sounds tasteless, just watch the movie.

If Klown were even one degree less committed to its utter irresponsibility, if there were any attempts at all made to mitigate or soften the offensive nature of the events, it would fall apart. It works so well in part because it makes so few cliched attempts to change or redeem the characters, who are essentially faced with one sitcom situation after another. An American version of the film would see Frank finally “getting it” in the third act and making valiant efforts to become a father figure to Bo—what's so funny about Klown is that Frank thinks he “gets it” all along. When he realizes at the end that some of his actions have hurt the young boy, his solution to make up for it is such an irresponsible version of the “character turns things around with a grand, understanding gesture” cliché that it's clear the filmmakers are consciously subverting the format. It's certainly not for everyone—some of the jokes are a bit too mean or malicious for their own good, and I don't know that I even want to see it again—but the actors sell it all in a way that's downright impressive, and for the most part very funny.

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Posted by Andrew

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