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My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? - drama DVD review
MY SON, MY SON, WHAT HAVE YE DONE? Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 2 stars
Actors: Michael Shannon, ChloŽ Sevigny, Willem Dafoe, Grace Zabriskie, Udo Kier, Brad Dourif
Director: Werner Herzog   Studio: First Look Studios
DVD release: 14 September 2010   Runtime: 93 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Anamorphic, Color, DVD, NTSC, Widescreen
DVD Features: Audio Tracks (English - Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Subtitles (English SDH, Spanish), Commentary (writer/director Werner Herzog, writer Herbert Golder, producer Eric Bassett), Previews, Plastic Bag (narrated by Werner Herzog, directed by Ramin Bahrani), Interview (writer/director Werner Herzog, writer Herbert Golder)

Michael Shannon and Chloe Sevigny in *My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?*Werner Herzog has been making films - lots and lots of films - steadily sense the mid-1960s. Most of them are mind-bendingly great. This is especially true of his "documentaries," a word that, in the context of a Herzog production, must go in quotes for the simple reason that Herzog never simply documents: he extrapolates, fantasizes, and pushes through the permeable membrane of reality into something more, different, or beyond. Or, as Herzog said during a recent interview, his documentaries mold the plastic of reality in order to reveal "truth."

But then have been misfires in the rogue filmmaker's long career. The magnificent documentary Little Dieter Learns to Fly, for instance, was later remade as a fiction feature, Rescue Dawn. Bad, bad, bad - but not as bad as My Son, My Son.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? is getting lots of press because it's a collaboration between long-time mutual admirers David Lynch and Herzog. The story is certainly Lynchian, but the execution - well, a high-speed blender couldn't have made it any worse.

The story is actually quite simple and based on a true one, in true Herzogian fashion. One day in June, 1979, Mark Yavorsky, a graduate student in drama, marched across the street and killed his mother with an antique saber. Yavorsky was working on a play, an adaptation of Euripides' ancient Greek drama, Orestes. In Orestes,/i>, the eponymous lead character, on advice from the gods, kills his mother to avenge the death of his father, Agamemnon. There's really no mystery about the crime, expect maybe why the thirty-something Yavorsky committed it. In any case, he was convicted and spent many years in a mental institution.

In Herzog's hands, however, a Freudian steamroller runs over narrative simplicity, making mountains out of molehills and exposing sinkholes of sensibility with the result that filmic coherence runs down hill and is lost at sea. Ostrich farms, traumatic experiences in Peru and a SWAT team in a San Diego suburb all sluice together in a flash flood of mud and head-smacking rocks.

And that's just the plot. The other big problem with My Son, My Son is the acting - or, rather, the writing that the actors have to deal with. The script is in fact written in the fashion of a badly translated ancient Greek drama - but why? Doesn't Herzog recognize that our perception of Greek drama, the stilted dialogue and capricious overacting, are in fact based on poor translations and a previous era's notions of what worked on stage? Apparently not, because My Son, My Son almost unwatchable due to the wooden delivery of misshapen, non-colloquial lines.

The DVD does contain a minor gem, however, in the form of Plastic Bag, a short film by Ramin Bahrani. Narrated by Herzog - in that weird voice of his that sounds not so much German but as if the maestro were himself a time transporter visiting from an ancient Greek amphitheatre - Plastic Bag is the story of, you guessed it, a plastic bag and its quest for the great gyre of trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

reviewed by Brian Charles Clark
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