The Philadelphia Film Society will be screening KILLER JOE, which had its World Premiere at the Venice International Film Festival and North American Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, for members on Wednesday, August 7, 2012. Intern Sam Denitz got a special chance to see the film in advance and in celebration of the upcoming screening, we are posting Sam’s thoughts on the film BEFOREHAND to let you know what you’re getting yourself into.
PLEASE NOTE: The film KILLER JOE is rated NC-17 for “graphic aberrant content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality” – it is a difficult film to watch at times for some, but it is certainly a one-of-a-kind WILD ride that people will be talking about for months!
When I think about myself as a moviegoer, I often reflect on my inability to remove myself from thinking critically about a movie—about its style, its camerawork, what works, what doesn’t—that sort of thing. I study film as a heavy thinker, never to let myself do what everyone else goes to the movies for, which is to relax. The success of film as an artistic pastime derives from its ability to take people out of their daily stresses and place them in the dark, quiet space of the theatre, where they are subsumed by the image and sound on screen. In a way you hand yourself over to the film, and going to the movies is one of those rare opportunities to shut yourself off from the rest of the world to relax and enjoy something without asserting much brain power. I may be an anomaly in this situation, but for one of the first times in a very long time, I found that I watched KILLER JOE, William Friedkan’s newest film, with pure relaxation and excitement, almost as though I had never studied a film before.
I think this may be result of KILLER JOE being the type of film that does all the work for you. It would be impossible to conjure up this somewhat ludicrous story or to recreate it. For the first hour or so the story spins on itself as though the narrative wheels got stuck in mud and can’t get out. That is the case until the last 30 minutes. One scene, that to me resonated the violence of the men trapped inside the abandoned factory of Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. This final scene is a certain type of tour de force, for it carries with it the crux of the narrative, as the story behind the entire film both gets presented and resolved in this out-of-control final scene.
People should have some reservation about seeing the NC-17 rated KILLER JOE. The acting on most levels was satisfying, with familiar faces such as Emile Hirsch, Matthew McConaughey, and the lovely Gina Gershon as the films’ stars. Let’s just say as brief summation, that this film is about an unmoral Dallas, where as Emile Hirsch’s character puts it, “is too big for everyone here”. He gets at this sort of Western attitude exemplified in cinema since John Wayne rode on his horse to save a dame or fight off a Western misfit. The idea is that in the Western end of the American frontier, all rules go down the drain. People demonstrate personal agency to the most maximum degree, because arguing a man’s private law or rules is the worst possible crime. Emile Hirsch plays a drug dealer, willing to order his mother’s death just so he can collect her life insurance. On the way to solving this strange story, expect to see bawdy behavior accompanied by the films’ most genuine quality—a serious concern for the people who mean the most in your life, which seems to be changing constantly in the film. How far, how gross, how extreme are you willing to go to protect the one’s you care for?
KILLER JOE will not go down as major cinematic or artistic accomplishment. Although, like I said in the beginning: KILLER JOE is not a challenging film. It revels in being an easy film to swallow… just a tad harder to digest.
Directed by William Friedkin
Written by Tracy Letts (play and screenplay)
Stars Matthew McConaughey as “Killer Joe” Cooper, Emile Hirsch as Chris Smith, Gina Gershon as Sharla Smith, Juno Temple as Dottie Smith, and Thomas Haden Church as Ansel Smith
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