Sunday, July 17, 2016

Swiss Army Man (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Swiss Army Man

The bold and unapologetic "Swiss Army Man" by the duo directing team of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Schweinert may not be to all tastes, but it is to be applauded for being gleefully outside the norm and never holding back.

The chameleon actor Paul Dano once again pushes himself into fearless territory as Hank, an unkempt loner, pre-occupied with masturbation and unrequited love who happens to be lost on a desert island.

One fateful day, Hank decides to end it. With a rope around his neck, he sees a young man (Daniel Radcliffe) ashen and  unresponsive in the sand. This cadaverous man known as Manny becomes Hank's only friend.

What commences as a series of gags regarding farts, gasses and limp extremities, evolves into a film that is daring and thoughtful all at once. Daring as subversive kind of buddy comedy and thoughtful as a meditiation on childhood, memory and what it means to have a friend.

Dano, a great actor who is a master of the outsider, does terrifically as a slothful Robinson Crusoe for the 21st century. Radcliffe, no less masterfully, imbues his Everyman role with the existential importance of a  Frankenstein creation, a person who constantly questions his existence---one part Pinocchio and Edward Scissorhands.

The visual speed of the film alone will keep you guessing: festive, joyful, dark, and gloomy, the film carries all of these tones. It is a "Day of the Dead" banquet for the eyes scrambled in the irreverance of "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" with colors to match. The cinematography by Larkin Seiple bears a reverence for early MTV. One can see "Swiss Army Man" as a Peter Gabriel video on methamphetamines.

While some will no doubt object to projectile farting and the spilling of bodily fluids as a potable water source, one cannot say that the film is not free in spirit and entertaining. Above everything is the crucial ingredient: you care for these two eccentric (to say the least) characters who are very real people.

The film echoes many, "Frankenstein," "Harold and Maude," and even "Altered States" in its hallucinatory combinations, where bones, skulls and nudity become the hallmarks of a paganistic party. Here cheese puffs are revered as acid-orange cocaine.

"Swiss Army Man" may even offend a few with its horrid hijinks of flat-lining flatulence and emaciated erections. Others might be quick to call it a cult film. All have a point. But the film does more. While it begins  going for Monty Python laughs, "Swiss Army Man" teases us, blending into a hyperkinetic tale of a friendship and what it might feel like to truly 'let go'.

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