Clean, Shaven [DVD]
Director : Lodge H. Kerrigan
Screenplay : Lodge H. Kerrigan
MPAA Rating : NR
Year of Release : 1994
Stars : Peter Greene (Peter Winter), Megan Owen (Mrs. Winter), Jennifer MacDonald (Nicole Winter), Molly Castelloe (Melinda Frayne), Robert Albert (Jack McNally), J. Dixon Byrne (Dr. Michaels)
Lodge Kerrigan's directorial debut, Clean, Shaven, is a daring and disturbing cinematic experiment that takes us inside the mind of a struggling schizophrenic for an unrelenting 80-minute ride. Kerrigan mixes a shaky narrative filled with gaping holes begging to be filled by the viewer's assumptions with an amazingly dense and inventive aural assault that suggests the gray middle zone between reality and a broken mind's perception of it. The film was shot in 16mm on a minimal budget over a two-year period, which immediately brings to mind another great experimental work about twisted subjectivity by a first-time feature filmmaker: David Lynch's Eraserhead (1978). Yet, whereas Lynch's film was a surreal headfirst dive into explicit dream imagery, Kerrigan's film is a more straightforward and harrowing depiction of mental illness.
Peter Greene, who most will recognize as the nefarious Zed from Pulp Fiction (1994), gives an amazingly detailed and sympathetic performance as Peter Winter, a schizophrenic young man who has recently been released from hospital confinement of unknown duration. Early in the film, Kerrigan throws one of the first and most disturbing narrative curveballs when he suggests that Peter kills (or at least hurts) a young girl. We never see the violent action, but we hear it, which allows Kerrigan to exploit one of the cinema's primary stylistic means of avoiding on-screen violence. By keeping the violence within the realm of the aural, which is where we are most connected to Peter's mental illness, he makes the violent action completely ambiguous. Perhaps it took place, perhaps it didn't.
The general thrust of the story is Peter's desire to reconnect with his daughter, Nicole (Jennifer MacDonald), who was adopted by a caring foster mother (Molly Castelloe) while he was in the hospital. Peter's stern, disapproving mother (Megan Owen), who treats his illness like a bad decision on his part, refuses to tell him what has happened to Nicole even though she orchestrated the adoption. Meanwhile, a troubled police detective (Robert Albert) is tracking down a serial killer that may or may not be Peter.
The story, however, is of relatively limited importance, and if anything is the film's primary weakness: For all its ambiguity, the film relies on some striking coincidences that ring false in an otherwise affecting film. Kerrigan's brilliance as a filmmaker lies in his complete immersion in the subjectivity of his protagonist, which makes him both sympathetic and completely alien (the film is much like Roman Polanski's Repulsion). We watch with horror as Peter digs at his own body with scissors and knives trying to rid himself of tiny radio transmitters he believes are buried under his skin and fingernails; it is both sad and repulsive, yet it is impossible not to watch.
Kerrigan's visuals alternate between banal landscapes and abstract images of everyday objects--a bucket of fishheads, a tomato being sliced, a cigarette butt. He uses extreme close-ups to make the ordinary seem peculiar and gross, which sets us on constantly edge. As Peter wipes at his jacket and tugs at his tie, we recognize that same sense of discomfort, except his is an all-enveloping worldview that he can't escape when the film is over. Our immersion is complete, which is what makes Clean, Shaven such an extraordinary film.
|Clean, Shaven Criterion Collection DVD|
|Audio||English Dolby Digital 1.0 Monaural|
|Distributor||The Criterion Collection|
|Release Date||October 17, 2006|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|The excellent transfer on Criterion's new DVD was made from the 35mm blowup interpositive, which was struck from the A/B original negatives. Since Clean, Shaven was originally shot on 16mm, using the blowup interpositive for the transfer exaggerates the graininess of the image, but it also replicates the experience of seeing the film in a theater or during a film festival. The image is clean and clear, with the MTI Digital Restoration System removing all traces of scratches and dirt. The transfer boasts strong color and excellent detail throughout, which is particularly apparent in the film's numerous extreme close-ups. The transfer of the original monaural soundtrack, which was made at 24-bit from the 35mm magnetic track and digitally cleaned up, does justice to the film's complex aural landscape. Despite being a one-track mix, it is deep and enveloping.|
|The disc includes an excellent screen-specific audio commentary by writer/director Lodge Kerrigan, who is being interviewed by director Steven Soderbergh (who did similar work with Mike Nichols on Paramount's Catch-22 DVD). As an intriguing filmmaker of great range, Soderbergh knows the right kinds of questions to ask about funding, the difficulties of independent production, and the kinds of aesthetic decisions that set films like Clean, Shaven apart. Kerrigan offers a great deal of insight into his filmmaking practices, and he and Soderbergh (who have known each other since 1994) have a strong rapport. This leads to frank discussion about such topics as the importance of the soundtrack, the writing process, and Kerrigan's various influences (Polanski, natch), as well as some good-natured joking (such as when Soderbergh ribs Kerrigan for making the first-time mistake of “going for a downer ending”). Also on the disc is an incisive 10-minute featurette in which film critic Michael Atkinson explores in detail the film's unique visual acumen and soundtrack. Because the soundtrack of Clean, Shaven is so central to its effectiveness, Criterion has isolated Hahn Rowe's original soundtrack, as well as portions of the film's final mix, all of which can be downloaded as mp3s. Listening to these portions of the soundtrack divorced from their corresponding image gives one an even greater appreciation for how dense and complicated they are. Finally, the disc includes a trailer, which was obviously mastered from a bleary video source.|
Copyright ©2007 James Kendrick
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