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Spring Film Preview: Harmony Korine's Odd Squad

On Returning with Mister Lonely

Maybe enfants terribles can mellow out: Writer-director Harmony Korine's first feature since 1999's Julien Donkey-Boy proves to be his most classically structured and least confrontational, if still pretty damn off-the-wall. Mister Lonely stars Diego Luna as a Parisian Michael Jackson impersonator who encounters and follows a Marilyn Monroe (Samantha Morton) home to a commune of fellow celeb look-alikes in the Scottish Highlands. Anita Pallenberg is Elizabeth II, her Performance co-star James Fox plays the Pope, and why are nuns jumping from missionary priest Werner Herzog's plane? I chatted with Korine about his droll return to cinema.

Where have you been hiding for almost a decade? I was just everywhere, walking around a lot of places. I had some houses that burned down, I lived in Europe for a while, and for about six months, I was with this group of fishermen that I met in Panama called "The Malingerers," these guys who were searching for a fish. Anyway, I was around, just not doing anything with movies. I was thinking about becoming a lifeguard or bricklayer, something like that.

At an early age, you lived in a commune. Did you have any unusual life experiences there that stuck with you while writing Mister Lonely? Yeah, I know what it's like to suck on the tit of many a wet nurse. We were just passed around as kids from breast to breast. I have a lot of those stories inside me. I like that Lukas Moodysson film Together, but it wasn't really like my experience, so I thought there would be little things that I could use in the story.

How did you approach your brother Avi to co-write the film? I read some stuff he wrote that I was impressed by, so I called him up one day. He loves to eat only Chicken McNuggets with the special kind of honey, and he's a real boxing obsessive. I called him up—he was watching his boxing match—and I said: "Avi, could you come, and I'll buy you these Chicken McNuggets?" He was living in Philadelphia at the time, so he flew down to Nashville, and I just bought him McNuggets every day. We'd just sit inside, collaborate, and write. It was nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, and he basically got paid in McNuggets.

What famous icon do you think you'd be good at impersonating? Muhammad Ali. I think I could tap into him.

Will you ever release the footage of your abandoned 2001 vérité feature Fight Harm, in which you provoked strangers to beat you up? It's interesting—I just had an editor friend come over yesterday, and we started to go through it. There are still six remaining fights, because I lost three or four of them when my house burned. I've been on the fence about putting it out for years, because I don't know if it would be a let-down. In some ways, it's better just to know it exists. My intent was to make the Great American Comedy, take what Keaton had done and go further. The repetition of pain is where the humor comes through. Originally, I wanted to release it in shopping malls, maybe have Morgan Freeman do the narration. I was only fighting people of different demographics: One day, I'd fight a lesbian, another day an Arab. But they always had to be bigger, and I never threw the first punch. I had forgotten how short an actual fight lasts when you're really getting beaten up. After the 10th one, I realized I only had about 12 good minutes.

Mister Lonely starts May 2 at the IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue, 212-924-7771.

Spring Film Picks

30 Years of J. Hoberman
March 10–April 3

Sometimes tooting one's own horn is absolutely called for: BAMcinématek celebrates three decades of Hoberman's shrewd, engaging, and ever-passionate film criticism here at the Voice. Compiled by the guest of honor from personal faves that have roused his writing, this eclectic mix tape features punk darlings (Rock 'n' Roll High School), no-wave rarities (three guerrilla sleazies with Lydia Lunch, including She Had Her Gun All Ready), avant-weirdness (a new print of Naked Lunch will accompany the cuckoo conspiracy satire Tribulation 99), and classical gems both old and new (Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev, Hou Hsiao-hsien's Café Lumière). Hoberman will introduce March 10's kick-off screening of Eraserhead, then sit for a Q&A with minimalist auteur Ernie Gehr following a March 24 block of Gehr's films. BAM, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-636-4100

Funny Games
March 14

Austrian shit-starter Michael Haneke (The Piano Teacher, Caché) brings his icy, cerebral provocations to Hollywood, sort of, in his first English-language film ever—an exacting, if not entirely exact, remake of his divisive 1998 meta-thriller of the same name. Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, and son are a bourgeois clan whose lakeside weekend getaway is interrupted by polo-shirted fancy lads Michael Pitt and Bradley Corbit, popping in politely before torturing the family mercilessly and without motive. At opportune moments, the villains address the camera directly about the violent entertainment we're watching, but why the same lesson a decade later? Is Haneke profoundly scolding the American filmgoer's bloodlust, or is he just fucking with us? Debates may rage. Warner Independent, in limited release

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