A splashy Berlin Film Festival premiere may not have been the ideal launch strategy for this modestly scaled first feature co-written and directed by Madonna, which arrives in the U.S. having been torn limb from celluloid limb by Euro critics. Apparently, they didn’t get the memo—included in the press notes—in which the Material Girl says that while she has “always been inspired by the films of Goddard [sic], Visconti, Passolini [sic] and Fellini,” she expects it will be some time before she’s able to “make something that comes close to their genius.” Genius isn’t the strong suit of Filth & Wisdom, but there’s an undeniably funky charm and abiding can-do spirit to this loose-knit portrait of three London flatmates trying to make their way in the world. Ukrainian-born singer-songwriter A.K. (played with enormous charisma by Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz) pounds the music-biz pavement while holding down a day job as a male dominatrix. Meanwhile, dancer Holly (Holly Weston) turns to stripping in a seedy “gentlemen’s club” when ballet no longer pays the bills, and pharmacist Juliette (Vicky McClure) endures leering stares from her married boss while saving up to work as a nurse in Africa. The not-unwise showbiz moral here is that to get what you want out of life, you have to get your hands dirty. Message to the director: Don’t quit your day job just yet, but in the category of multidisciplinary artists moonlighting as filmmakers, I’ll take you over Julian Schnabel any day.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 15, 2008