If you ever wished for Leos Carax’s Holy Motors to be reinterpreted as a manic, wildly irreverent comedy, Matthew O.L. Way’s The Genital Warriors is the postmodern absurdist voyage of your dreams.
In the opening scene, the narrator, a hoary ne’er-do-well named Frank Ewington who’s holed up in a “geronto-psychiatric” ward, wakes up and proceeds to type up a bizarre semibiographical screenplay about his favorite ex-girlfriends, Lena and Barbara. From there it’s a cannon-shot through a weird, wired story characterized by magic wands, Dutch philosophers, sexual capers, murder, and a movie theater in which Lena and Barbara watch and comment on re-enactments of their youthful experiences.
No fewer than four demi–Frank Ewingtons appear to try and manipulate things, while eight different actresses play the roles of Lena and Barbara, to say nothing of a later hybrid Lena-Barbara and her eventual recasting as mini–Lena-Barbara. Way’s merry, rapid-fire visual style shows age hunting youth and youth screwing age, the battle for narrative control eternally stymied by the constant entanglement of reinventions, false memories, and moviemaking conventions. One of his favorite sources of amusement is cutting suddenly between differing film formats, the result of shooting piecemeal over six years.
What makes this madcap film even funnier is that nobody actually seems to be steering the ship, not even Way, who appears late in the running time as a minor character. Yet despite the obstacles of detours, distractions, and alter egos, the characters always seem to dimly recognize each other, even if the audience doesn’t. Like the ravings of a keyed-up screenwriter, there’s conviction, if not logic, in its madness, and that makes it fun and fascinating.
The Genital Warriors
Written and directed by Matthew O.L. Way
Opens December 18, Cinema Village
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 15, 2015