May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
March 6, 2010
When Gentlemen Broncos (Jared Hess, 2009) was on big screens last fall, New Yorker critic Richard Brody compared the Mormon film maker’s religious vision to that of Pasolini. (It strikes me that a less lofty point of comparison might be Kevin Smith – Clerks (1994), Dogma (1999) – whose sensibility similarly pairs an eternally adolescent preoccupation with crudity and a not-so-crude preoccupation with eternity; Smith a Catholic, Hess a Latter Day Saint.)
With the film’s recent advent on smaller screens, Brody continues to celebrate the film’s curious spiritual perspective.
One of the most audacious American movies of 2009, Jared Hess’s “Gentlemen Broncos” (on DVD from Fox) — a loopy comedy that blends frumpy down-market vulgarity with excremental humor and cartoonish, yet astonishingly simple and clever, action sequences — is hardly the type to attract Oscar consideration. Yet it’s a work of visionary inspiration that, like many outrageous Hollywood comedies of the classic era (such as those of Frank Tashlin), tackles remarkably serious matters. . . . Set in a pious Christian community in Saltair, Utah, (the film) is rife with religious overtones. . . .
Hess, a Brigham Young graduate who has worked in the Mormon film industry, daringly sets Benjamin’s naïve yet heroic visions in three sets of images . . . (including), most astonishingly, the fierce yet devout ones that Benjamin sees in his mind’s eye. . . .
In his jejune yet highly moral inspiration, Benjamin is the prophet of a pop-infused Gospel, an updated Book of Mormon, that speaks to a new generation of young people whose coarsened sensibility is paradoxically attuned to Biblical explicitness and ferocity. Hess’s vision is both childish and childlike, yet from the mouths of babes oft comes wisdom—as well as things that need to be wiped up.
In case Brody sets expectations too high, here’s the prevailing critical opinion, represented by EW’s Lisa Schwartzbaum: “As they did in Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, the Hesses claim to celebrate the amusing qualities of misshapen people and their misshapen dreams, insisting that amateurism and bad taste (both in filmmaking and in life) are intentional artistic choices. The audience may have bought the act in Napoleon Dynamite. But this time, the act bombs.The one saving grace of such a relentlessly unappealing movie may be that the emperor’s-new-clothes moment has arrived: Bad taste is sometimes just a vice, and amateurism in filmmaking is no virtue.”