Tag Archives: Lodge Kerrigan

153. CLEAN, SHAVEN (1993)

“With Clean, Shaven, I really tried to examine the subjective reality of someone who suffered from schizophrenia, to try to put the audience in that position to experience how I imagined the symptoms to be: auditory hallucinations, heightened paranoia, disassociative feelings, anxiety. Hopefully the audience would feel at the end of it like how it must be to feel that way for a lifetime and not just eighty minutes…”–Lodge Kerrigan

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Peter Greene, Robert Albert, Jennifer MacDonald

PLOT: Peter has been released from a mental hospital, but he still suffers from near constant auditory hallucinations and paranoid thinking. Insulating himself from the outside world by taping newspaper over his car windows, he drives through New Brunswick, Canada, searching for his lost daughter Nicole, who was adopted after he was institutionalized. As Peter hones in on Nicole’s location, he is simultaneously being hunted by a detective who believes that the schizophrenic is responsible for the murder of a girl about his daughter’s age.

Still from Clean, Shaven (1993)
BACKGROUND:

  • Lodge Kerrigan’s first film, Clean, Shaven took two years to complete filming, as the director was always running out of money. The film was eventually completed for under $70,000. It has grossed far more than that.
  • Kerrigan’s inspiration for the film was a college friend who was afflicted with schizophrenia.
  • In 1994 Clean, Shaven screened at Cannes in the “Un Certain Regard” category alongside movies like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and ‘s Faust.
  • Although he is very good here in the type of intense and challenging part that usually wins awards, this role did not catapult Peter Greene to stardom. He did, however, land small parts in two of the 1990s greatest hit movies: Pulp Fiction (where he plays Zed, the cop who colludes with the pawnshop owner) and The Usual Suspects (an uncredited bit part).
  • According to reports, Kerrigan turned down early offers that conditioned a distribution deal on his editing out the fingernail scene.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: It’s hard to argue against the infamous “fingernail” scene, the gruesome moment that made festival audiences scream, squirm, hide their eyes, and sometimes stand up and head for the exits. When I think back on Clean, Shaven, however, what I remember are the shots of telephone wires streaming along to the sound of Peter’s buzzy personal soundtrack of distorted voices and static; the images reflect the miswired disorientation of Peter’s brain, mirrored in the scary external world racing by outside his car window.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: This movie traps us inside the mind of a madman. We are assaulted by his auditory hallucinations, and, like him, we can’t be sure whether what we see and experience is real, or a product of a tormented imagination. The schizophrenic sound design is superlative; this may not be the weirdest movie you’ll ever see, but it’s definitely in the running for the weirdest movie you’ll ever hear.


Original trailer for Clean, Shaven

COMMENTS: Lodge Kerrigan makes movies about people you’d cross the street to avoid bumping into: the homeless, prostitutes, the mentally ill. Continue reading 153. CLEAN, SHAVEN (1993)

LIST CANDIDATE: KEANE (2004)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING:  Damian Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Amy Ryan

PLOT:  The lives of three desperate people intersect when a schizophrenic man clings to sanity long enough to help a distressed woman and her young daughter in the underbelly of Manhattan.

Still from Keane (2004)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Keane provides a schizophrenics’ eye view of the world. Presented from the protagonist’s unique perspective, we experience his confusion, distress and earnest need to be understood in closeup.  The effect is claustrophobic, frantic at times, and uniquely unsettling.  This makes for a viewing experience that is as unusual as Keane’s compelling odyssey.

COMMENTS:  Intense, suspenseful, unpredictable, Keane is an unsettling story that disorients the viewer by stripping him of any sense of control or foresight. In this harrowing, unusual drama, a mentally ill man struggles to pull himself together when his tenuous personal odyssey is interrupted by a dislocated woman with her eight-year-old daughter in tow.  Keane (Lewis) is frantically searching for his abducted daughter whom he lost in New York’s Port Authority bus terminal months before.  Battling the adversity of delusions and an already unbalanced brain chemistry exacerbated by substance abuse, he aimlessly drifts through seedy Manhattan locales with a feverish purpose.

Querying passersby with a newspaper photo of his child, retracing his steps leading to his daughter’s disappearance, Keane has at best a shaky grasp on reality.  As he teeters on the edge of sanity, he has numerous close scrapes, and we are left to wonder if his daughter and her supposed abduction are real or merely a delusional schizophrenic construct.  Is Keane driven mad because of his sense of guilt over the disappearance of his little girl, or is the entire episode imagined because he is mad?

Keane’s life is complicated, yet conversely given direction when he forms an uneasy alliance with a questionable woman (Breslin) and her bewildered daughter (Ryan) who are mired  in a similarly helpless situation of their own.  Can Keane keep hold of himself long enough to help, and if so, will his efforts bear fruit—or is he being conned?  And what about his missing child?  Is she real?  Can Keane separate fantasy from reality, or will he confuse his situation with that of his new wards?

While Keane shares some fleeting similarities to moments such as the all-night diner scene in Midnight Cowboy, the overall mood of harsh, unbuffered reality, unabashed locations, and the characters’ personal eccentricities compares most closely with Francis Ford Coppola’s 1969 film, The Rain People.

Like The Rain People, Keane offers a stark, almost excruciatingly real and raw, documentary-like dose of gritty people and their situations, unsoftened by mood-setting background music, or storybook establishing shots.  The gloomy, seamy visual footprint is claustrophobic, the settings non-idealized and the treatment of the subject matter unapologetic.

Keane is an unsettling, voyeuristic stare at it’s subject.  Filmed from Keane’s vantage point, the viewer is made to feel like he is that shell of the once sane anti-hero, trapped inside Keane himself, but unable to intervene as a more powerful, perverse alter-ego takes control and carries him along for the ride.  Infused with a mix of empathy and revulsion, we do our best to hold on and roll with the punches as Keane inexorably falters down an uncertain path, doing his best, sometimes falling short, leaving us to hold our breath and persistently wonder, “what next?”

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Somewhere between a thriller and a clinical study in schizophrenia, ‘Keane’ is a movie that puts you so far into someone else’s head you may have forgotten your own name by the time it’s over.”–Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post (contemporaneous)

Keane trailer