Filth and Wisdom
April 12, 2016
Todd: Director. Madonna...she directed a movie. You gotta be kidding me.
- Red carpet footage and press footage of Madonna
Todd (VO): The year is 2008, Madonna is well into her British phase and also into the waning days of her marriage with Guy Ritchie. In fact, after two horror flops from Ritchie, Madonna is, at this point, accused of wrecking his career by starring in [posters for Swept Away...] his worst movie and introducing him to Kabbalah, a major influence in [...and Revolve] his other worst movie. So, perhaps motivated by desire to outdo her soon-to-be ex-husband, she took a turn to filmmaking herself.
- Trailer for Filth and Wisdom
Yes, after starring in shit movie after shit movie, who else could possibly be more qualified to direct. It's like if, after [clips of...] William Hung auditioned on American Idol, they made him a judge. It'd be like if, after Man of Steel, Warner Bros. let Zack Snyder make a movie with Superman and Batman.
Todd: It's the ultimate act of arrogance.
Todd (VO): A reward for failure that could only happen to someone already as rich and famous as Madonna. And predictably, the movie opened at a few film festivals and indie theaters, got a bunch of unsurprisingly negative reviews, and quickly vanished in a puff of smoke, never to be thought about again.
Todd: Unless, of course, for some reason, you have some kind of bizarre, perverse interest in the Madonna filmography. [Rubs hands] Oh, boy, this is gonna be a disaster. Let's watch.
Todd lets out an angry sigh
- Random clips of movie
Todd (VO): It is with shock and extreme displeasure that I must report to you that Madonna's directorial debut, Filth and Wisdom, is not actually a disaster because a disaster would be interesting. This, however, is just a piece of grungy, ugly, plotless, boring indie dreck. The kind which play at a few festivals, get view once or twice by friends, and then rightly forgotten as the amateur backwash that it is. [Clip of interview] Madonna described it as her way of sending herself through film school, which makes perfect sense because, if I didn't know it was directed by Madonna, I'd assume it was made by a 23-year-old from the suburbs who'd never even picked up a video camera before.
Todd: There is one thing, and let me repeat that, one thing that makes any of this worth watching, and that is...
- A.K. (Eugene Hütz) smokes a cigarette.
Todd (VO): ...this man right here. Him and his mustache, so two things. This guy is Eugene Hütz, a Ukrainian man who fronts the Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello.
- Clip of Gogol Bordello - "Start Wearing Purple"
- Gogol: So yeah, ha
- Start wearing purple, wearing purple
Todd (VO): You might have heard of them. I had a friend in college who was really into this band. They're pretty good.
Anyway, despite not being an actor, he's just got that, you know, charisma that draws your attention. I swear, it's not the mustache, he's just that watchable. And you get to hear his band a few times, which is good. Shame that the movie has no idea how to use him.
- A.K. You know, in my country, there's a saying: if you watch to reach the sky, fuck a duck and try to fly.
- Brief clip from Borat
- Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen): It's nice!
Todd (VO): I have no idea how to review this because I have no idea what this half-baked student film is even going for, but I'll try my best. It revolves around these three people. The guy from Gogol Bordello is trying to make it big as the frontman for Gogol Bordello. But while he's waiting for his big break, he's making money by working as a dominatrix Dom...dominatrian? Whatever, the male version. He's also an errand boy for a once-great poet who's all depressed now that he's lost his eyesight.
Todd: You know, I realize I'm saying all this like it's gonna go somewhere, like it's a setup for something. It's not, I assure you.
Todd (VO): One girl works at a pharmacy, she steals pills, she's very, very serious about starving Africans, and her boss is a creeper in an unhappy marriage and he's kinda racist.
- Sardeep (Inder Manocha): Why is everyone obsessed with these bloody starving Africans? [Turns to greet black customer at counter] Ooh, hello.
Todd (VO): Again, this...
Todd: ...sounds like a setup for a plot, but it isn't.
- Chloe (Clare Wilkie): Dad says hello. You know, he's hoping you'll get sick of this hideous job, change your mind about going to medical school.
- Juliette (Vicky McClure): I'm not going to medical school. I want to help people.
Todd (VO): Yeah, how would someone who went to med school [picture of nurse tending to African child] help people? [Hits himself in head]
- A.K. (VO): She cares a lot about starving children in Africa, and she don't know she's starving, too.
Todd: If you say so, Mr. Bordello.
Todd (VO): Oh, yeah, and it starts with the Gogol Bordello guy spitting out some deep, deep wisdom.
- A.K. (VO): Humanity seems to be divided into two categories: people trying to be good, and people trying to be bad. But personally, I don't see so much difference. 'Cause if you spend your whole life as a saint, eventually, you will create the opposite, and the filth will appear as an oasis in the desert.
- A.K.: But if you spend your life in the gutter, sooner or later, you will be searching for wisdom.
Todd (VO): Remember, the best way to communicate the theme of your movie is to just have a character bluntly state it out loud.
Todd: [holding card out] ...is what my notes say. But...
Todd (VO): ...in retrospect, this monologue has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie. No one goes particularly seeking filth or wisdom, so you know...
Todd: ...let me rewrite this.
Todd (VO): Remember, the best way to trick the audience into thinking your movie even has a theme is to have a character spout something that sounds like it could be one.
- A.K. (VO): Filth and wisdom.
- A.K.: They're two sides of the same coin.
Todd (VO): And seriously, that duality, fortune cookie shit is so vague, it could apply to basically any movie, so it's really astonishing that it has nothing to do with...
Todd: ...this one.
- Holly (Holly Weston) tries to smash a cockroach with her ballet slipper
Todd (VO): I mean, I guess there's, like, one person you could argue is seeking filth. She's a ballet dancer, but because she's broke, the guy suggests making money by stripping.
- Holly: I've never even contemplated taking my clothes off for a bunch of dirty old men. [A.K. looks at camera and points finger as if to say "wait for it..."] How much?
- A.K.: [whisper] I knew you were a filthy slut.
Todd (VO): Thing is, though, is that she's actually really bad at it. I guess that's like the start of her arc.
- Holly: [sobbing] I'm never gonna be as good as Tracy.
Todd (VO): Honey, you're a stripper. No one cares. You don't have to try so hard, this is not Swan Lake.
Todd: And then, one day, she's good at it.
- DJ plays Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time"
Todd (VO): I don't know where this came from. They just...see her hanging out in a schoolgirl outfit one day, and they nudge her onstage and she can pole-dance now, so...hurray for her. And...
Todd: ...and then what?
Todd (VO): Does this mean she's sexually empowered now? Does she have enough money to save the orphanage? [Brief clip from Grease] Does she win over John Travolta?
- Danny: Sandy?!
Todd (VO): Is there any point to this? No.
Todd: No. Nothing.
Todd (VO): And as you'll know, she apparently learned how to strip from [brief clips from Sin City and Closer] Jessica Alba or Natalie Portman, as in it's the kind of stripping without any nudity.
Todd: See, that's the funny thing about this. I wasn't surprised that this movie doesn't have any wisdom, but the filth is shockingly subpar.
Todd (VO): Gogol Bordello Guy is the kind of sex worker who doesn't actually have any sex, he just wears silly outfits and yells.
- A.K.: Drop and give me twenty, you silly little fuck!
Todd (VO): I have no idea the point of these scenes; it's certainly not to be sexy, and it's not in contrast to anything or to freak us squares out with this crazy kinkiness of it all. It's just there. Ha ha, look at him, he's wearing a funny outfit.
Todd: How did Madonna, of all people, make a sex movie this goddamn sexless? Abysmal.
Todd (VO): Oh, and the one girl gets caught stealing pills. Guess she's gonna get arrested?
- Sardeep: You're a hypocrite!
- Juliette: Look who's talking!
- Sardeep: I put you on a pedestal!
- Juliette: But it's your pedestal, Sardeep, not mine!
Todd (VO): Or not? No, instead of calling the police or just firing her at the very least, the dude instead decides to get her a gift to apologize for being such a gross, jacket-sniffing creep.
Todd: Which, you know, he is, I'm just...
Todd: ...not sure that outweighs, you know, actual felonies.
- Juliette: [reading letter] "Dear Miss: Thank you for your interest in the Peace Corps. Your application has been accepted." I don't understand. I didn't...
- Sardeep: I did. And I hope you don't mind, I forged your bloody signature.
Todd: You enlisted her in the Peace Corps?!
Todd (VO): If she wanted to be in the Peace Corps, she'd be in the goddamn Peace Corps! She didn't need your help enlisting in...
Todd: ...the Peace Corps. Do you even know what the Peace Corps is?!
Todd (VO): I don't know how to break it to you, but it's a little different from that weekend you spent in college volunteering at Habitat for Humanity!
Todd: I know Madonna is very...
- Clip from I Am Because We Are
Todd (VO): ...genuinely sincere about helping poor children in Africa, but I think her experience with charity work might be a little skewed, seeing as she's a profoundly wealthy superstar!
Once this girl finishes digging irrigation ditches, she won't be going to bed in a five-star hotel.
Todd: And then, it ends with everybody happy, happy, happy. I'm not kidding.
Todd (VO): The blind poet starts writing again, Gogol Bordello hits big, the stripper starts making lots of tips, and they start dating, I guess. Two separate husbands with wandering eyes decide to be happy with their wives. It's so cute, I want to puke. Madonna name-checked all these foreign art-house director like Fellini and Godard that she said inspire her. But what Filth and Wisdom most reminds me of is a [poster for...] gutter-Love Actually, but with less nudity. And honestly, that's way too kind because there's zero point in any of this. This guy was beaten by his dad; does this go anywhere? No. He's embarrassed about his sex work; does that go anywhere? No. All I get from this is that Madonna wanted to make a film, any film, so she shat this out just to say that she did it. It's not worth watching, it's not even worth reviewing or analyzing. It was a waste of my time, it was probably a waste of Madonna's, too. She should've just bought me some Gogol Bordello tickets instead of shitting out this half-assed non-film!
Todd: Stop making movies, making movies! Ba-da-da-da-da!
Todd (VO): Yeah, this tells you absolutely nothing about what it's like being a broke artist or sex worker or living on the bottom. It doesn't compare to [posters of...] Trainspotting or My Own Private Idaho or Shortbus or even goddamn Rent.
Todd: I mean, I can't stand Rent.
Todd (VO): And the music in Filth and Wisdom is certainly better than Rent, but at least Rent has a point. I know why someone would want to watch it. That's the most damning thing to say about this movie. I don't know why it was made. It should have proven to her that she wasn't a filmmaker.
Todd: But, of course, that is not what happened. Apparently, once Madonna had gotten this out of her system, she really set to work in making a more polished, mainstream, watchable movie. Surely now, at last, Madonna makes her mark as a cinematic auteur.
- Clip of trailer for WE
Closing tag song: Gogol Bordello - "Wanderlust King"
"Filth and Wisdom" is owned by Semtex Films
This video is owned by me
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS