THE TEN WORST UNSEEN FILMS OF 2004
To steal a line from John Cleese: And now for something completely different. At the far end of the spectrum are films whose lack of wide release is cause for celebration. We give you, with one hand firmly clenching our nostrils while the other jiggles a doorknob to speed a hasty retreat, the Ten Worst Unseen Films of 2004.
1. THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
“I crave da law” growls Al Pacino’s Shylock, speaking in weirdly elliptical Yiddish-inflected manner that sounds like Yoda imitating Jackie Mason. Director Michael Radford should fork over a pound of flesh for the ridiculous way he butchered the Shakespeare classic – not just by the severe miscasting of Pacino, but with a slew of new improvements to the text including the repeated sight of bare-breasted women being fondled by filthy old men, animals being slaughtered on camera, and Joseph Fiennes kissing Jeremy Irons on the lips.
STATUS: Opens theatrically in limited release on December 29, with wider release in January.
Lion’s Gate knew this mangy dog had big fleas and thus kept it on a very short leash. “Dogville” was not submitted for the 2003 Oscar race, and its March 2004 theatrical release was confined to a rather limited art house run rather than a wide multiplex presentation (hence its presence on this list). Lars von Trier’s nasty parody of “Our Town” is yet another of his tiresome anti-American rants, and even the best efforts of an all-star cast (except James Caan, obviously reading his lines from cue cards) could not make this irritating mess worthwhile. Lion’s Gate is not actively promoting this one for the current Oscar race, which is to their credit and the relief of Academy voters.
STATUS: Currently on DVD.
3. MERCI DOCTEUR REY
A ghastly Paris-based atrocity about the gay son of an opera diva (an overweight Dianne Wiest) who witnesses a male hustler killing an old queen who turns out to be the young man’s long-lost father. There’s also Jane Birkin as a mad actress who pretends to be a dead psychiatrist and who thinks she is Vanessa Redgrave. The real Vanessa Redgrave shows up, but even she can’t save this rickety flop. A total waste of film, talent and Paris.
STATUS: Due on DVD in 2005.
4. CALLAS FOREVER
Another alleged comedy mixing Paris, opera and gay shenanigans (is there a trend going on here?). This dismal effort imagines a late-life Maria Callas trying a comeback in a movie where she lip-syncs to an earlier recording of Bizet’s “Carmen.” Huh? Fanny Ardant bears no physical resemblance to the iconic Callas while Jeremy Irons, obviously enjoying his Merchant of Venice liplock with Joseph Fiennes, camps it up as a gay producer enamored with a hunky young South African artist with a hearing impairment. No, we are not making this up.
STATUS: Still stuck in limited theatrical release.
No Paris, no opera, but more gay misadventures (come on, guys, give us a break!). Todd Verow’s flaccid feature about a gay man’s disastrous obsession with anonymous sexual encounters is among the clumsiest and dullest things to flash on a screen. The film premiered in New York as part of a Gay Pride movie line-up, but this is one gay film which no one can possibly be proud about.
STATUS: Not playing now (thank God!).
Icky doings about a middle-aged Frenchman living in a plush Marrakech mansion and his awkward attempts to seduce a 19-year-old Moroccan girl, which ends in disaster. Even if one could overlook the film’s racist depiction of North Africans as being nothing better than crooks or clowns, this French import is a mess of tin-eared dialogue, bad acting, and pointless behavior.
STATUS: Brief theatrical release from Film Movement, who also offered this on DVD.
A painfully boring documentary on the roots of the underground dance club movement in New York of the 1970s, packed with blurry photographs, blurry video footage, blurry interviews by former club denizens and DJs…but none of the music that made that scene special. Skip this movie and spin your Donna Summers records at home.
STATUS: Brief theatrical playdate in New York last winter; no DVD release to date.
8. CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
A sincerely intended but painfully amateurish digital feature, made by a small ministry in Connecticut, which imagines a near-future America where the government is persecuting Christians (this is obviously not a government elected by the red states). There is nothing even vaguely professional about any aspect of this tedious movie, which requires a saint’s patience to endure.
STATUS: Available on DVD from the producers.
Canada’s contribution to the world of bad movies is this dumb revenge flick about the search for a pharmacy robber who took precious items from two mad-as-hell victims: a goofy guy relieved of an engagement ring and a gorgeous drug courier who had her narcotics lifted. A lesbian wedding and a Russian roulette game involving HIV-contaminated blood are the highlights of this nonsense, which feels like a dozen other movies crammed willy-nilly into a single no-budget burst of DV silliness.
STATUS: Not currently in circulation.
Ed Wood addicts eager to see this long-lost hardcore version of the master’s 1971 X-rated feature are in for a rude surprise: the film is a typically mundane early 70s porno film. “Necromania” is not so-bad-it’s-good in the tradition of Wood’s beloved anti-classics, but rather it is a little bore populated with unattractive naked people having dull erotic encounters in rooms decorated with skulls and faux-satanic emblems. The retro dud of the year.
STATUS: Now on DVD.
DISHONORABLE MENTION: Girl in Argentine Landscape, a videotaped record of Naomi Grossman’s amateurish one-woman theatrical event; Broken, a truly unfunny short about a man who has problems getting proper medical care after he breaks his penis while servicing a hot blonde; The Middle of the World, a dull Brazilian film about an unemployed truck driver who looks for a job while taking his wife and five kids on a 2,000 mile bicycle odyssey; and Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi, an abrasive Israeli non-comedy about a put-upon teenager who is discovered to possess both remarkable talents and a genuinely romantic personality.
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Posted on December 14, 2004 in Features by Phil Hall
If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
- THE 10 WORST UNSEEN FILMS OF 2002 (1-5)
- CALLAS FOREVER
- THE 10 WORST UNSEEN FILMS OF 2003 (1-5)
- THE 10 WORST UNSEEN FILMS OF 2003 (6-10)
- THE TEN BEST AND WORST UNSEEN FILMS OF 2004
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