Archive for November, 2011

This is the second installment of a scene-for-scene analysis of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Read Part I here

We now return to Werner Herzog‘s asphalt jungle. This installment continues where we left off and ends with another tone-shattering scene involving Nicolas Cage and a gator.

When we last left our hero (Cage), he’d just plunged into some never-before-seen depths in depravity. Cage, eager to score some drugs, coerced a young woman into smoking crack and having sex with him…in front of her boyfriend…in public…as a bribe to drop a drug charge against her. He’d also made out with some coke for himself.

Cage then returns to his car. He takes a bump and, without any clear explanation, shouts, “Fuck!”

Like several moments in Bad Lieutenant, Cage erupts in a vocal outburst that doesn’t make immediate sense to the viewer. Here we have another of the film’s running, downplayed jokes. A normal movie would explain why Cage just screamed in his car. But Bad Lieutenant lets the moment linger without explanation. It doesn’t clarify the flare-up until the next scene. Herzog will play this disorienting trick again soon. (more…)

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Greetings. Welcome to my labor of love. Here lies the first installment in a scene-for-scene look at Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, a movie so close to my heart it was once misdiagnosed as a tumor. This post explores the first 20-odd minutes of the film, from the opening credits to a pivotal showdown between Nicolas Cage and a young, drunk couple. It contains nonstop spoilers and a battery of stills to help you follow along at home. I’ve kept the fanboy love to a minimum.

Werner Herzog‘s Bad Lieutenant is a special kind of cult film. It puzzles, eludes easy interpretation, and entertains like all hell. It’s a moving target, incapable of being pinned down as genre trash or high art. It’s both, often in the same scene. It mystifies movie nerds and taste-makers — the people who pride themselves on discerning quality from shlock. I’d call it a cinephile’s cult film. Unlike the broader, undisputed cult classics (i.e. The Big Lebowski), Bad Lieutenant deliberately misleads casual viewers. Only those who “get the joke” can become members of the cult. Cinephile cult films — I’d include Showgirls, Point Break, and Wild Things among the list — practically beg you to dismiss them. Their overt silliness dupes you into thinking there’s nothing below the surface.

And so Bad Lieutenant begins like a late-night B-movie, one you’d catch on USA or TNT.


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