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Saturday
Oct082016

Swiss Army Man Washes Ashore To Blu-ray & DVD

by Daniel Crooke

I suppose this is the part where I’m to mention that Swiss Army Man prompted walkouts at its Sundance premiere, features Paul Dano propelling across the ocean on the back of Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse, and that its sophomoric scatology dominates the runtime of the film. All of these things are true. But if you’ve been avoiding Swiss Army Man out of fear of offending your eyeballs, I implore you to clutch your pearls and give it a shot anyway now that the film has arrived on Blu-ray and DVD...

Whether you’re moved by this crass chronicle of a shipwrecked survivor (Dano) discovering a newfound connection to humanity by teaching (and questioning) the facts of life to a dead body (Radcliffe, tenderly hysterical and dewy-eyed with discovery), it’s hard not to marvel at the infectious sense of invention and audacity that first-time directing duo Daniels bring to the proceedings.

Packed to the gills with flatulence, excrement, and a rotting cadaver with a raging erection, Swiss Army Man undeniably aims to provoke your most polite sensibilities but what makes it truly subversive is its unabashed earnestness in dispelling the notion that these are provocative qualities at all. It disarms itself. By embracing the superficially undesirable as fundamentally human, the film becomes an ode to expressive, unselfconscious living that only reveals its expansive potential after it’s cast away the shackles of social and self-inflicted shame. On the flip side, it also serves as a critical elegy to the disastrous effects of willful hermetic exile. It exposes the dark side of a gentler form of toxic masculinity – one marked by cowardice masking as ambivalence, innocuous insecurity as an excuse for invasion – while being generous enough to spin its protagonist’s remorse into a rehabilitation fantasy of rebirth and second chances. More review after the jump...

It’s a work of gobsmacking originality that achieves a rare singularity of sound and color. There’s a case on the table that the entirety of the film takes place in the head of Dano’s character Hank – pay attention to the tune he hums when we first meet him standing on a cooler with a noose around his neck – and the peacock palette that paints the film bursts with vivid imagination. Dazzling from start to finish, the visual splendour that courses through the film’s DIY DNA doesn’t just shine in the roughhewn, handmade playgrounds of its production design but also in the way that Hank shapes Radcliffe’s Manny in the idealized image of the person he wishes he could be if he had the chance to do life over again. Daniels stage that action as a mirror of our own modern age, soaked in self-consciousness, nostalgia, and anxiety. By acting out this 2016 instruction manual in the wild, they demonstrate its simple beauty and isolate its deficiencies.

Both in style and substance, Swiss Army Man crackles with possibility and bathes in the warmth of friendship but never forgets to douse you in ice whenever the lasting pain of past choices comes calling. There’s a real lament to roads not taken, and ones unfortunately took – and how obvious it seems in hindsight that we could’ve turned the wheel differently – that blankets the burgeoning optimism of the narrative. It’s brilliantly sweet and crushingly sour, but revels in the ecstasy of examining life. Swiss Army Man shoots from the gut but, make no mistake, it aims for the heart.

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Reader Comments (5)

I particularly like how it asserts the primacy of the corporeal in all its manifestations, doing so in transparent contradistinction to the electronic technology we see in the film and whose alienating effects have informed Hank's current condition. It's a very thoughtful film, and surprisingly moving, even if the self-pitying sad-sack male material is laid on a bit thick.

October 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan Huh????

October 8, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

I watched this tonight and loved it. The ending was a disappointing, but there's so much imagination and inventiveness preceding it that it was easy to overlook. I was genuinely moved.

October 9, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

i hated the ending of this movie so much it ruined the rest of the movie for me in retrospect. I think if you shave off some of the farting in the first 20 minutes and end it 10 minutes sooner it's suddenly a really very fine picture instead of an interesting failure.

October 9, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

From time to time, you run over a film that abandons you totally astounded toward the end. There are a few reasons regarding why this would happen, including movies that are so great (or so awful) that you can't articulate it immediately, however then there are movies where you basically have no clue what you just saw and are left somewhat stupefied by. One such film is Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan's "Swiss Army Man," a film that nearly challenges portrayal construct exclusively with respect to its inconceivably odd introduce.
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December 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Jarlo

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