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Tales From “Watch Instantly”: The Auteur (2008)

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If you have a short attention span (which I know I do), you'll remember that around a day ago I reviewed the James Westby film Film Geek. While it had some flaws here and there, I loved it, especially the lead performance of Melik Malkasian, so when I found out his second film, The Auteur, was also available on Netflix, I jumped right on board. While I still like Film Geek a lot more (many of those reasons pertaining to my own geekdom of the entertainment business), The Auteur is still a clever comedy, and it left me with one big question: how is Melik Malkasian not more famous?

To many people, pornography films are just a bunch of raunchy scenes that are thinly pieced together by a plot that took around five minutes to come up with. Not for Arturo Domingo (Malkasian, who seems to be Westby's go-to guy). This Italian filmmaker does not make just any kind of pornography; he is an artist, the Martin Scorsese of his genre. With films like Five Easy Nieces and Requiem for a Wet Dream, he became a superstar in the industry, earning the critical acclaim that most pornography directors never get. Unfortunately this all comes crashing down on the set of his most ambitious film (it's based on the title Full Metal Jacket, but I doubt I can actually say the real title here), when his alcoholism and rampant jealousy not only cost him his wife Fiona (Katherine Flynn), but his career as well.

Cut to eight years later, and Domingo (a few pounds heavier) has come to the town of Portland, Oregon (another Westby staple) to be honored for his body of work and to show his director's cut of FMJO (hopefully I can just use the initials). While in town, he encounters his former star and muse Frank E. Normo (John Breen) who has gone on to become a successful TV star with his travelogue/porno reality show, a hippie commune, a man in need of winning his wife back in bed, but what he really wants to find Fiona and finally win her heart back.

I cannot seriously stress this enough: Malkasian is absolutely brilliant. Arturo Domingo is as far away from his character in Film Geek as you can get, but he shows just how good he is by tackling such a different kind of role, and doing it very convincingly. Domingo as a character is hilarious; he's got the right amount of pretentious director mixed with self-confidence issues and a helping dose of comedy, mostly by just the air of arrogance he has around him (and the goofy pun-filled names of the movies he creates). He's even got a little Borat mixed in (mostly the mustache), but it all comes together to form a character you loathe, feel sorry for, and even partly like all at once. There's even a really good dramatic scene towards the end with Domingo and Fiona and… wow. Not only has the guy proven to be funny, but he's even able to pull it off dramatically (which you see hints of in Film Geek, but it's more convincing here). Malkasian should get his due at some point in the near future, this guy has talent that is begging to be brought to a bigger audience.

I also have to give it up for John Breen, who plays Arturo's muse Frank E. Normo. I read some other reviews stating that he is reminiscent of JK Simmons, and I have to agree, although with more energy. I admit I didn't like him in Film Geek, for the handful of scenes he was in, but he upped his game here and almost stole the spotlight from Malkasian on a few occasions.

Most of the humor in The Auteur is of a gross out variety, but what would you expect from a movie based around the porn industry? There are some choice moments (all of them too gross to be written about here) as well as some great lines (Domingo's reaction to the hippie explaining chakras had me rolling for a good five minutes after the scene ended). 

There is definitely some improvement from Film Geek and you can tell James Westby has been honing his craft. It looks a lot better, the script is fuller, and the acting all around has improved tremendously (except in one instance, which I will get to in a moment). He is definitely a director who has an interesting voice and some original ideas in a business that has been absent of them for quite some time.

The Auteur does have a few issues. First, the film has moments that drag and some the jokes do not hit. I am also not huge on puns so the overabundance of them, while it makes sense given the subject matter, gets really old really quick. There's also the character of the bellhop at the hotel Domingo stays at (oh, another funny recurring joke is the receptionist's hatred for Domingo, given in a 'Kristen Wiig in Knocked Up' kind of style). His character is just a generic white guy pretending to be black, and he was both useless and annoying. White people pretending to be gangster isn't funny anymore and needs to stop being used (this was made in 2008 though and it probably was still funny then, but this 2010 and I stand by my words, dang it!).

As I said before, I didn't like The Auteur as much as Film Geek, but that's merely for personal reasons (me being a film geek). James Westby's second film is definitely superior to his first, from the production to the script to the performances. It's rare that I actually latch onto a director's work, but after these past two days, I am definitely on board for anything Westby does from here on out… and especially for anything Melik Malkasian ends up in. Seriously Hollywood, stop giving Kim Jeong roles and hire this (actually funny) man!

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