the Goliard

August 2003

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City of Ghosts                     
Matt Dillon, a staff favorite for years (for reasons like his big teeth in Something About Mary and the line "Sparkplug? No I said Butt Plug"), makes his directorial debut the hard way by shooting his first film in Phnom Phen, Cambodia. Apparently assembling about him the only actors who would agree to make the trip over, he attempts to tell the story of Jimmy, an American con/business man who travels overseas to settle some matters with his mentor James Caan. He checks into a pub/hotel run by a deliciously slovenly Gérard Depardieu and proceeds to sort of wander about the streets (and the rest of the film) carrying a big suitcase and sticking out like a sore thumb. He gets pummeled, way laid, scammed, seduced (by Natascha McElhone see picture), double crossed, and dicked over, all with the same expression on his face and a sort of minimalist acting style that is at times hilarious for the right reasons and at others for the wrong ones. This movie completely loses its way and all credibility about half way through and, as the plot disappears into the mist like Lao Tsu on his ass, it becomes truly painful to behold. The first half however shows real promise and has some of the funniest scenes you'll ever see. For example, when Dillon arrives at Depardieu's bar and asks about a room he is told that he will probably want the one with an air conditioner as it will be worth the extra money in the stifling heat. When Jimmy finally locates the room down the street somewhere he finds a smashed air conditioner in the middle of the floor and a monkey immediately jitters in and steals his sunglasses. When he mentions this the next morning to his host, Gerard says in his best belligerent French accent, "What it's not working? Ah yes I remember. I went to get my man to fix it but he was drunk. Have a drink with me. And there are no monkeys in my hotel. Absolutely not!" As Dillon takes a pull off the proffered rusty flask he looks to see the doorman wearing his sunglasses. Depardieu is meanwhile berating a large python which is stretched across the hall imploring it to take care of any monkeys it sees. Another highlight of the film is Kem Sereyvuth who is a bicycle taxi driver that Dillon reportedly met when he was scouting for locations. Dillon was evidently so impressed with the young man that he wrote a large part into the film for him at the last minute to basically play himself and although this movie is truly horrible towards the end Sereyvuth's character Suk remains engaging. This reviewer's date leaned in towards the end of the viewing and said "this is the worst movie I've seen in awhile but if anything happens to Suk I'll not forgive you for bringing me to it." Nothing does but something definitely happened to the plot. We recommend waiting until it comes on cable, watching the first half and then switching to the ball game.


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