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MOVIE REVIEW

Lust-filled but unsatisfying 'Wisdom'

October 31, 2008|Michael Phillips | Phillips is a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune.

To get to where you want to go, exploit "the cash box in your body." So says one of the striving London bohos in "Filth and Wisdom," a film directed and co-written by Madonna, who is currently on her "Sticky & Sweet" concert tour, while hacking through a "Nasty & Expensive" divorce costarring Guy Ritchie.

That "cash box" line might well have come from Madonna's co-writer Dan Cadan, but if ever a career was indebted to the concepts of flesh, marketing, flesh, self-promotion, flesh and steely resolve, and flesh, it's Madonna's.

"Filth and Wisdom" began as a short. Narrator A.K. (Eugene Hutz), a Ukrainian immigrant, harbors dreams of musical glory that he finances by working as a cross-dressing S&M specialist. He's mad for Holly (Holly Weston), aspiring ballerina by day, pole dancer by night. Vicky McClure, the best thing in this hollow affair, plays a character named Juliette, who wants only to aid the African poor. She is lusted after by her East Indian employer (Inder Manocha). The blind professor played by Richard E. Grant lusts after A.K. I can't remember a movie with so much longing and so little juice, comic, dramatic or in between.

Madonna shoots it all like a home movie made by someone who has been on the other side of the camera so often, doing music videos, "reality" no longer feels remotely "real."

It's rather sweet to think of "Filth and Wisdom" as Madonna's reconnection to her own boho Manhattan, striver self a generation ago, and I did enjoy the last five minutes or so, when the movie essentially stops and Hutz's band, Gogol Bordello, takes over. If "Filth and Wisdom" helps the band's profile, I'm all for it. I'm just not, you know, all for it.

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