Mother and Son (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Move over, "Nostalghia". Clear out, "Hiroshima, Mon Amour". Step aside, "Last Year at Marienbad". You boys thought you had a chance for the gold. That someday, centuries from now, when the whole history of cinema is complete, that mankind could look back and say that you were the most pretentious movie ever made.

Well you boys are history. There is a new champion in town, and his name is "Mother and Son"

I guess I should explain before I start ranting that the tradition of Russian intellectual cinema comes directly from painting, not from literature. The words are almost unimportant, the plots are sometimes non-existent. This particular movie is not really a movie at all. It is simply a painting that moves.


And it doesn't move very much.

It has all the worst elements of Northern European filmmaking. It is filled with gravitas and self-pity. The dialogue is self-consciously meaningful. The acting is exaggerated and hammy. The pacing is -- I can't say slow because merely slow movies seem like that first scene of "Roger Rabbit" compared to this. At one point I stopped to see if my DVD player was broken because nothing was moving - and it was in 8x speed at the time, working perfectly.

Here's what happens. A mother is dying in bed. Her son comes in and asks her if she wants to go for a walk. She does, and he carries her outside for a while, then carries her back inside. He sets her on her bed, goes out for a walk on his own, stands in a field and watches a train go by, returns to his house to find his mother dead in bed.

The end. About 50 words of dialogue in the entire movie. Maybe a half dozen different camera set-ups. Virtually no sound.

Oh, and I should mention that most of the scenes are filmed through distortion techniques - colored or curved glass or maybe special lenses, that make the film seem like it is being shown in the wrong aspect ratio with the colors desaturated.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen letterboxed, no features.

You guys know that I have no problem appreciating the work of the Russian masters. I have said that Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev is the Pieta of filmmaking. Having offered that preface, let me hasten to add that I couldn't stand this film. It is irritating, pseudo-intellectual hokum masquerading as art. It is mimimalism as a pure intellectual exercise.

On the other hand, if you could enjoy looking at a single painting for 73 minutes, provided that the painting changes very, very slowly, then this is your Holy Grail.

Provided you don't mind the fact that it is a mediocre and distorted painting to begin with.

The Critics Vote

  • not discussed by any major reviewers

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 8.4, near the levels of the best films ever made. If you watch it, don't say I didn't warn you.
My guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is an E. It is completely unwatchable.

Return to the Movie House home page