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SUNDANCE 2021 Midnight

Review: Mother Schmuckers


- With their feature debut, brothers Harpo and Lenny Guit deliver a uniquely nuts, coarse and insolent comedy

Review: Mother Schmuckers
(left to right) Harpo Guit, Maxi Delmelle, the dog Fresco and Chaïda Chaddy Suku Suku in Mother Schmuckers

The first feature from brothers Harpo and Lenny Gruit, whose utterly crazy short films posted on their YouTube channel have managed to seduce certain film festivals and to gather a small following, Mother Schmuckers [+see also:
interview: Harpo and Lenny Guit
film profile
had its world premiere in the Midnight section of the Sundance Film Festival. And it is certainly no coincidence that this film would find itself in a section reserved to “undisciplined” films.

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Issachar (Maxi Delmelle) and Zabulon (Harpo Guit lui-même) have a problem. They have lost Jack-Janvier, their mother’s dog. It could be just a detail for you, but to them, it means a lot. They will do anything to get it back, including slapping a child in the face, getting dressed as a dog, or killing a parakeet. For a start.

Mother Schmuckers is surprising, of course. This insolent and explosive feature debut, overflowing with irreverent energy and with a real taste for provocation, represents a cinema with a true punk and DIY spirit, where each scene challenges what came before it in terms of provocation and bad taste. Knowing that the film opens with a delirious scene of coprophagia should give a tasty idea of what comes next. It also invites the viewer to accept that they will be mistreated a little.

Although the Guit brothers do sometimes appear to be free-wheeling (surely an homage to the name of their production company), that is part of the film’s refreshing charm. The project feels like a rather dubious but very communicative joke, a film made by friends, but not of the kind that usually comes out in cinemas, oh no, rather it is like those films that, giggling, we send each other via discreet text or email. However, the film is a kind of wild “happening”, which elevates a homemade aesthetic presented in multiple formats to the rank of art. It is a pop delirium determined to do everything it can to shock the viewer — all the while including the latter in the joke, with an obstinacy that deserves if not our admiration, then at least our respect.

Like Issachar and Zabulon, who run after their dog, their mother, their food, the film runs after the ghost of a joyful and bonkers cinema, mimicking failed action scenes, playing with clichés, getting out guns and pimp mothers.

What if Mother Schmuckers was in fact a sort of improbable remix of After Hours and Dumb and Dumber, filtered through the perspective of these two brats and their (resolutely bad) taste for provocation and for a homemade aesthetic, and set in the slightly grimy streets of a Brussels very far from the lace shops of the Grand Place, but warm and cinematic nevertheless?

We are lightyears away from the dusty “cinéma de papa”, and yes, the result is often very rude, at times seriously vulgar, and might not please a part of the public, those not ready to let themselves be softly bullied by this funny, mad and insolent film. But for the others… we can already imagine the film being passed around between friends, with a great many knowing winks.

Mother Schmuckers is produced by Roue Libre Production, as part of a call for projects launched by the Centre du Cinéma et de l’audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, aimed at films produced under light conditions, meaning with a reduced budget and in a short time. It is sold internationally by Brussels-based company Best Friend Forever.

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(Translated from French)

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