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B. Monkey

1998, 1920x1040

Asia Argento

Scoop's comments:

B. Monkey is True Romance, with European accents.

It is a violent fairy-tale romance of a movie which requires a complete suspension of disbelief. It is very much an Anglicized version of Tarantino's True Romance, which paired a mild comic store clerk with a hooker who came from an ugly world of drugs and violence. In this version of the fairy tale, a meek school teacher and a hardened criminal meet, slowly fall in love, then have the joint challenge of trying to find a life that suits them both. He is a mild-mannered romantic, who is a quiet scholar and a caregiver for very young children, but somehow gets mixed up with the ultimate Eurotrash scoundrel, B. Monkey, an armed robber with a body full of tattoos, a hard gaze, a whisky alto voice, gun-totin' junkie pals, and a penchant to write her name on every railroad bridge in London.

The school teacher is played by Jared Harris, who should be studied by geneticists, because he must be some kind of mutant. His father is Richard Harris. Now, I ask you, has there ever been a more flamboyant actor than Dad? He was one of my favorites, but I believe he has managed to go his entire career without ever delivering a line in a normal, conversational tone. An ex-girlfriend of mine was once describing a scene to me in which an actor was having a long, loud argument with God because the Almighty had sent an unwanted thunderstorm. I don't know who she was talking about, and neither did she, but I could only picture Richard Harris doing such a scene. The Roman historian Suetonius reported that the emperor Caligula once had a fight with Neptune, in which he paraded around the shallows, stabbing the sea with his sword. As far as I know, Harris never played that scene. I believe I have seen John Hurt and Malcolm McDowell actually doing that scene, maybe others as well, but Harris should have been the one. He is the one who plays it in my mind, when I imagine it. Have there been many actors with more emotion and sentiment pouring from them than Limerick's Man called Horse? OK, maybe Peter O'Toole in his later films, based on pure sentimentality, but for sheer, rich emotional output, Richard Harris always delivered the goods.

So the genetic question is - "What happened to Richard's son, Jared, who seems to be soft-spoken, sedate, and modest?" On Mad Men he was the firm's nerdy bean-counter. In this film, Jared plays a grade school teacher with an introspection and subtlety that were never seen anywhere in his dad's career. The teacher is quietly concerned about an abused boy in his class, and he plays the trumpet mildly and quietly for the children he loves. At night, he spins some mellow jazz classics at a non-profit radio station in a hospital, offering piano bar introductions like "this one goes out to all you romantics."

On the other hand, the genetics worked out correctly for the female lead. B. Monkey is played by Asia Argento, who is as frightening as she is beautiful, and is unmistakably the daughter of Italy's genre film master, Dario Argento.

Ultimately the mismatched romance between the lead characters is complicated by the fact that her former life just won't disappear completely, in the cinema tradition of bad girls who want to reform. As in True Romance, the clean-cut, meek, law-abiding character ultimately has to stand up to the baddies from his lover's former world.

Of course, none of it is credible.
(1) As in True Romance, none of the characters in B. Monkey are meant to be representative of people we might know, perhaps not of anyone at all. B wakes up from two days of vomiting and feverish dreams, but looks like she just stepped from the cover of Vogue, her hair neat, her lip gloss perfect, her eye make-up unmussed. In another scene, the lovers are at the deserted white cliffs of Dover, a scene filled with the feeling of vast empty space and natural colors - except for a bright pink ice cream truck. What the hell was it doing there? Certainly not selling much ice cream, since there were no people to be seen.

(2) The dialogue is also unrealistic. It's half-crazed, sounding either like lunatic ranting or like beatnik love poetry.

(3) It is also not possible to relate to the situations.

But it's not meant to be credible. Despite all those unrealistic elements, I felt the movie worked well both as an entertainment, and an aesthetic work. It's a lyrical, sad, ultimately hopeful fairy tale about mismatched lovers who want to create their own peaceful life away from their urban blight. It is a jazz-poem in images, a strange moody saxophone solo of a movie about the loneliness of modern city life. The score features Django, Coltrane, and Gershwin; the cinematography features outstanding rural and urban exteriors. I liked pretty much everything about it except the requisite over-the-top finale in which every character had a gun pointed at some other character, and they all started blasting away (another element it shared with True Romance).

The distributors found absolutely no market for this in America. There were a few test screenings, but people didn't like it, so it received a half-hearted, unmarketed release in a handful of theaters, and scored almost a complete goose egg at the box office.

In my opinion, it is an underappreciated film.


And, as you see above, there is plenty of hot Asia Argento nudity, including a coochie shot (see below)

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