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Keeping aside re-views of Aguirre, Burden of Dreams and Chungking Express, and despite the fact that I’ve seen Sherlock Holmes and Inglourious Basterds recently, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans must be the best one from last season. With a manic performance from Nicolas Cage (not an actor whose films I rush to lift off shelves) and delightful elements that make a Werner Herzog-film, a Werner Herzog-film, Bad Lieutenant is a foot-tapping crime drama.
Cage goes so mad in this film that by not nominating him for an Oscar, the pop film fraternity involuntarily endorsed his Terence McDonagh as the most riveting on-screen persona of the year. From about the 10th minute or so he has a crooked body and a far more crooked mind to go with it. Perfect Kinski material you’d think. There is trouble everywhere he goes and he is just corrupt to the last T. All this might seem a bit too “gritty” and “grim”. It is not. It is hilarious.
If Herzog was asked to make Even Dwarfs Started Small into a Hollywood venture with a famous lead actor, he would have replaced the dwarfs for a detective with super-slim morality and sprinkled some iguanas here and there. And he would call it Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, get into a war with the director of a film with similar name, and make a film all his own, for fun-sake. The proper Herzogian elements elevate the film to a different level. The iguanas and the crocodile are brilliant props in an otherwise free-flowing, mad bout of film-making. But the scene that clinched the deal was the “dancing soul” one. There might be 3D films on one hand and great art films on the other, but the joy of watching something as fresh as this is so exciting; say, like Sachin reaching outside off to swipe a fast bowler to mid-wicket at Gwalior.
It is interesting to note that Herzog’s previous “film” was set far away from New Orleans, in Antarctica. They had mad penguins there. Don’t make the mistake of checking out Cage’s previous films though.