Friday, 18 July 2014

REVIEW - THE FINAL MEMBER (JONAH BEKHOR AND ZACH MATH)


As the sword, the skyscraper or the supersonic jet, it is the emblem of masculinity. The Icelandic Phallological Museum provides a tart reminder that it's just a chunk of flesh, one worthy of a rather different sort of pride than that with which it is often so questionably endowed. Trust the Scandinavians to put things back into proportion. In this societal study, an inimitably quirky culture invites us in to observe it, embroidered vests and all, and to conclude that a mammalian penis museum is actually a very reasonable thing. Of course it is. The lone outsider is the boastful local celebrity; his is a sad story in a number of ways, and directors Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math are smart not to press the point. Their film is cheerfully comedic, and they openly rib their subjects in the process anyway. It's a simple fact that there's a good deal of humour to be mined in the Icelandic character, and these people trade in simple facts too. The museum, and its owner's quest to acquire a sample from its final species, homo sapiens, is just the stage for a rumination on ego, national identity, ageing, life and death. It's the most earnest depiction of modern man you could wish to see - its nakedness explored any way you want it. Not the Icelanders but the American who embarrasses himself most, his idiosyncrasies painfully plain to us, as he ambles around in apparent obliviousness. You will interpret his story rather differently once the film has finished. Bekhor and Math are thorough, and committed to a cause greater than the mere tone they pursue in their film, or its specific subjects. They're looking up at all us men, up from our legal length members and into our hearts and minds. The Final Member is their own museum of maculinity.