OnPoint by Keith Ng

No Nudity. No Violence. Unspeakable Obscenity.

The World Cinema Showcase is now in Auckland! More reviews next week, but The Aristocrats is on tonight and Sunday only, so I figured I should get in quick.

When the promo for The Aristocrats went on about how obscene it was, I thought it was just PR fluff. I've spent four years in student media; I sat through Irreversible; I've looked upon the Muhammad cartoons with my own mortal eyes. How bad could one little documentary about comedians be?

Rather than give a synopsis of the film, I'll refer you to the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 section 3(2). It defines "objectionable" with 6 different categories. Each category covers a particular kind of behaviour, which, because my mother reads this blog, I won't describe here.

Suffice to say, my mother would not approve. Actually, it's the sort of thing that Big Bertha down in Cell Block D would not approve.

In a mere 89 minutes, The Aristocrats doesn't just touch on one of these categories, or even two. It covers all six. Thoroughly. Repeatedly. Often simultaneously. I think they only did necrophilia twice, but all the other ones they, er, rammed though again and again. Flogged like a very funny dead horse. Can't remember if there was flogging. No horses though. Can't say the same for other animals. There were beef entrails, but I was a bit confused about where they came from.

[Update: I take it back. There *was* a horse. A three-pound Shetland pony, in fact. You don't want me to tell you the rest.]

It's all part of a single joke that gets retold by a gaggle of comedians. The joke itself isn't really particularly dirty. It's more like a vessel. A vessel that allows the comedian to commune with unspeakable beings in the deepest, darkest planes of Hell and channel its very essence, of which earthly dirtiness is but a feeble imitation.

And when they manage to tap into that essence, rays of filth blast out from their mouths, as if they were possessed by a deified Rodney Dangerfield.

And it's really bloody hilarious. The energy, imagination (eww...), skill and uninhibited glee that accompanies the filth is what makes the movie, but at its core, it really is a very simple examination of the essence of dirty jokes. It's the dirty joke of dirty jokes. It's the ideal of obscenity. It's the thing that makes your average dirty jokes want to write indignant letters to the editor and boycott its products.

So yeah, it really is pretty goddamn obscene.

A range of medium is explored - it's got straight stand-ups, actors, a mime (so very, very wrong), physical comedy, magicians, jugglers, a South Park skit (Cartman tells the joke); one guy even tells the joke as a card-trick.

Bob Saget nearly breaks down from the overwhelming power of his own obscenity; the South Park lads live close to the Hellmouth anyway, and their appearance just felt alarmingly natural; Sarah Silverman never tells the joke, but still manages to channel its power.

And if gospels were meant to be sung by a chorus angels, then this joke was meant to be screeched by Gilbert Gottfried. I've never liked him before, but really this is his joke, through and through.

It's on at 20:30 tonight at the Academy Cinema and again on Sunday at 20:15.

[P.S. Had an interview with Simon Pound on bFM yesterday, talking about the international student community and such. Check it out.]

In the meantime, here's the latest installment of Newtown Ghetto Anger: