Ah the enviable life of the crusty, old junk yard man. Iím serious, too. Itís always seemed odd to me how jobs were doled out to the lower classes throughout our history. Like, how does one guy get to be a shepherd and another gets stuck being a blacksmith? One guy cleans fish for fourteen hours a day and the other guy just chills in the lighthouse. I figure being a junk man is probably in the same vein. Like, you just sit around all day and occasionally low ball people on broken cars. Once in a while, somebody drops off a perfectly good pin ball machine or something else awesome that you keep for yourself. Thatís the life for me.
Thereís a lot of supposition there. Do real life junk men just spend their days loafing about outdoors, or have they been replaced by more vigorous approaches to business that involve outsourcing, synergy and being dynamic? Well, in Carcasses, at least one Quebecois junk man lives the dream. The film seems like a documentary for itís first half or so as the junk man lays out his schedule. Most days, he travels to an auction or junk sale in a nearby town and eats in a favorite restaurant. (Fun Fact: Apparently Burger King has soup in Quebec). He admits that he is addicted to collecting junk, but heís parlayed his compulsion into a highly productive business, amassing over 4,000 cars and countless piles of other crap. He even seems to do OK with women, though that might be kind of a stretch. Maybe they figure a guy who already works in a reeking dump will be really into cunnilingus.
Oddly, this placid, slice of life abruptly turns to contrivance when a roaming band of gun toting retards–actual retards–turn up on the property to forage for food. Why? I doubt much thought went into their plan and it seems like even less went into this story. While our junk man might be an idealization, the introduction of a roving drool platoon seems like it was lifted from a post-apocalypse flick. I wonder how the filmmakers mistook the this unfolding of events as anything close to logical. Low key, slice of life film—> a nomadic band of retarded people show up with shotguns.
Why do art films seem fond of disabled children in recent history, anyway? I guess just because it makes for something different or even shocking like the rape in Irreversible, but offputting. And more often than not, like when Haneke uses them, it seems unnecessary. Here itís detrimental. Lingering shots of the man of unconventional leisure give way to lingering shots of retards playing with shopping carts and swatting at bugs. And itís less than riveting. Iíll grant that I have a personal distaste for downies. To me, they are the least interesting animals you could film. Humans are interesting because of their minds. Animals are interesting because of their bodies and instincts. With retarded people, youíve got flabby, lame, human bodies, but their minds are crippled as well. Why would you want to see that?
But the deeper problem here is wedging characters into a story when they have no reason to be there. The basic ploy is kind of like Audition, in setting up one movie and then switching genres abruptly. But in this case, I donít see the end. I get that both a junk man and a nomadic band of retards are, in the words of one of the ďdocumentary,Ē interviewers ďmarginalĒ figures. But one of them has counterparts in reality. There are real junk men, I hope. There arenít roving tribes of severely retarded people in Canada, Iím certain.
So, the junk man and the retards wordlessly agree to wordlessly coexist. One of the tards drops dead and the junk man helps to bury him, the end. Sensible plan too. I mean, I suppose there might be some possibility that secretly burying a disabled minor on your property could come back to bite you in the ass down the road, but it’s hard to imagine how. Itís retarded, but I guess what makes the the mess upsetting is that the set up proves these people could have made a good film. Show me the real life of the fictionalized ideal of a junk man and Iíll enjoy it. Lose your conviction half way through and throw in a team of Gumps to pull your dogsled and Iíll only watch the movie to the end so I can vent about it here. One of the worst films of whichever year it was made.