The gritty art film is a bit of a dying art form. Perhaps it’s because it’s so cheap to make a digital film with clear picture and audible dialog these days that no one has the patience for films like “Kiss Napoleon Goodbye”. Fortunately for fans of old school art house, they’re granted new life on DVDs distributed by Cult Epics. So now you can sit in a dark room with your introspective friends and struggle to hear fuzzy audio without even owning a projector or VCR.
“Kiss Napoleon Goodbye” was written by underground spoken word artist Lydia Lunch and directed by someone called Babeth. Lunch also stars along with Don Bajema and Henry Rollins in the story of a married couple (Lunch and Bajema) who move to a castle in the Dutch countryside in an attempt to rekindle their strained marriage. Their attempt is thwarted when the wife invites her ex (Rollins) to visit and is entirely incapable of keeping her hands off of him. I guess we don’t have to wonder why those two kids can’t seem to work it out.
The subplot, if you can call it that, revolves around the ghosts of other people who have lived in this castle, including Napoleon, his mistress, a guy who likes to drill holes in his head, and some bunnies. The spirits of former inhabitants mingle with the current ones to exemplify parallels in their lives. At least I think that’s what it all means. Or maybe it’s a precursor to Keanu and Sandra’s “The Lake House.”
So is it good? Well, that all depends on what you like. It looks great. I love that soft, orange film look (budgetary as it may have been) and the castle (which actually was home to Napoleon at one point) is gorgeous. Lydia Lunch is fairly sexy and spends a good deal of time wearing next to nothing and boning everyone within arm’s reach. But the dialog is cliché and the acting wooden. You know a movie is in trouble when Henry Rollins comes off as the best actor of the bunch. Of course, I missed at least a third of the dialog anyway. I had to turn the volume up to ungodly levels and be careful not to chew or breathe in order to catch what was being said. Usually, I regretted the effort. Though, I suppose that’s part of the point. In the bonus documentary, “Lydia Lunch: Paradoxia & a Predator’s Diary,” Lunch talks about how appalled she was by the budget of “Titanic” and how that money could have gone to feed the world. So spending money to remaster her film would have gone against her principles.
The special features include the aforementioned Lunch doc plus a performance of one her spoken word pieces entitled “It’s a Man’s World.” These are great features if you can really get “Napoleon” and are into anarchic feminist rants. But they are pretty tedious otherwise. Listening to Lunch speak is like having someone read you their diary. Personally, I find her more palatable when she’s in her underwear and making out with Henry Rollins.