Mother Schmuckers


Reviewed by: Jeremy Mathews

Mother Schmuckers
"It’s shock comedy with no sense of impact or context, because before you can let the shock set in, the movie is running full steam ahead toward another disgusting episode." | Photo: Sylvestre Vannoorenberghe

If you took Luis Buñuel dream logic and put it in the hands of a 14-year-old cokehead obsessed with early John Waters films, teen comedies and wild handheld camerawork, you might end up somewhere in the vicinity of Mother Schmuckers. This chaotic story — if you can call it a story — features shit-eating, thievery, vandalism, bestiality, prostitution, necrophilia and other degeneracies, all crammed into 70 minutes that feels like a lifetime.

The madness focuses on a day in the antics of Issachar and Zabulon, two very stupid brothers who are starved for both food and their prostitute mother’s love. They’re played by Maxi Delmelle and Harpo Guit, respectively, and Harpo also wrote and directed the film with his brother Lenny. (Even the press release acknowledges that these Belgian filmmaking brothers are a far cry from their more famous and respectable countrymen, the Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.)

Copy picture

A good part of the story revolves around the mum’s dog, January Jack, whom they lose early on. However, to suggest that they’re on a quest to find it wouldn’t feel quite right because they rarely apply any focus or logic to reach their goals. There’s also the issue of their mom’s refusal to work (much to the chagrin of her madame), a friend who’s trying to make a movie, a grumpy cop and a lunatic who needs dancers for a music video.

It’s shock comedy with no sense of impact or context, because before you can let the shock set in, the movie is running full steam ahead toward another disgusting episode. If the filmmakers are shooting for madcap surreal comedy, they forgot that surrealism still needs certain grounding character or emotion to feel truly dreamlike. By the time Mathieu Amalric randomly shows up for a couple of scenes at the end, the question is less “What will happen next?” and more “How did they get such an esteemed actor to do this movie?”

I’m not sure that the Guit brothers would necessarily disagree with my description of Mother Schmuckers, and I’m sure there are some people who will read this description and say, “Sign me up!” Who knows, the thing could become legendary for the sheer audacity of its being. But I suspect most viewers will be so exhausted by the end of the film’s first 65 minutes, that they won’t even have the energy to engage with the extended post-credits scene that gets the runtime to 70 minutes.

Reviewed on: 31 Jan 2021
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Issachar & Zabulon, two brothers in their twenties, are supremely stupid and never bored, as madness is part of their daily lives. When they lose their mother's beloved dog, they have 24 hours to find it – or she will kick them out.

Director: Harpo Guit, Lenny Guit

Writer: Harpo Guit, Lenny Guit

Starring: Harpo Guit, Maxi Delmelle, Claire Bodson, Mathieu Amalric, Habib Ben Tanfous

Year: 2021

Runtime: 70 minutes

Country: Belgium


Sundance 2021

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