julien donkey-boy is a 1999 film written and directed by Harmony Korine. It tells the story of the schizophrenic Julien, his pregnant sister Pearl, brother Chris, and their manical father. It is Korine's second feature film and the first US film to be certified by the filmmaking collective Dogme 95. julien donkey-boy premiered at the 56th Venice Film Festival on October 7, 1999, and began it's theatrical run in the US on October 15, 1999.
The character of Julien in the film is based on Korine's uncle Eddie, brother of his father. An image of Eddie appears at the end of the film along with a note that the film is dedicated to him.
The full film credits as they appear at the end of the picture can be found here.
julien donkey-boy's look was achieved by transferring the original DV footage onto 16mm reversal stock before blowing it up to 35mm using an optical printer.
In total, the work of thirty different cameras can be seen in the film.
During production the film was known as 'The Julien Chronicles.'
Musician Will Oldham has an uncredited role in the film. He can be seen very briefly in the party scene, dancing.
The film's shooting script was a 124-scene treatment of sorts, essentially only offering descriptions of scenes ("The sound of hard wind," is all it says for Scene 8. In Scene 58, "julien's brother tries again in vain to kill the swan."). All the dialogue was improvised by the actors, with the exception of a telephone conversation between Julien and his sister.
Korine's grandmother, Joyce, has a role in the film as Julien's grandmother. The house featured in the film is also hers and is located in Queens, New York. The dog, Punky, is her own as well.
Ewen Bremner later named his newborn daughter Harmony. Bremner told The New York Times: "My partner chose the name. I thought she was joking when she suggested it. It's not to do with the film particularly, but simply because Harmony is inspiring."
When in 2006 Sylvester Stallone was asked in an Aint It Cool News interview to name his favorite films, he answered: "I like a lot of films from the 70s. I don’t like to speak specifically because sometimes people get offended. But, my taste runs from The Godfather to julien donkey-boy, so it’s hard to pin me down on that subject."
Winner of the ADF Cinematography Award - Special Mention for Anthony Dod Mantle at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema in 2000.
Winner of the Best Actor award for Ewen Bremner at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema in 2000.
Winner for Best Art Direction for Harmony Korine at the Gijón International Film Festival in 1999.
Nominated for the Grand Prix Asturias Best Feature award at the Gijón International Film Festival in 1999.
Nominated for the Best Cinematography award at the Independent Spirit Awards in 2000.
Nominated for the Bronze Horse at the Stockholm Film Festival in 1999.
julien donkey-boy was released on R1 DVD in the US by New Line Home Video on March 20, 2001. The DVD includes two deleted scenes, cast and crew filmographies, the US theatrical trailer, and a documentary on the making of the film. julien donkey-boy was released on R2 DVD in the UK by Tartan Video on April 16, 2001. It includes the same features present on the US R1 DVD. julien donkey-boy was also released on R2 DVD in Japan by Tohokushinsha Film on August 24, 2001.
The screenplay for julien donkey-boy was included in Harmony Korine - Collected Screenplays, published in the UK by Faber & Faber Ltd on April 8, 2002. The book also includes the screenplays for Gummo and Jokes.
In joining the Dogme Brotherhood, something that I am staunch about, in the belief of making a film under God, forsaking convention and abiding strongly to its conviction, I proudly abandon-ed those cinema tactics that I have been brought up in. And in doing this, I succumbed to a religious-like semi-calvinist fervour. But, as when I was a child, the temptation to sin was always a romantic option. This romantic option led me to the cinema, a place where sin was welcome, where, at least in theory, the purpose made it holy.
If I was ever to make a Western, for instance, and a horse died because I asked too much from the stallion, I would not shed a tear simply because it died by my command. I would weep only if the horse died off camera. Cinema sustains life. It captures death in its progress. Thus the horse dies for the world as did Christ himself. With this belief, working and seriously believing as I do in the prophecy and intrinsic value of the "Vow Of Chastity," I welcome the conversion of belief and gladly altered my former approach. But this was not a solo conversion, but a happy one, and in this, I was born again.
And, like some sort of missionary with strict conviction and righteousness, it was also my duty to persuade those non-believers (actors, producers, certain crew members) especially those begrudging Americans around me, that this was a rescue mission of sort, that it was not enough to take my orders but to find sufficient solace within the confines of Dogme '95. There can be art without love; but no cinema can lack love. To love the manifesto is the only way I could make it through, not to question it, but to give in as you would blindly give yourself to a higher power.
But with that said, I must confess with little shame and redemptive sorrow to my few sins against my brethren. As when I was a nine year old child and I burnt my Mother's garden down with matches and dry grass while Mother trusted me enough to leave me alone at home for the first time, I was to tend to my younger siblings while she went shopping for a winter coat. But I started a fire instead. And the fire consumed more than her flowers. She smashed my bare ass with a yellow wiffle ball bat till the welts on my ass made a brutal enough impression for her to stop. Needless to say the lesson was learned and my vandalisation ceased, at least for awhile.
But then I was a child.
Now I am what I am.
The Lord's vessel I am.
These are my confessions to the brotherhood: Before God I shall confess: Purge and redeem.
I confess to Chloë Sevigny's pregnant belly not being truly pregnant. I tried to impregnate her myself, but there wasn't enough time. Plus she felt not ready to carry a child for nine months. I did not try though. Perhaps it is my fault. Perhaps I am shooting blanks. And loving her the way I do, I did not want another man to give it a try. So we used a round foam pillow that was present on location in my Grandmother's closet.
I confess that in the turkey dinner scene I made my Grandmother go to the grocery store and buy a batch of raw cranberries, which she cooked in her own kitchen along with the rest of the turkey dinner. I confess to using a fake dead baby fetus that Julien steals at the end of the film. The baby already existed as is, in the maternity unit of the hospital where the scene was shot at. It was used by the nurses there to practice pre-natal CPR.
I confess that the music in the film existed without any manipulation at my Grandmother's home. I lived at her home for four, three years prior to my fame and kept my belongings in the basement. All props were there beforehand. This was one of my main reasons for using this location. Also all the music and pre-taped voice overs were done on a cheap micro cassette recorder that existed on location. The sound was played directly from this or a record player that my Grandmother hadn't used since 1954.
I confess to one of the actor's construction by hand a crude pair of flip flop ice-skates that are used in one of the final scenes. But both the ice-skates, the glue, and the flip flops were all on the location we filmed.
I confess that the balloons in the part scene were blown up by actors in the scene. But the custodian had seven bags of balloons in his broom closet that he was kind enough to let us use even though he was saving them for his wife's 46th birthday party.
Salvation is free. Redemption and mercy.
Praise be "the vow of chastity." And blessed be the family!
In the name of Dogme '95.
I wilfully submit julien donkey-boy.
Your brother in arms,
95 - The vow of chastity.