I'd been waiting anxiously to see director Koen Mortier's Ex Drummer, ever since this tantalizing review appeared in the pages of Film Comment earlier this year. The film is nothing short of an inescapable rush of insanity and brilliance, setting a new high bar for nasty, cutting-edge cinema. Part Gummo, part Romper Stomper, part Trainspotting, with more than a hint of Gaspar Noé's influence, Ex Drummer brings to mind nothing so much as a contemporary, punk-rock Ubu Roi, where graphic brutality, absurd flights of comedic fantasy, and social criticism form a gruesomely entertaining triumvirate. Blind rage, domestic horror, gross sex, punk energy and the class struggle all feature prominently in the whirling narrative.
The story centers on Dries, a former tough guy turned celebrity author, who is approached by three brutish, self-proclaimed "handicapped" lowlifes (nonetheless talented, vigorous musicians) who ask him to be the drummer for their fledgling garage band. Dries decides to take the gig, mostly because he's fascinated by the three maniacs and imagines that somehow the experience will help him garner material for a new book (it does.) Almost inevitably, Dries begins to act out reprehensibly, all the more power-mad because he's well aware of the one foot he still has in his comfortable existence with his posh flat and beautiful girlfriend; his bandmates lash out, destructively and self-destructively, simply because they're incurably fucked up and it's the only life they've ever known.
The film is also loaded with striking camera work and a wealth of postmodern trickery worthy of Michael Haneke or Danny Boyle. Bicycles ride backward, scenes play in reverse, and one character is forced by some unseen, punishing gravity to live upside down on the ceiling of his flat.
With the overwhelming bulk of my movie viewing coming up mediocre these days (cable series like Mad Men and The Wire having surpassed most films in my estimation), Ex Drummer is a much-needed, bloody head-butt of fresh air and enthralling creativity. Ex Drummer has screened at Lincoln Center's Film Comment Selects and other festivals, but has yet to be slated for a region 1 DVD release.