"A Mixed Bag from the Material Girl"
FILTH & WISDOM is a small independent movie with a European sensibility, directed and co-written by pop singer Madonna. As envisioned by the iconoclastic pop diva, this movie contains the sleazy material, strong foul language and philosophical confusion one might expect from her. What you might not expect, however, are the movie’s touching poignant moments and its uplifting ending, which are surprisingly well directed.
The story in FILTH AND WIDSDOM is book-ended with a philosophical narration by the main character, a Ukrainian immigrant in London named A.K. A.K. is trying to reach musical stardom with his gypsy punk rock band, but, to make ends meet, he is a sex worker who whips and sometimes kicks male clients. A.K. tells the viewer that filth and wisdom are “two sides of the same coin.” Thus, people who are wise and pure have a dark side that eventually comes out, and vice versa.
A.K. has two female roommates. He is secretly in love with the first one, a pretty ballerina named Holly, though you wouldn’t know it from the things he does. For example, on A.K.’s advice, Holly decides to work at a strip club to finance her ballet classes.
His other roommate, Juliette, is a druggist’s assistant who dreams of helping children in Africa, but she steals various pill bottles from the shelves to ease her depression. Juliette’s henpecked boss, Sardeep, is an Indian immigrant who’s infatuated with her.
A.K. also tries to counsel Flynn, the older blind poet and professor who lives downstairs. Flynn has given up on writing and on life. A.K., however, greatly admires Flynn’s poetry. He makes it his personal mission to eliminate the professor’s despair.
Madonna must have realized the sleazier aspects of her movie would not sell, because she ends all these stories with a happy ending resulting from several unexpected acts of kindness and compassion. Even the chemist’s screaming wife becomes a sympathetic figure who manages to patch things up with her husband.
The positive ending overshadows the movie’s sleazy parts. In fact, the movie’s happy ending actually contradicts A.K.’s philosophy about filth often ending in wisdom and wisdom often ending in filth. Thus, in all the stories, it becomes clear that wisdom, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness are superior values. Wisdom and wickedness, therefore, are not two sides of the same coin, contrary to what the protagonist directly tells viewers. It is perhaps comforting to realize that even a mixed-up, confused, sinful, and iconoclastic pagan like Madonna knows this to be true.
FILTH AND WISDOM is well directed and acted. The movie even convinces viewers to care about its struggling characters. Examples of this are when we see the blind poet sinking into despair but being helped out of it by A.K., when the chemist’s bedraggled wife cries alone in her room after her children won’t stop fighting but lovingly takes off her husband’s slippers when he falls asleep on the couch, and when Juliette tearfully realizes her dream of going to Africa to help needy children. The movie contains even more excellent examples of such heartfelt epiphanies or revealing moments.
Even so, FILTH AND WISDOM contains abundant foul language and lewd sexual references (especially in its first half). For example, the “f” word is tossed around, and two of A.K.’s male clients clearly enjoy getting whipped on their behinds. This obscene material is clearly gratuitous, because the story doesn’t really need it to be successful. And, neither does Madonna’s career right now. In fact, her movie could have reached a broader audience, to the point perhaps of even reinvigorating her career, if she had exercised more media wisdom and more restraint. Please pray that she finally learns her lesson and turns to God and His Word through Jesus Christ.
(PaPa, FRFR, BB, C, LLL, VV, SS, NN, AA, DD, M) Strong, somewhat mixed, pagan worldview that seems contradictory in one area, with expressions of a dualistic pagan worldview about good and evil (or filth and wisdom) that is belied by the movie’s morally uplifting, slightly redemptive, premise and ending, where acts of kindness, including generosity and forgiveness, help fix one marriage, save a blind man from despair, fulfill a woman’s dream to help needy children in Africa, and help a heterosexual couple find each other; 66 obscenities (including “f” words and 15 or so uses of the English word “bloody”), one light profanity, and a couple obscene gestures; strong violence in one scene where a man brutally kicks a man and two or three other scenes where sex worker whips rear ends of male clients, plus woman deliberately punched by another woman but by mistake, despondent blind man shoves books onto floor, woman dumps cooked rice onto table in anger against unruly children, and children wrestle; strong sexual content includes several scenes of sadomasochistic hitting (including kicking in one scene), woman tries out for strip club and she dances in skimpy bikini three times or so, and implied sex between married couple; rear female nudity of stripper in skimpy bikini in two scenes, rear male nudity in one scene, and man often wears no shirt under his suspenders or jacket; alcohol use and brief drunkenness; smoking and woman steals pills and uses one to comfort her depression in one scene; and, druggist’s assistant steals pills, woman shouts at husband all the time but they eventually reconcile and he gives her flowers, and some philosophical confusion.
FILTH & WISDOM is a small independent movie with a European sensibility, directed and co-written by pop singer Madonna. In London, three young people try to realize their dreams while working at dead-end, even sleazy, jobs to make ends meet. The narrator is a Ukrainian immigrant who sings gypsy punk rock songs with his band. His two female roommates are a ballet dancer, who finds work as a stripper to support her training, and a depressed but caring druggist’s assistant, who steals mood-enhancing drugs from her infatuated Indian boss. The Ukrainian delivers groceries to a blind professor who has given up on life.
Madonna must have realized the sleazier aspects of this movie would not sell, because she ends these stories with several happy resolutions caused by several unexpected acts of kindness and compassion. Thus, the ending proves that wisdom, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness are superior values. Though FILTH AND WISDOM is surprisingly well done, it has too much gratuitous foul language. It also contains some sleazy sexual material that’s also gratuitous (though it could have been made much worse). Madonna and her collaborators obviously need spiritual and moral guidance.