"WE SHOULD NOT be an accountant of facts," Werner Herzog says in one of the special features on the DVD of My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done. "We should be poets; we should start to invent a story based on something real." That's more or less exactly what Herzog tries to do with My Son—a film that received even less of a theatrical release than his criminally underseen Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, but which arrived on DVD earlier this week.
Ever-so-loosely inspired by a true story in which a man killed his mother with a sword, My Son is produced by David Lynch and stars Michael Shannon as the stabber, Grace Zabriskie as the stabbee, Chloë Sevigny as the stabber's fiancée, and Willem Dafoe as a cop trying to suss it all out. Naturally, there is also a midget in a tuxedo, and Bad Lieutenant's fascination with various reptiles has been replaced with a flamingo and ostrich obsession. ("Zizz is dis-khust-ing," Udo Kier—of course Udo Kier—sneers after recovering his drool-covered eyeglasses from a hungry ostrich's gullet.)
The sparse, stilted, and straightforward My Son is engaging enough for Herzog fans, but is far from the filmmaker's best; in a DVD interview, co-writer Herbert Golder says Herzog gave him a week to write the script, which seems about right. In light of recent triumphs like Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World, and Bad Lieutenant, My Son seems a bit underwhelming—a must-see for Herzog fans, but not for anyone else.
What is a must-see for everyone is one of the DVD's bonus features: The short film Plastic Bag, directed by the phenomenal Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo). Ridiculous and beautiful, Plastic Bag is a film about just that—a plastic bag, blowing and floating its way around the world, growing ever more tattered... but the plastic bag is voiced by Werner Herzog. "Destruction. Desolation. There was nothing," the lonely bag notes in Herzog's deadpan accent. Imbuing a true story of matricide with existential gloom is easy. Doing so with a plastic bag? That's fucking impressive.