Madonna’s first film as director received a less than enthusiastic reception from critics today.
'Filth and Wisdom' has opened at the Berlin Film Festival, where Madonna said her cinema influences were greats like Federico Fellini.
The romantic musical comedy-drama comes six years after Madonna’s last film outing, 'Swept Away', which was directed by her husband Guy Ritchie and received dire reviews.
Filth and Wisdom is an 81 minute-long story of a Ukrainian immigrant who finances his dreams of becoming a rock star by moonlighting as a cross-dressing dominatrix.
Set in London it stars Eugene Hutz, the lead singer of New York gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, in the main role of a philosophising S&M escort.
The ensemble of characters also includes a thieving chemist’s shop worker and a ballet dancer who is forced to lap dance.
As well as directing and executive producing the film, which Madonna plans to release on the internet, the pop star co-wrote the script.
At the international film festival the Material Girl shocked critics by comparing herself to the likes of Jean-Luc Godard and Fellini, before she "hope(s) that I may one day make something close to their genius".
Judging by some of the reviews today, Madonna, whose work in front of the big screen has notched up a tally of nine Golden Raspberry awards for worst actress, has a long way to go.
The Guardian newspaper’s reviewer, Peter Bradshaw, called the film “dumb and tacky” adding “her conception of super-cool streetwise reality is so clueless it’s as if Marie Antoinette had made a film about cake-munching peasants.”
He writes that the script is a “nightmare of crass and fatuous stereotypes” and “despite living in Britain for many years, she only has the sketchiest notion of what the place is like.”
He writes: “Madonna has been a terrible actor in many, many films and now - fiercely aspirational as ever – she has graduated to being a terrible director.”
The Evening Standard’s Derek Malcolm is equally damning, stating: “The moral of the tale is that you have to go through hard times (filth) before you reach equilibrium (wisdom).
“But it is punctuated by so much cod philosophising that you wonder whether the film knows what it is talking about at all.”
He adds: “The absence of a decent screenplay doesn’t help the energetic actors, and Madonna has far to go before she can breathe the same air as Godard, Pasolini, Fellini and Visconti, whom she insists she admires in a director’s statement in which two of the four are misspelt.”
Trade website Screendaily.com’s Jonathan Romney writes that the ensemble comedy is “no better or worse than the average creaky low-budget Britflick”.
He also writes that the film is “creakily written” and set in a London that “lacks any sense of density or social observation”.
“The film aspires to paint a brittle, celebratory picture of a multi-ethnic capital where everyone gets cheerfully by, but comes across as essentially duplicitous, claiming to satirise racial and social stereotypes while lazily perpetuating them,” he adds.
James Christopher in The Times is one of the critics who have warm words for the film, writing: “Despite its many shortcomings and an ending so mushy and neat it would embarrass Richard Curtis, Madonna has done herself proud.
“Her film has an artistic ambition that has simply bypassed her husband, the film director Guy Ritchie....Filth and Wisdom shows that Madonna has real potential as a film director.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Ray Bennett was a little congratulatory, writing: “Ragged, uneven and potholed with some dire dialogue and performances, the film’s cockeyed optimism and likeable leads conspire to bring a smile by the time it’s done.”
A reviewer in the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung wrote: “Filth and Wisdom isn’t a bad film. That’s quite an achievement by Madonna’s standards.”