Clean, Shaven: The Criterion Collection
Peter Winter (Peter Greene) is schizophrenic. He thinks he's got an antenna in his finger and his scalp. He hears things. And when the camera's around him, it presents overwhelming sounds of violence and distortion, as well as visions that may or may not be true. All Peter wants to do is see his daughter Nicole (Jennifer MacDonald) after returning from an institution. He's also being tracked by a policeman named Jack McNally (Robert Albert), who thinks he may have killed a young girl. Clean, Shaven (1993) was Lodge Kerrigan's directorial debut, and it could be a chapter in a book about talented filmmakers who decide that the only way to get noticed is to make movies on their own, only to end up at the Sundance Film Festival, which then gets their work theatrical distribution and creates careers for the star and director. In this case, Clean, Shaven took three years to get going, two to shoot, and a year to edit, but that sort of dedication is what's required to make something for so little that's so fruitful. And the focus is intense few films have been as successful at enveloping an audience into a schizophrenic mind, whereas other films with schizophrenics as main characters keep the audience at a distance, or use the disease as a gimmick. Kerrigan lends a humanitarian approach to the disease he never judges the main character, but the film also works on the level of a thriller. The most disturbing sequence arrives when Peter, attempting to remove one of these antennas, cuts off his own fingernail and digs into the wound with a pocket knife. Such a sequence of masochism would be the highlight of any gore film, but it's unsettling because, by the time Peter does it, the audience has a complicated relationship with him as the de facto protagonist. He creeps people out, but because of Greene's performance, he's sympathetically pained. And Greene's eyes have rarely been used to such great effect few performers have been able to essay such deep mental trauma with merely a look, though has much to do with Kerrigan's aural design, which places the viewer in Peter's mind (whether they want to be there or not). Kerrigan has worked erratically since, but the control he displayed in his debut bespeaks a methodical talent, and one that understands cinema, as here he smartly uses the audience's genre expectations against them. The Criterion Collection presents Clean, Shaven in a good anamorphic transfer (1.66:1) with the original monaural soundtrack (1.0). Extras include a commentary by director Lodge Kerrigan and Steven Soderbergh, who discuss the making of the film, which was completed for $60,000. Also included is Michael Atkinson's "A Subjective Assault: Lodge Kerrigan's Clean, Shaven," a video essay on the movie (9 min.). Also included are audio selections from the original soundtrack by Hahn Rowe and audio tracks of the dissonance heard through the film (all of which can be downloaded as MP3's). Theatrical trailer, keep-case.