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Paul Provenza's The
Aristrocrats is so unspeakably filthy and offensive that only pre-pubescent kids or
sophisticated scholars of obscene cinema may be able to appreciate it. Otherwise, those
not titillated by a nonstop feces-and-incest talk orgy would profit by letting it find its
proper level of ignominy in private.
The film's title is the punch line to a variable old burlesque routine
about a family trying to sell an incredibly depraved variety act, involving sexual acts
within the family and descriptions of inventive defecation. "And what do you call the
act," asks the talent agent after listening to detailed descriptions of egregious
perversions. "The Aristocrats."
A rare collection of top comedians - including Eric Idle, Kevin
Pollack, Steven Wright, George Carlin, Robin Williams, and Billy Connelly - parades by for
90 minutes, vying for telling the most foul-mouthed version of the "joke." Most
of them seem to enjoy the contest for the most twisted ideas (none of which could you
possibly see in any review or studio advertising), showing either the defiant grin of a
little kid using certain words for the first time or the hysterical laughter of a drunken
Why is the punch line supposed to be funny? Fred Willard's
"analysis" in the film is that it's a gag about "a lack of
self-understanding." The way it applies to the movie itself is that there is nothing
noble about an ongoing attempt "to shock beyond shock." Didn't that kind of
thing go out of fashion in the early '60s?
- Janos Gereben