The Alamo Drafthouse is known for many things. Being ordinary is not one of them. Case in point: Klown, the raunchy Danish comedy hitting U.S. shores today; the latest title in Drafthouse Films' still young but impressive distribution arsenal.
As if the movie itself wasn't already a natural fit with the brand's atypical sensibilities, recently the Drafthouse put on an extra-special screening of it just outside Austin, Texas, creating a pop-up movie theater in the middle of nowhere... on a riverbank. And you had to canoe to get the movie. And it was magnificent.
Here's how it works. Everyone gathers about 70 miles from the nearest Drafthouse at the Guadalupe Canoe Livery. You're then driven to a launching point several miles up river, where you embark on a lazy afternoon canoeing back down river, Drafthouse-supplied libations in tow. By the time you return to where you've started, the A/V wizards at the Drafthouse have inflated a massive screen right on the side of the riverbank and fired up their custom-made Rolling Roadshow projector truck. Everyone gets out, chows down on food and beer and then watches the movie. It's a glorious experience, to say the least.
This wasn't the first time I'd canoed down that river to watch a special outdoors Drafthouse screening, either. A few years ago the theater put on a similar event for the ultimate canoe-trip movie, Deliverance. Since then I've wondered how they'd ever find a canoe-related movie worthy of the experience. Enter Klown.
This sublime Danish comedy has nothing to do with Deliverance, of course. It's not about men getting back to nature and fighting for their lives against hillbillies; it's about two grown men who never really grew up. Frank is a well-meaning, but slow-witted dolt just bumbling through life. Casper is his inexplicable best friend, a handsome, seemingly successful man who simply cannot keep it in his pants. The two are about to go on a canoe trip together for a once-a-year event involving a mysterious, invite-only brothel that Casper is obsessed with, when Frank discovers that he's about to become a father. His girlfriend, however, thinks he'll make a terrible parent and role model, so in a bid to prove just how responsible he can be Frank brings his 12-year-old nephew on the canoe trip.
Things do not go well.
The film is actually based off of an incredibly popular TV show of the same name, but don't worry about having to be familiar with the series to appreciate the movie. While I'm sure there are indeed in-jokes that fans will pick up on, having never seen a single episode of the show, I can certainly attest that Klown stands on its own. It's a smart, bold comedy about men who just can't get it together. They're morons, yes, but they're likeable morons, and the situations they get themselves into are both outlandish and yet entirely plausible given their nature. It's raw, clever stuff and the closest American analog for it I can suggest is to imagine a Curb Your Enthusiasm movie about Larry David's sexual misadventures.
But getting back to the canoe trip, a leisurely float down the river and a movie under the stars wasn't the only thing the Drafthouse had in store. They'd also brought along the stars of the film, Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen, and its producer Louis Vesth to canoe down the river with fans and participate in a Q&A after. Having not seen the film until that point, I had no idea what was in store, but suffice to say the random campers who happened to be on the riverbank that night were surely baffled as to why these mad Danes were talking about everything from almost drowning during filming to how much it cost to make a prosthetic penis.
It was one of the liveliest Q&As I've seen in a while, and it's a testament to the strength of the film that the unsuspecting locals weren't shocked and appalled, as I feared they would be when the movie gets into its more boundary-pushing gags, but rather laughing it up with the 130-odd film fans who at least had some idea what they were signing up for.
And while I can't recommend enough watching Frank and Casper make fools of themselves and the entire male sex under the Texas night sky on a riverbank, you need not curse the movie gods for having missed out on such a unique experience. Drafthouse Films releases Klown in select theaters (here's a listing) and on VOD today, and no matter where or how you watch, if you like crass yet sharp humor, you will laugh. A lot.