“Clean, Shaven” is an almost unbearably intense, exceedingly concentrated study of schizophrenia by a clearly talented new filmmaker. Using a fragmented narrative and some avant-garde techniques, pic is so unsettling that many viewers won’t be able to tolerate it, and there is no doubt that the graphic gruesomeness of two or three scenes goes well beyond what any audience would want to see. Still, this could find a place on the more adventurous fringe of the specialized scene, and marks Lodge Kerrigan as a talent to watch.
A young cinematographer, Gotham-based producer-director-writer Kerrigan lensed this short feature in fits and starts beginning in 1990 on remote Miscou Island in Eastern Canada. Both the razor-sharp focus on the subject matter and the strong filmmaking discipline bespeak a tenacious commitment to the project.
First dialogue doesn’t occur until 12 minutes in, and Kerrigan puts the viewer ill at ease almost at once. His central figure, Peter Winter (Peter Greene), is a blond young man who is clearly very disturbed and is probably a murderer.
Simple story line of Peter searching the windswept, sparsely populated island for his daughter while pursued by a detective presents a string upon which to hang numerous scenes in which it appears that Peter’s head might literally explode.
At one point, he cuts himself up with a razor, and while driving down the road starts digging bloodily into his skull. There are also some vivid autopsy shots, but worst of all is a prolonged scene of Peter digging out a fingernail with a knife. In the end, it turns out there was a reason for all this, but that doesn’t help while watching it.
This aside, Kerrigan and Greene present a close study of an unbalanced mind perhaps unprecedented in its artistic concentration and clinical detail. Character seems so beyond the pale, so incapable of doing anything normally, that it’s hard to believe he could have made it this far and been part of a family. But as the deconstructed facts of his life are pieced back together, a plausible portrait emerges.
Film has a powerful impact for both the right and wrong reasons. But even without the blood, Kerrigan instantly grabs the attention and makes the viewer squirm for the full running time. The visuals possess an exceptional clarity, the precise editing keeps one off balance, and the soundtrack is of an exceptional complexity and density.
Ultimately, pic puts the viewer in agonizingly close proximity to a character one would like to get as far away from as possible, but it conveys his pressurized state of mind with impressive skill.