At once admirably focused and side-splittingly funny, “The Final Member” charts the efforts of the curator of the only museum in the world dedicated to mammalian penises to obtain one last sample. The result underscores, once again, the motto behind the most unique and resonant documentaries: You can’t make this stuff up. An accomplished debut for helmers Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math, this surefire crowd-pleaser will be a fest fave and, some full-frontal nudity and, uh, short running time aside, a strong draw for adventurous distribs, cablers and ancillary.
Upon receiving a bull penis as a prank in 1974, Icelandic teacher and intellectual Sigurdur “Siggi” Hjartarson saw his calling in life. For the better part of four decades, he’s collected private parts, stuffed them in jars of formaldehyde, and housed the whole shebang in the Icelandic Phallological Museum, located some 30 miles from the Arctic Circle.
There are no two ways about it; Siggi’s gotta lotta johnsons, ranging in size from hamster to sperm whale. As the curator begins to ponder retirement and his eventual legacy, he’s haunted by the absence of the one specimen that’s eluded him thus far: “a proper human.”
Once the cry is raised — there are forms to fill out — two likely candidates emerge. In one corner is adventurer and Icelandic legend Pall Arason, who at 95 can furnish documented proof of some 300 women serviced, but fears age will shrink him below the five-inch minimum qualification. Keen to pull ahead of the native is sixtysomething American Tom Mitchell, who hails from California’s Santa Ynez Mountains, sports a full seven inches (nicknamed “Elmo” by his first wife), and is so determined to be the chosen one he’s had the stars and stripes tattooed on the candidate and — wait for it — is seriously willing to have his package surgically removed for the honor prior to his passing.
In less intuitive hands, such a film could very well have collapsed under the weight of its own snark. Credit first-time helmers Bekhor and Math for recognizing, and respecting, the seriousness with which each person among this unlikely trio treats his stabs at immortality. In letting them be themselves, “The Final Member” finds hilarity in humanity.
Tech credits are effortlessly smooth on a shoot that began just weeks after the Toronto-born, Los Angeles-based filmmakers heard Hjartarson interviewed on the radio. Rob Simonsen’s fulsome score is a major plus.