3.23.2008

CNN: Hey Madonna, don't give up the day job!

LONDON, England (CNN)
-- She is arguably the most influential female recording artist of all
time. With hits spanning over three decades and her recent induction
into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Madonna has had a staggeringly
successful music career.


































































































































Cast members Vicky McClure, Eugene Hutz, and Holly Weston pose with Madonna at the 'Filth and Wisdom' photocall in Berlin

Cast members Vicky McClure, Eugene Hutz, and Holly Weston with Madonna at "Filth and Wisdom" photocall














From ripped
denim street-punk, lipstick lesbian, English countrywoman, stage
actress, yummy mummy, children's writer, bendy disco diva to Kabbalah
devotee, mother of re-invention, as far as her image goes, Madonna has left no stone unturned.

Now on the verge of turning 50, she could be forgiven for slowing down a little.

But there is one thing eluding the eternally driven Queen of Pop: a successful film career.


Apart from a role in Evita, for which she won a Golden Globe best
actress award, Madonna's contribution to the film world can be, at
best, described as forgettable.

She has worked on a string of
notorious flops including "Shanghai Surprise," "Body of Evidence" and
"Swept Away," directed by husband Guy Ritchie.

Madonna also
has a record haul of Golden Raspberry awards for Worst Actress, with 15
nominations and nine wins. Two years ago, fans breathed a sigh of
relief when she vowed never to star in another film again.

She
told Hollywood.com: "I hate to admit it, but I've decided to give that
up. What film can survive people saying it's going to be a bomb from
the second it's announced?"

Yet, like an indefatigable phoenix
rising from the ashes, Madonna is back making movies and more
determined than ever to make her mark.

Only this time, she is behind the camera.

And in typical confident Madonna fashion, she compares herself to great European directors like Godard and Fellini.


























































































Unveiling her directorial debut, "Filth and Wisdom," at the Berlinale
Film Festival last month, Madonna said: "I have always been inspired by
the films of Godard, Visconti, Pasolini and Fellini and hope that I may
one day make something that comes close to their genius."


Described as a romantic musical comedy, "Filth and Wisdom" tells the
story of a Ukrainian immigrant who finances his dreams of becoming a
rock star by moonlighting as a cross-dressing dominatrix.

Set
in London it stars Eugene Hutz, the lead singer of wildly popular New
York gipsy punk band Gogol Bordello, in the main role of a
philosophizing S&M escort. Other characters include Holly, a ballet
dancer who works as a stripper and pole-dancer at a local club and
Juliette, a pharmacy assistant who dreams of going to Africa to help
starving children.

Madonna compared the characters' struggles to
her own early career. "One of the themes that I explore in the film is
struggle, and if I look back to the beginning of my career, I can
recall those moments of struggle like it was yesterday," she said.

But with the depressing predictability that follows the words "Madonna" and "movies," the reviews have not been kind.


Peter Bradshaw of Britain's Guardian newspaper said: "She has made a
movie so incredibly bad that Berlin festivalgoers were staggering
around yesterday in a state of clinical shock, deathly pale and mewing
like maltreated kittens."

In Germany, Die Welt proclaimed:
"Time and again she thrusts herself on to the big screen, and each time
she is spurned and ridiculed by audiences and critics alike."


The London Evening Standard's Derek Malcolm suggested the Material Girl
had some way to go "before she can breathe the same air as Godard,
Pasolini, Fellini and Visconti."

But The Hollywood Reporter's
Ray Bennett was a little kinder, saying "the film's cockeyed optimism
and likable leads conspire to bring a smile by the time it's done."


Known for her remarkable chutzpah, the fiercely ambitious Madonna is
unlikely to be deterred by this wave of criticism for her directorial
debut.

She has several film projects in the pipeline including
a documentary about Malawi, "I Am Because We Are," which will be shown
at the Cannes film festival in May.

"It's definitely not a
one-off," Madonna said in Berlin. "I made the film because I wanted to
learn how to make films and I've wanted to be a filmmaker for many
years. I had to find the right moment. 'Filth and Wisdom' was
essentially my way of putting myself through film school."

But
for now this debut is unlikely to see a cinema release and will go
straight to iTunes as Madonna believes the low-budget movie will be a
bigger hit as an Internet download.

Despite her relative lack of success in the movies, you cannot doubt Madonna's incredible drive.


Eugene Hutz told CNN working with her was "fantastic because she has a
lot of energy ... For me, it's a key part to work with anybody, to have
a very open and flowing brain-storming. That's when some of the best
stuff happens."

Ultimately what makes Madonna a successful
artist is her uncanny knack for reading the musical pulse and choosing
the best producers like Mirwais, William Orbit and Stuart Price,
thereby making her relevant to a young audience.

But what works in her music does not necessarily translate to the big screen.


It is telling that all the critics agree that the "Filth and Wisdom"
soundtrack, which features some of her music plus Britney Spears' "Hit
Me Baby One More Time," is excellent.

Her latest album, "Hard
Candy," also features production by hip producers like Pharrell
Williams, Timbaland and an appearance by Justin Timberlake, and which
Madonna says will "kick our ass."

Shame the same cannot be said for Madonna's forays into the movies.