Drafthouse Films Spotlight: THE FINAL MEMBER [Two Cents]


Two Cents
Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

A major part of why Drafthouse Films has become such a prominent and well-loved distributor is the wide range of films and genres that they release, which we’ve tried to showcase a bit with this month’s picks. From obscure archive finds, to the cutting edge of genre and international filmmaking, to the weirdest films about the weirdest subjects you could possibly imagine.

And they don’t come any weirder than The Final Member, a documentary about the world’s first and only penis museum. Established in Iceland, the museum has exhibits from hundreds of species but lacks a major component: a human penis for display.

The Final Member traces two men as they compete to be the first to donate their, ahem, endowments to the museum.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and string a bunch of dick jokes together…but Austin will. Austin?

Not to sound cocky, but we now embark on what is perhaps the wildest dickumentary we’ve ever had the balls to select as a Two Cents prick. The Final Member is a strange look at the real life story of the founder-curator of the Icelandic Phallological Museum – that’s right, a penis museum. His collection includes species from all over the world, but is missing one in particular: the elusive human horn.

Yes, it’s true: this museum has no dick.

The film has been described as hilarious and bizarre, and it also introduces us to the two men who volunteer their anatomy. Which will be erected into history, and which will be sent packing? Whose will be the final member, and who will get the shaft? Let’s find out! At 72 minutes, it’s not too long.

Thank you, Austin. The Final Member may not be the sort of film that brings Drafthouse Oscar noms or cultural buzz, but it’s the kind of singular achievement that has come in many ways to define the peculiar madness of the Drafthouse.

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

– Brendan

Next Week’s Pick:

We had originally planned to cap off with The Look Of Silence, a film that’s well worth your time – and we still want you to watch it. But for several reasons, we’ve decided to highlight a new arrival to the Drafthouse Films family, and to Netflix: Raiders! The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made features the story of a group of teenage nerds who decided to craft their own remake of their favorite movie: Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Lost to time, their impressive film was passed around underground circles until it was discovered by Eli Roth and introduced to geekdom at large. Since then, the boys, now men, have had their ups and downs, but with this new second wind decide to finally cap off their film with its one missing piece. Captivating, hopeful, and a perfect embodiment of the Drafthouse spirit, we’re proud to cap off our Drafthouse spotlight series with Raiders!

Then comes our annual month-long Halloween event, Trick Or Treat! Shoot us your picks and we’ll consider them for our lineup, to be announced next week!

– Austin

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co!

The Team

Justin: Austin and Brendan think themselves the cocks of the walk for getting us to watch a film about penises. Until recently, Netflix had been streaming the phallic film and just days before the film was thrust into our Two Cents post, the service really dicked us over and pulled it out.

The film focuses on Sigurður Hjartarson, an Icelandic penis collector who has been grabbing male members for his collection for decades. As his collection grew in size and shape, he was forced to erect a museum. However, his collection had remained ill equipped, unable to jerk the prized piece from a human being in order to expand the collection to the ample size, that is until he was linked up with Mr. Mitchell’s Johnson (which actually goes by the name Elmo, however it isn’t named such for its ticklishness as the endowed man’s member was named Elmo long before the furry red monster sprung from Henson’s loins).

Then comes the back and forth, the curator and Mitchell push and pull, yank and tug, over what will happen with Elmo. As Mitchell wrestles with a decision to remove his manhood and transition to becoming an asexual being, Hjartarson worries about getting the shaft. The film creates a concern for the fate of the collector of cock as he wonders if his collection will ever fill out.

Then, while Mitchell remains in a flaccid state of indecision, the museum receives its first human specimen, an Icelandic rod from a recently deceased 95 year old man. Hjartarson informs Mitchell and tells him that his member would still fit. The film ended with a curator swollen with pride and a would-be donor deflated and limp.

Size does matter when it comes to this tumescent tome, despite its runtime being short. The film is weird, off center, and leaves you hanging a bit, but I personally was tickled at the fact that a topic as oddball and wrinkled is receiving the such attention. Let’s all give a hand for a job well done. (@thepaintedman)

Liam: If I prep you for viewing The Final Member by saying “it is a documentary about a penis museum” I have not even vaguely prepared you for the experience of this film. Ego and ambition and human striving and eccentricity writ large are all mixed together in what must have been a documentarian’s sex dream; How could this go any better? The endearing searcher, the man of principles but also of obsession, struggling to have the most complete collection of something one would never think anyone would want a complete collection of. It is hard to know to what extent the presence of a documentary film crew might possibly have changed what we are seeing. Have things become grander, more ridiculous, because they suddenly have an audience and thus significance? The Final Member captivates me not merely for its more pronounced or gory details, or in other words, it is not the cocks alone that draw me in. Rather, it is despite these odd details that the film manages to tell a compelling story, one that seems almost universal. Not all of us seek to complete a penis collection, or document our phallic excess or lack there of, but we all seek to matter. (@liamrulz)

Brendan: Some documentaries grab you with their sense of craft and composition. Other docs are maybe lacking in technical proficiency but benefit from coming across a terrific story and telling it well. And some documentaries, well, some documentaries succeed by standing back and letting absolute fucking lunatics talk into the camera for a while.

And good God these fucking people. It takes a very specific kind of person to want to cut off their genitals (pre-death) so they can be showcased for the world, and The Final Member at times plays like the horror movie version of a Jackass prank, as Tom Mitchell, the American seeking dick-immortality, talks and talks and talks and talks and talks about his penis, “Elmo”, as if it was an actual separate person from himself. I don’t know which I enjoyed more: the tattoo artist who is unphased and profoundly uninterested in this yapping wack-job while imprinting an American flag on his dick, or the poor lady doctor who tries to politely contain her extreme confusion and discomfort as this man tries to cajole her into cutting off his penis. No writer could ever conceive of a character so off-putting, and if they did, no one would take the story seriously. This is a story so strange it has to be true, and whatever The Final Member lacks in polish it more than makes up for in brazen depiction of humanity at its oddest. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Austin:One might wonder if Sigurður Hjartarson, curator of the Icelandic Phallological Museum, is basically the kid in the back of your math class who drew crude porn cartoons in his notebook.  He maintains that his interest is academic, but he also can’t help showing off his outrageous woodcarvings,  fashioned into enormous genital novelties such as a gavel and portable minibar. He’s a bit eccentric, but nowhere near as weird as the documentary’s other wild character, Tom Mitchell – and his penis, “Elmo”.

At first, Mitchell comes off as sort of a swaggering frat boy with his arrogance and big, swinging dick mentality. But his obsession with Elmo soon reveals a much different picture of an insecure man who dreams of immortality, yet lacks an identity. This is rather sadly verified when he opens up about his reason for donating: he’s had rotten luck with women in the past, and these extreme measures (removing not only Elmo while alive, but his genitals as a whole) somehow seem to him a reasonable course of action. Why while alive? He must be the first, else Elmo could be robbed of his immortality.

The resulting look at the conflict between these two very different personalities is certainly surreal, sometimes funny, and always odd. Mitchell’s pestersome harassment of poor Siggy (which includes lengthy e-mails with plenty of festive pictures of Elmo in different costumes, plans for how Elmo will be displayed, and inquiring whether he can keep Elmo in the museum’s off-season) will strike a chord with anyone who regrets being friendly with someone they can’t stand, because now they can’t shake them. But Mitchell’s obsession is mirrored in the curator’s own life as well: while Mitchell worries that another possible donor will die (and thus beat him to the dick-punch), Siggy worries about his own mortality – that he himself will die before his collection is complete, never living out his dream.

Ironically, perhaps this film will do more to immortalize either Hjartarson or Mitchell than their museum dreams ever could have. (@VforVashaw)

Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

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the author

Brendan Foley lives in Massachusetts, where he has made a habit out of not knowing what he's doing. He'd like to make a career out of it. You can follow his ramblings on Twitter: @TheTrueBrendanF, and his ramblinger ramblings on Tumblr. Three years from now, it will be revealed that he was dead the entire time.