The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Final Member

The thing I love about documentaries is that every time I think I've seen it all, a film comes along to prove that I haven't. The Final Member beautifully represents what I'm talking about. This is an amazing doc, not just because it shows something you could never in a million years imagine, but because it handles potentially snicker-inducing material with intelligence and class.

In the Icelandic town of Husavik, there is a most unusual attraction known as the Icelandic Phallological Museum. It is the world's only penis museum. You read that correctly. The curator is a man named Sigurdur “Siggy” Hjartarson, who has spent about four decades collecting penises from as many kinds of creatures as possible. His collection runs the gamut from a tiny field mouse penis to a sixty-seven inch penis from a sperm whale. People come from all over the world to see them. The one thing Hjartarson doesn't have is a human penis. And he really wants one before he retires.

There are two men willing to make his dream come true. One is Pall Arason, a noted Icelandic explorer who has, by his own estimate, slept with hundreds of women. He offers to donate his penis when he dies. The other candidate is American horse farmer Tom Mitchell, who is ready to have castration surgery right away in exchange for the honor. Both men have egotistical reasons for their desire to be part of the museum, and both come with a particular problem that makes it difficult for Hjartarson to choose between them. Arason is in his nineties and, as is prone to happen to much older men, his penis is shrinking. Mitchell, on the other hand, is all too willing to prove how large his is; he incessantly, obnoxiously annoys the curator with photos and emails detailing his obsession with having the “world's most famous penis.” Mitchell also has a sense of American pride, going so far as to get stars and stripes tattooed down there. (I literally recoiled in horror watching him get it done on screen.) The Final Member follows Hjartarson as he struggles to decide which of these two guys will be immortalized in his museum.

The Final Member could have been a cheap, vulgar film, but it's so, so much more than that. Ultimately, this is a true-life tale of legacy and the intense desire to leave one behind. Hjartatson is an academic who, despite an unusual field of specialty, wants his museum to be complete for educational purposes. Arason views his sexual conquests to be another form of exploration; by getting into the museum, he solidifies his reputation as a man who has gone where few others have. Mitchell, meanwhile, is obsessed with celebrity. He doesn't have much to make him famous, and in the Icelandic Phallological Museum, the opportunity for fame exists. Added bonus: by castrating himself, he'd be around to enjoy it. Directors Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math get all three men to open up in the most revealing of ways, so that even if their logic doesn't make sense to us, we understand that it makes sense to them.

The Final Member is occasionally funny and always fascinating. Perhaps what makes it so special, though, is that there's an underlying current of sadness. Hjartarson, Arason, and Mitchell all share a realization that our time on Earth is relatively short, and unless you do something really spectacular, the world forgets about you when you're gone. In leaving a noteworthy accomplishment behind, you get a chance to fight against that. The Final Member makes it achingly clear that these three men feel there is much to lose by not meeting their individual goals. Consequently, the film is so gripping that it almost starts to play like a thriller as it goes on. Genuine suspense is built as we wait for the curator to make his decision – if he's able to make one at all.

The story of the Icelandic Phallological Museum was reported in the media back in 2011. You can enjoy The Final Member even if you heard the outcome, but if (like me), you didn't, prepare to be filled with anticipation. The idea of a documentary about a penis museum is sufficient to entice a viewing out of sheer curiosity. You'll stay for the deeply humane portrait of men desperate to leave a lasting imprint.

( 1/2 out of four)

Blu-Ray Features

The Final Member is available on DVD and Blu-Ray, as well as in a "Total Package" limited collector's edition Blu-Ray. The DVD and Blu contain a booklet about the museum and the film, deleted scenes, and a digital copy. The "Total Package" Blu-Ray is as unique and special as the movie itself. In addition to the aforementioned extras, you also get a genuine bull penis, preserved in a glass jar with a wax seal and a Certificate of Authenticity. There's additionally a penis donation form for the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Needless to say, these will make excellent conversation pieces.

The Final Member is rated R for phallic images, sexual references, graphic nudity and brief language. The running time is 1 hour and 15 minutes.

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