There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
If you’re going to make a documentary about the founder of a penis museum, you can either have a giggle or, uh, play it straight. In The Final Member, Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math opt for the latter approach as they tell the story of retired Icelandic schoolteacher Siggi Hjartarson and his Phallological Museum. Siggi’s 15-year-old collection houses penis-shaped salt shakers, penis-shaped cutlery, and an example of every single mammal penis—except one. The would-be donors of the museum’s first human specimen include Pall, an elderly Icelander who was once a famous adventurer, and Tom, a middle-aged Californian. Both men are fairly pleased with themselves: “It’s a damn big penis you’re going to get from me, Siggi,” says Pall, who also shows off a diary of the many women who’ve experienced said damn big penis. Tom, meanwhile, airmails a cast of his own member, “a very, very good specimen of almost seven inches, and a great girth,” according to Siggi. Here the film goes off the rails: Instead of enlightening us about a phallocentric society’s evolving ideas about penises, the filmmakers focus on the dubious competition between the two men to become the first donor—a competition that mainly illustrates the narrative needs of a documentary. It would seem Tom has a leg up: He’s willing to donate before dying, if only his doctors wouldn’t let the Hippocratic oath get in their way. “I’d like them to know that the largest and best one in the collection came from the States, which is patriotic,” he says. Luckily for Iceland’s pride, though, Pall dies. It would seem to be a happy ending, but for one little problem: Age, and uncertainty about formaldehyde-preserved reanimation of an erratic body part, render his donation less exciting than he’d predicted. The film ends with a toast to life, or something. I’d have preferred some dick jokes.