The most obvious thing one can say about Filth and Wisdom is that it's the directorial debut of Madonna. And the most surprising thing one can say about it is that, for all its narrative and aesthetic shortcomings, it's not half-bad. Certainly, Madonna tackles what she knows, which in this case is a collection of related stories linked by the overriding message that no profound knowledge can be attained without degradation first being experienced, a sentiment the Material Girl has been pushing in one form or another at least since 1992's Erotica and its infamous companion tome Sex. If embracing your inner skank is the path to enlightenment, then Madonna must now be the Dalai Lama. And yet despite the juvenile maxims spouted by Eugene Hutz - the lead singer of gypsy-punk outfit Gogol Bordello (which provides much of the soundtrack), here playing a variation of himself named A.K. - and the sometimes blandly functional cinematography by Tim Maurice-Jones, there's raggedy charm to this misshapen film, a genuine, enticing verve that helps overshadow the dull leadenness of Hutz-spouted platitudes like his title-explaining gem, "Without filth, there is no wisdom."