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Shadows Film FestArthouse films ’06
Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
On this page: AFTER THE WEDDING | THE BOSS OF IT ALL
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last update 15.Oct.06
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After the Wedding   4/5   Efter Brylluppet
Here's another remarkably astute drama from Bier and Jensen (see also Open Hearts and Brothers). It's a surprising, engaging and extremely realistic story of human connections and priorities.

Jacob (Mikkelsen) has lived in India for 20 years, but his current orphanage project is struggling to survive. So he heads back to Denmark to find funding from wealthy businessman Jorgen (Lassgård). Their discussions go so well that Jorgen invites Jacob to the wedding of his daughter (Christensen) to a nice-guy employee (Tafdrup). But once Jacob and Jorgen's wife Helena (Knudsen) spot each other, a deep secret emerges that will permanently change all their lives. And they're not the only ones with a secret.

The central themes here are family relationships--how we interact with our partners, parents and children in ways that often defy logic. Bier and Jensen dig into this topic by creating extremely authentic characters and linking them together in complex, delicate ways that constantly catch each other (and us) off guard. Watching these people circle around each other, traversing a minefield of expectations, mistakes and misunderstandings, is powerfully involving and provocative.

Mikkelsen holds the film together with another of his intricate performances--he seems so steely on the surface, and yet we glimpse depths that even Jacob has yet to discover. His complex interaction with the rest of the cast is remarkably intense, as each of his costars invests raw emotion that's often difficult to watch. And they're all so infuriatingly stubborn. Yet even when the script seems to overdo the awkward miscommunication, the characters are still compelling and believable.

From the streets of Bombay to the mansions of Copenhagen, the film looks terrific. Bier coolly sets the tone and establishes settings that reveal essential truths about the characters. And as she leads us through the twists and turns of the plot, she keeps us connected emotionally to the characters. It's somewhat low-key, like a well-produced TV movie, but the weight of the film's resolutions, as unexpected as they may be, linger long and hard.

dir Susanne Bier
scr Susanne Bier, Anders Thomas Jensen
with Mads Mikkelsen, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Rolf Lassgård, Stine Fischer Christensen, Mona Malm, Christian Tafdrup, Neeral Mulchandani, Meenal Patel, Ida Dwinger, Neel Rønholt, Frederik Gullits Ernst, Kristian Gullits Ernst
knudsen and mikkelsen release Den 24.Feb.06,
UK 9.Mar.07
06/Denmark Zentropa 2h00

TORONTO FILM FEST
London Film Fest
15 themes, language, brief sexuality
14.Oct.06 lff
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The Boss of it All   4/5   Direktøren for det Hele SHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE
This hilarious Danish comedy features yet another nutty gimmick from von Trier, which actually gives it a strikingly original and engaging tone. It helps that the story--a warped variation on The Office--is fantastic.

When Ravn (Gantzler) launched his company, he created an imaginary "boss of it all" to blame for his difficult decisions. Now he's decided to sell the company, so he hires an actor, Kristoffer (Albinus), to play the boss. But he fails to brief Kristoffer on the role, and what follows is a series of awkward meetings with the Icelandic buyer (Fridriksson) and the six staff members, each of whom have received different information about him. For example, Lise (Hjejle) believes she can cure his homosexuality, Heidi (Lyhne) is deeply in love, and Gorm (Christensen) wants to punch him.

This film is witty and sharp from start to finish. Albinus' performances is a hysterical mixture of clueless bluffing and knowing vagueness, as he enthusiastically lampoons precious actors. His interaction with Ravn and the amusingly screwball staff is comedy gold. Gantzler is terrific as the spineless slimeball who's desperate to be a cuddly teddy bear--and whose predatory sexual plans ironically pay off for Kristoffer. Every character has a telling quirk that's brilliantly played in an absurdly deadpan style.

Von Trier's new gimmick is what he calls Automavision®, computer-controlled framing software that shifts images and sound. As a result, the film looks jarringly askance, with the characters often on the edge of the screen. But combined with the over-lit business setting, it actually succeeds in adding a layer of depth to the film, making these characters feel like cogs in the corporate machine. And von Trier adds uproarious sight gags to almost every scene, which makes the dialog both telling and sublimely silly.

Meanwhile, the plot keeps us thoroughly engaged as revelations and surprises pile up and twist the story right to the slightly too-nutty final scene. It's occasionally interrupted by von Trier's nasal-voiced narration, observing the situations like a master puppeteer. Call him the boss of the boss of it all.

dir-scr Lars von Trier
with Jens Albinus, Peter Gantzler, Iben Hjejle, Mia Lyhne, Jean-Marc Barr, Casper Christensen, Louise Mieritz, Henrik Prip, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Sofie Gråbøl, Benedikt Erlingsson, Anders Hove
albinus and gantzler release Den 8.Dec.06,
UK Oct.06 lff,
US 25.May.07
06/Denmark Zentropa 1h39

London Film Fest
15 themes, language, sexuality
13.Oct.06 lff
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Container   3/5
With this visual poem, which is basically an avant-garde art installation, Moodysson (Lilya 4-ever) continues his drift away from the mainstream. This is a truly experimental feature. It's also unsettling, beautifully filmed and infuriatingly elusive.

Shot in grainy, high-contrast black and white, the images centre on a cross-dressing man (Lorentzon) and a pregnant woman (Åberg) who may or may not be his female side. Scenes of them alone, together, in crowds, parties and streets are randomly assembled, surreally shifting and swirling through various themes. Over this is a nonstop stream-of-consciousness narration (by Malone), darting from topic to topic, dropping celebrity names into the mix, and occasionally merging with the visuals in surprising ways.

The main recurring theme is the pregnancy of Mary: "How can someone as dirty as I am contain something so clean?" This idea is linked loosely to modern day issues of fame and economics, most clearly in a reference to the imaginative sight of paparazzi gathering outside the stable in Bethlehem. The "story" wanders from Sweden to Romania and Chernobyl, as we hear the man's and woman's thoughts mingled in with Malone's own experiences.

Watching the film is dreamlike--and only really works in a cinema as a communal experience (it'll feel utterly flat on video). But even as we struggle to make sense of it, Moodysson worms his way under our skin with emotional observations and intensely personal images. Some scenes are ugly, while others are surprisingly sensuous. There's a spinning, circular structure as themes and visuals continually re-emerge, arbitrarily colliding with our own spiralling thoughts.

There's no apparent logic to this; Malone's voice is monotonous and breathy, and Moodysson's filming and editing feel both pretentious and wilfully bizarre. While he does manage to generate a solid emotional resonance, you can't help but feel that he could have done much more on this subject with a proper story. And it would be so much more engaging that this alienating art collage. That said, we definitely still need hypnotic, lush cinematic experiences like this one. Serious cinema fans, who understand the power of film as an art form, will love this. Anyone who needs a plot or characters or obvious moralising has been duly warned.

dir-scr Lukas Moodysson
with Peter Lorentzon, Mariha Åberg, Jena Malone
alberg and lorentzon release Swe 10.Mar.06,
UK 27.Oct.06
06/Sweden Memfis 1h12

BERLINALE
London Film Fest
15 themes, language, disturbing imagery
12.Oct.06
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Jonestown   The Life and Death of Peoples Temple   4/5
"Nobody joins a cult." This startling truth launches a gripping, provocative documentary about one of history's most notorious cults, which ended in 1978 with the mass suicide of 909 men, women and children.

Based on recently declassified court documents and witnesses who only now willing to tell their story, this film digs deeply into the events, chronicling the life of Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones from his birth and difficult childhood in Indiana. He emerged as a religious leader, moved his congregation to rural idyll in Northern California in the 1960s, then on to a more powerful base in San Francisco before fleeing to create the perfect society in Jonestown, Guyana. Although even there he felt persecuted.

We've seen movies and documentaries about this event, but Nelson's intriguing angle is to portray the members of the Peoples Temple as devoted Christians building heaven on earth, creating a communal society that actually eliminated discrimination and prejudice. The problem was a fully human one: their leader was a paranoid control freak. And he got worse because of addictions to alcohol, drugs and sex with his followers.

These and other abuses led to a cycle of suspicion and manipulation that's eerily relevant in an increasingly segmented world, where fundamentalists isolate themselves and demand that mainstream society do things their way. Or die. This film highlights these issues with unsettling clarity--we can identify with the people who followed Jones into the jungle, because what they had there was indeed paradise. Except when Jones was in residence. And the careful detail of how it came apart is deeply terrifying.

This is a fairly simple film, using the standard interviews and archive clips to recount a story with telling detail. The first half seems to rely on second-hand testimony, as relatives of dead members keep saying obvious things like, "I always knew something was wrong." But those witnesses are irrelevant. It's the actual participants, talking about their experiences, who tell the true story. Especially the harrowing final days when it became clear that these people were heading for mass murder, not suicide at all.

dir Stanley Nelson
scr Marcia Smith
with Deborah Layton, Marshall Kilduff, Tim Reiterman, Jim Jones Jr, Tim Carter, Stanley Clayton, Hue Fortson Jr, Neva Sly Hargrave, Claire Janaro, Juanell Smart, Jackie Speier, Mike Touchette
a loyal peoples temple member release US 20.Oct.06,
UK Oct.06 lff
06/US WGBN 1h26
London Film Fest
15 themes, language, disturbing images
9.Oct.06 lff
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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