Dancer in the Dark (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|The Robbins Recipe: Fargo meets
The Sound of Music. If Tarkovsky had made a musical
comedy, this would be it.
Ya gotta love a personality with a big ego. Director Lars von Trier has one of the greatest egos in filmmaking history, the kind of hubris possessed heretofore only by Satan in Paradise Lost. In the film business, only Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich can approach him.
|But, of course, there is a major difference between von Trier and the other three. In the case of Satan and Welles, they were almost as good as they thought they were. In the case of Bogdanovich, he was capable of walking enough walk to justify some of the talk.||
|Von Trier, however, is seriously
I can picture him in a scene similar to the one in "Ed Wood", when Johnny Depp is in the audience, mouthing the bad narration along with Plan 9 From Outer Space. Lars sits there in the audience, watching the camera slip down accidentally to someone's stomach, or watching the lighting increase, then decrease instantaneously while the actors walk out of the scene and he's filming a blank wall, and voices appear from nowhere. And Lars is sitting there admiring his genius. I mean, it's one thing to use a hand-held camera, but it may be carrying cinema verite to an unnecessary extreme by letting the hand-held camera be held by the hand of Katharine Hepburn.
Furthermore, his "principles" only exist when they feed his current need for ego gratification. Although von Trier is known to pontificate against the shamelessly artificial sentimentality of Hollywood, the film is far more shamelessly manipulative than Disney's "Remember the Titans", for example. Bjork plays a poor little match girl, impoverished, handicapped, undereducated, downtrodden, manipulated, so inept and pathetic that the kindest people feel sorry for her while the cruelest use her. The film milks that for all the pathos you would expect from the concept. Dickens would be embarrassed to write an orphan this pathetic.
On the other hand, von Trier does show hints of inspiration as a writer. He's out of control, and still undisciplined, but he has a fierce energy that can't be denied. This is a powerful concept, and can be moving, delivered by good performers, although they don't always deliver solid scenes. It's a bizarre film, combining deeply tragic elements with light Hollywood musical numbers, but there is a reason for it. The Hollywood musicals represent the lead character's escape from her bleak life, and the scenes represent what she wants her life to be. They belong in her life, so they belong in the film. They are a mental shift in tone from her own day-to-day existence, just as they are a shift in tone from the everyday existence portrayed by the film. They are masterfully done. It is just wonderful how von Trier used the ambient noises - the machines in the factory or the clickety-clack of a railroad moving at constant speed - to provide the rhythm for his fantasy musical numbers. For once, his ego was matched by his performance.
In the best of worlds, someone would introduce von Trier to Sean Penn. Penn is potentially one of the best filmmakers in the world, looking for the right script. Von Trier is one of the best writers in the world, living in the delusion that he knows how to make movies. They have a similar sense of style and tone, and they share an offbeat, deadpan sense of humor. David Morse has worked for both of them recently. Maybe he should arrange a lunch. I would love to see them collaborate. As long as von Trier did the writing and Penn the filming.
Ebert wrote - It is not a "well made" film, it
is not in "good taste", is not
"plausible" or, for many people
"entertaining". But ....
He then went on to explain the positives, and to defend his 3.5 star rating. He's right, of course, there are many positives. Large ones. And I don't consider plausibility and good taste to be requirements for filmmaking. I don't even dispute his 3.5 stars, or even four. It is a special movie, and we should recognize that.
But I ask you to consider this. If a film is poorly made, and not entertaining, and three hours long, how many positives would it need before you'd watch it?
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