Dancer In The Dark (15) 137 mins --
Lars von Trier, ‘Mad Lars' as he's affectionately known by some, is a true maverick filmmaker. His Dogme manifesto, drawn up in 1995 with Thomas Vinterberg (Festen), stripped filmmaking back to its basics. Von Trier's The Idiots caused a storm of controversy, not because of the imposition of a number of rules such as character being prioritised over plot, employment of hand-held cameras, use of natural light only, nor because von Trier broke them, but because of the graphic nudity and sexual intercourse involving his mentally ill protagonists.
Having founded the Dogme school, von Trier’s now turned his back on it with Dancer In The Dark, a homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals that's technically innovative with the employment of hundreds of digital spy cameras. Set in 605 America, but filmed in Denmark, it’s the story of Czech immigrant Selma (played by Bjork, whose extraordinary performance takes naturalism to its extreme), a single mother who works in a factory to support her young son. Hers is a life of drudgery from which her only escape is daydreams which transport her into a Hollywood~style musical.
In these moments the film's rough documentary feel,
Turns out Norton's as engaging playing lightweight comedy as heavyweight drama
A homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals that's technically innovative and packs emotional clout
emphasised with fly-on-the-wall spycam views and shakey hand-held camerawork, gives way to a riotous burst of colour and choreographed song and dance routines performed by Bjork (who also composed the music) and other members of the cast: Catherine Denueve (no stranger to the musical having appeared in Les Parapluies De Cherbourg), David Morse, Peter Stormare, Jean-Marc Barr and Joel Grey. But there are no giant top hats or synchronised swimming routines. Instead, von Trier (who co-wrote the lyrics) locates the numbers firmly within the story's setting: the factory, Selma's home and, most memorably, atop a railroad trestle as a freight train passes.
Yet despite these innovations, Dancer In The Dark also plays like a Dogme film, and this has much to do with the plot. As with Breaking The Waves (which has been mistaken for a Dogme film), the drama revolves around a naive young woman who becomes the victim of circumstance. The ensuing protracted tragedy gives the film astonishing emotional clout that’s quite traumatising for the audience. To a degree, von Trier's covering the same emotional ground as he did with Breaking The Waves, but there's no denying the power, and in this case innovation, of Dancer In The Dark. (Miles Fielder)
Edinburgh Cameo from Fri 75 Sep, Glasgow. GFT from In 29 Sep For soundtrack review see Music sect/on.
ensuing messy love triangle precipitates a real crisis of two faiths
Brain relates the whole sorry tale to an Indian bartender (who bears a remarkable resemblance to The Simpsons' grocery store (lerk, Apui, and it's often hilarious. The scene, for example, in which Anna qui/xes Brian about his vow of celibacy and gets some candid answers is pr:celess But what distinguishes Keeping The Faith from other rom-coms is its flip, but never disrespectful attitude, toward religion You gotta hand it to Norton and his screenwriter Stuart Blumberg when the priest and the rabbi iom
Keeping The Faith (12) 129 mins
A Woody Allen-esgue New York romantic comedy is the iast thing you'd expect Edward Norton to make his directing debut With This dynamic young American actor's performances include a gainble-aholic in Rounders, a neo-Na/i skinhead thug in American History X and a psychotic yuppie in Fight Club Okay, so he did sing and play it for laughs in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I love You
In his new film, Norton has no trouble
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Keeping The farm as li‘isli-/\ii‘.ei';caii Catholic priest Brian Kilkenny l-inn His best pal from childhood, Jena/(sh rabbi Jake Schi'am (Ben Stiller: has no such problems, either In fact, these fe’las are on a riiission to modernise their respective religions, soii.ethiiig they are largely successful at \"Jllll their indiVIdual congregations Until another pal from their long distant childhood past, Anna Reilly (Jeiiiia lifmaiii, a tomboy matuied into a cliaiisniatic ;oi‘po(‘ate executive, arrives in the sig Apple In no time at all the trio aie falling for eacl‘. other and the
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forces to organise a dual-faith karaoke centre
It turns out Norton’s as engaging playzng ll(]lll\.‘.'(‘l(]lli comedy as he is doing heavyweight drama Vicious racist Na/i or good-natured man of the cloth, his easy-going persona shines through And if he is a Joy to watch then so too are the ever-reliable nerdy neurotic Stiller and sparky, spunky Elfman, together this threesome perform like a dream And as a director Norton’s (()lll|( touch is light and sure 'l‘vlllUS Fielclc‘i‘i
General release from FM 7.5 Sep
Edinburgh academic and writer John Orr’s inVigorating tome, The Art And Politics Of Film (Edinburgh University Press, £14.95 *ttt), continues and develops a few ideas to be found in his earlier Cinema And Modernity and Contemporary Cinema Here, key terms include the hyper-modern: fast- paced, often specral effects-driven Hollywood Cinema that finds hope or spectacle in technological mastery, and the meta-modern: Eastern Bloc films by, for example, Paradianov and Tarkovsky where a sense of wonder is found in nature. And Orr also throws up a useful term to describe so many contemporary films’ sense of failed communication: what he calls coeval disconnection, Filmmakers like Kieslowski, Wong Kar-Wai and Atom Egoyan all suggest a very contemporary, private, city-scaped sense of alienation different from the emotional dislocation found in earlier films like La Dolce Vita and The Eclipse. Most of the way, Orr’s work is inCIsive and demanding.
My Time With Antonioni (Faber, £14.99 ****l, Wim Wenders' study of working With Michelangelo Antonioni On Beyond The Clouds prowdes a fascinating lllSiqlli into the technical approach of one of the world's great filmmakers. Though debilitated by a stroke that Left Antonioni barely able to speak and contractually obliged to use Wenders as an assistant and contributor - the veteran still knew what he wanted, and was scathing if anybody didn't prowde it. And it's nteresting to readjust how innovative Antonioni could be. Wenders hardly a mainstream filmmaker himself — puzzled over numerous Antonioni camera placements and narrative decisions. Only in the finished film Could Wenders see how astuter Antonioni knew what he wanted, and how right the old man was to belt the odd assistant who wc)uldn’t immediately acquiesce to his ways FilmFour Books has launched a new range of screenplays, novels and reference works. Initial publications include Edith Wharton's The House Of Mirth and Sexy Beast by Andrew Donkin (both £5 99), the screenplays for Dancer In The Dark and Pur/ey Belter (both £7 99) and The Fi/mFour Book Of Film Quotes (£4.99). Who said and in which fllfll, ’Good. Out of the door, line on the left, one cross each. CrucifiXion7’ (Tony McKibbin)
Book of Film Quotes
Worth a shot
Below average You've been warned