Dogville (plus stuff that doesn`t suck)
In the wake of NCSA’s Intensive Arts, which I confess for film students is not that intensive ( although I still managed to fail it; I have the following to report on the foreign films shown therein:
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – Oh, sure, that’s the man behind scowly monoliths Elrond and Agent Smith. What’s he doing being all vulnerable and slouchy as he pussyfoots around coming out to his son? Could he be a little more captivating? Could it be easier to forgive a Jeepful of cranky friends for calling me “Hugo Weaving” as at 3 AM I drive the last leg from Orlando in something less than a straight line? Could that be Guy Pearce with more plump muscle than bucket of chicken? Or Terence Stamp looking freakishly hot as a mature woman (Susan Sullivan beware!). I give it three out of four Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches — it loses points for not being longer.
Good Lord, have you seen Guy’s neck?
Heavenly Creatures – This movie enters conversation periodically for me, such as when I`m trying to illustrate the use of Orson Welles lookalikes in film (see “Ed Wood”, cf. V. D`Onofrio obsession) or trying to explain to a female friend that she looks like Melanie Lynskey. But even without its helpful cultural contributions I`m happy to report that it kicks the ass. Peter Jackson just runs the show from start to finish, and every moment feels essential and perfect and upsetting. And I send clay people to maim those who say otherwise.
So I`m all like, more like “Bored of the Rings”! HAW!
Also seen and enjoyed were Cinema Paradiso, Ju-On, Not One Less and Burnt By the Sun, though I sharked out during the end of this last and I`m pretty unhappy about it, since I would have liked to see how it ended. Maybe later. What I would have liked to have done is traded the hours of my life that I spent watching Dogville.
Think you can break me, Trier? I was married to a SCIENTOLOGIST.
Dogville. What a P.O.S. About 20 minutes of merit stuffed into a three-hour turkey of self-indulgence.
A woman hides in a remote mountain town during the Great Depression, and the townsfolk come to exploit her brutally. The set is a naked stage — the structures of the town are painted on the floor, although there are a couple of doors, windows and trees.
Fine. Sure. I`m no Philistine — I’ve been known to build the occasional pachinko-symbol installation out of burlap and bamboo. A little deconstruction never hurt anyone.
Then Lars “if I could suck my own pike I`d never leave the house” Von Trier unloads the triple threat of Tory’s movie torment: mime, hand-held camera, and an endless, redundant narrator.
Mime: Some homes represented on the stage don’t have doors; well, it would be WEIRD to have the characters freely come and go, so let’s have them mime opening and closing a door. And it would be WEIRD for these doors not to make a sound, so let’s drop in some really obtrusive Daggerfall-quality door-foley. Let’s do this through the life of the movie so we don’t forget to be jarring and unpleasant.
Hand-held camera: To the point of illness. It was like “Voices from the High School” crossed with Cops. I suppose this technique was used in case the multiple false starts in the story didn’t induce enough nausea.
The Narrator: I guess the narration is there to help create the mood of a fairy tale — albeit a fairy tale with a whole lot of raping. He gets to do wacky, hilarious things like state the obvious, contrast his chipper voice with the dark content, and make sure all the raping is played for laughs.
I should mention the narrator is John Hurt, and there could really be no better training for this movie than having monsters burst from your chest.
Remember what smiling looks like. It won’t happen again.
Let me touch a little on the raping. Every male character in the town rapes or sexually assaults Grace, and each occasion is played for optimal combination of degrading Grace and titillating the audience. Consider this — the single striking metaphor in DOGville is that Grace is treated like a DOG — her introduction is by stealing a DOG’s bone, the town puts a DOG collar on her, the DOG is the town’s only survivor — and yet the great host of rapes are all performed missionary-style. Implying that Grace is complicit in her assault? Oh, but isn’t that Von Trier’s recurring cinematic one-hand fantasy?
And what does it mean that, when Grace gets her revenge, there is no sexual element to it? I suppose she can take it but she can’t dish it out — who wants a rape fantasy spoiled by the victim retaking ownership of his/her sexuality, anyway?
I’ve heard this movie is “visually stunning.” Visually stunning, my sweet ivory ass. There are only two good-looking things in this movie: the scrim-covered truck bed full of apples, and Nicole Kidman. The rest is poison for the senses: ugly textures, ugly colors, arbitrary composition, and the whole time in your ears THAT DAMN NARRATOR!
I’ve heard that, whatever a righteous ass Lars Von Trier is to his actors, you could say it’s worth it for the performances he gets out of them — the example, in this case, being Nicole Kidman’s. Yeah, here’s a memo — Nicole Kidman is a bullgod, and you don’t need to show and deride her Eyes Wide Shut nude scenes to the crew to get good work out of her. I think Nicole Kidman’s gift is that she can completely jack in to the Essential Nature of a movie, and as long as the movie has an Essential Nature (Moulin Rouge, yes; Cold Mountain, no; she delivers exactly what is required. I have a hard time believing her “performance” would have lacked anything without Lars Von Trier acting like Lord of the Douche.
What I want to know is, if the insufferable nature of the movie is the punitive part of the treatment — the same reason that nurses can’t be compelled to give a piss test for an STD when swabbing a man-whore’s urethra is so much more satisfying — then why is this movie so clearly directed to non-American viewers?
For me, the US is like an alcoholic dad. Yeah, he’s dysfunctional, neglectful, violent with the neighbors, abusive to mom — but he’s our DAD. Tell me he’s a broken man who can be repaired, and we`ll talk. Tell me he’s a waste of life who should be destroyed, and there’s gonna be fisticuffs. This movie isn’t an appeal to the US to change from within — it’s an appeal to the industrialized world to destroy us from without. Fine. But don’t saddle me with three hours of it and tell me it’s art.
You could argue that this was an effective film because it Made Me Think. Yeah, well, the war in Iraq Makes Me Think — that doesn’t justify its existence.
Dogville. I would rather have watched Not One Less ten times than this movie once.