Friday, March 31, 2006

DVD Review: Jésus de Montréal + Love and Human Remains

Jesus of Montreal

Alongside David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan, Denys Arcand is Canada's best-known film director, a small club for sure but all of them creative forces to be reckoned with in the global film world. Arcand's post-modern and referential cinema , often sprinkled with wry, savvy sense of humour, which his usually memorable film titles demonstrate (The Decline of the American Empire, The Barbarian Invasions and these two ones reviewed here) is the most political of the three as well as more accessible.

Jésus de Montréal (1989) is one of his best films and ranks alongside Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St Matthew (1964) as one of the most original revisitations of the Passion of Christ. Winner of the Grand Prix of the Jury atthe 1989 Cannes festival and nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1990, it focuses on a leftist reading of the gospel to comment on contemporary issues such as commercialism and artistic integrity. The most remarkable aspect of Jesus of Montreal was how Arcand managed to extract relevance from such played-out narrative, one which seemed to have been rendered almost irredeemably kitsch by the likes of Franco Zefirelli.

Lothaire Bluteau plays Marcel, a Nick Cave look-alike avant-garde actor who is a hired by a priest at a Catholic university (Father Leclerc) where the Passion play is annually staged on the grounds of a hillside shrine overlooking the city. Using data from the latest archaeological finds and new translations of the Talmud, he reworks the traditional Stations of the Cross and injects a new lease of life into the staid production. He casts himself as Jesus and finds four other actors to join him — Constance (Johanne-Marie Tremblay), a single mother who was in the previous production and is Leclerc's mistress; Mireille (Catherine Wilkening), a glamourous TV advert who sees the opportunity as challenge to prove herself; Martin (Remy Girard), who earns a living dubbing voices for a porno film and Rene (Robert Lepage), a rather arrogant actor who at first refuses to join in.

Critics and the public love the modernised play, but Father Leclerc becomes worried that the liberties taken with the story of Jesus may land him in trouble. Meanwhile, Mireille, after having abandoned her boyfriend for the contempt he showed her, is shacking up with Constance and Daniel, with whom she starts an affair. Their romance provides Arcand with the opportunity to show how Daniel literally got under the skin of his character. When Mirelle is humiliated by the producer and director during an audition for a beer commercial, he does a Jesus-in-the-temple routine and, in a fit of rage, smashes all the recording equipment in the room and chases the advertising big hats out of the auditorium. As a consequence, in the middle of the next performance of the Passion play, Daniel is arrested by the police on charges of aggravated assault and vandalism, a real visual coup on the part of Arcand. Released from custody after a hearing, Daniel is propositioned by Richard Cardinal (Yves Jacques), a show business lawyer who offers to make him a superstar. The 1980s yuppie vista of Montreal's cityscape is offered to him as the prize of a Faustian pact with the devil.

Tension starts to mount and the situation of the actors increasingly mirrors that of Jesus and his disciples, culminating in a heart-breaking finale - Arcand is a sharp emotion stirrer as he proved with The Barbarian Invasions (2003). Of course, he is not saying anything new with this film – it is after all, an update of an old story. However, his elegance and idionsyncrasy save the film from any hint of staleness. His minimalism and straightforward dialogues are always surprising and add new layers of meaning to familiar utterings. Besides, his criticism of institutionalised religion and the emptiness of modern life (celebrity, consumerism, the media, the latter a recurring motif in his films via TV imagery) is always accurate and incisive. Arcand gives his own insights into his film in an interview shot in December 2005 that accompanies the film as an extra.

Love and Human Remains

Jesus of Montreal is accompanied by the simultaneous release of Love and Human Remains (1993), not a vintage Arcand offering, but a curious one that lies low amongst his oeuvre. The film was Arcand's first English-language film and it's a hybrid text, a cross between drama, comedy and murder mystery whose uncompromising style echoes Martin Scorcese’s often neglected After Hours (1985).

The story is hinged around David (Thomas Gibson) is a former child TV actor who in his thirties is making a living as a waiter and dreaming of finding a boyfriend. His flatmate Candy (Ruth Marshall) is a book reviewer also in search of love and in her quest halfbakedly succumbs to the approach of a lesbian schoolteacher she meets at the gym (Jerri, played by Joanne Vannicola). David's best friend is Bernie (Cameron Bancroft) who spends his evenings picking up women for casual sex. Meanwhile, the busboy who works with David, the 17-year-old Kane (Matthew Fergunson) starts to develop a crush for his older friend. To round up the cast is Benita (Mia Kirshner), a dominatrix who specialises in humiliating men. As a background to the crisscrossing of all these characters is a serial killer on the loose, murdering women in the urban night.

The cast gives an excellent performance and keep the focus of this rather pleasantly rambling story. The lines they say are often unpredictable as are the expressions of their feelings – Arcand doesn't spend time with build-ups, which gives the film a slight absurd, surreal touch. Love and Human Remains is no masterpiece, but it allows Arcand to approach more playfully some of his recurring themes in a rather quirky fashion.

Jesus of Montreal and Love and Human Remains are out now on Arrow Films.

DVD Review: Master of the House

Mads about the boy: Mathilde Nielsen

It is one of film history's injustices that the work of Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer (1889-1968) is not as firmly and conspicuously in the European canon alongside Bergman, Renoir, Godard and Rosselini, among others, where it doubtlessly belongs. He enjoys a reputation among the pastures of the cognoscenti, but Dreyer's name does not have the same ring of recognisability as the aforementioned directors. This may explained by the irregularity of his output (he directed 13 features) and periods of unemployment. But credit is due to him. He is the artist who, after all, made The Passion of Joan Arc (1928), often ranked as one of ten best films ever made, one of the items in such lists that everyone seems to unquestionably agree with.

As the works of the director become more widely available on DVD, the situation may improve. The silent Master of the House is one four DVD titles by Dreyer that the British Film Institute is releasing this spring. It is accompanied by Ordet (1955), Day of Wrath (1943) and Gertrud (1964).

Dreyer started his career as a journalist and then swapped it for work at the Nordisk Film, where he worked as scriptwriter and editor. His directorial debut took place in 1919 with a film called The President, financed by Nordisk. Artistically ambitious from the start, he seized the opportunity to put into practice his cinematic vision characterised by attention to detail, contemplation, atmosphere and psychological realism. Dryer understood that cinema is a visual medium. He used text as support and kept the narrative as simple and straightforward as possible, in a fashion not dissimilar to the economical narratives of Ozu (although each one of them pursued different moods that were informed by their own cultures). Looking at his films is like looking at a natural landscape, rather still but full of life.

Master of the House, Dreyer's first feature for Palladium pictures, bears some of those characteristics, which would later be honed in films like The Passion and Days of Wrath. Based on Svend Rindom's stage play, it anticipates soap opera style domestic drama by decades, even on formal terms, as the acting is prematurely naturalistic in an age when silent films favoured expressionist exaggeration. It was a big success in France and led to Dreyer being invited to work there and the eventual commission of The Passion..., his first big budget movie.

In a way, Master of the House shares the theme of the Maid of Orleans with Dreyer stating in the first card title of the film that women who toil away at home without any recognition are true heroines. The first image shows us this typical old-world, Northern European household, with the young and beautiful Ida (Astrid Holm) manically going about her domestic chores while she looks after her two kids. Her husband, Victor (Johannes Meyer) is a failed businessman who turns his bitterness into patriarchal tyranny: always complaining about everything in the house and putting the scares on the children. His entrance in the film is a metaphor for male dominance: sullen and threatening, which sends women and children scurrying about the place, fearfully eager to please.

Ida is helped by Victor's elderly nanny, Mads (the superb Mathilde Nielsen), who, fed up with the bad treatment that Victor is giving to his wife, sends the ailing wife back to her mother's to be nursed back to health. This is when the film turns into comedy. Mad's plan is to discipline Victor so that he can appreciate his wife again and stop taking things for granted. Having helped to bring him up, she knows that underneath his stern carapace is a mellow man and that there is a lot of love between him, Ida and the children. He just needs a re-education by good, old and witty Mads, who really is the star of this superbly constructed domestic tale. Nielsen's Mads is the archetypal maid, with heavy-lidded eyes, a penetrating gaze that scrutinizes the world around her with moral certainty, but, of course, she is also a woman with a heart of gold and in the case of Mads, a very cheeky gene.

A feminine (rather than feminist) film, Master of the House is about the reconciliation of genders as well as an ode to female comradeship. Mads, Ida and her mother form a loving, supportive trio, a refreshing antithesis to cinema's tradition of showing women being hostile and bitchty to each other. It is a light-hearted comment on the failings of the patriarchy and how men really are just little boys who need some discipline - the scene of the couple's reunion at the end is a witty and sweet illustration of that.

The DVD contains two short films, a documentary he made in 1942 about the Mother's Aid Institution and They Caught the Ferry, which was financed by the Road Safety Council and contains superb action sequences. Dreyer was involved in 13 state-commissioned documentaries and short films up to 1956, on subjects ranging from art and architecture to road-safety and these films leave it clear that even when dealing with most run-of-the-mill subjects in which he was not that interested, he could invest them with his directorial touch and unique cinematic translation of reality. But the most relevant extra is My Metier (Torben Skjødt Jensen, 1995, 94 mins), a documentary on Dreyer's life and work, including rare archival footage, film clips, and interviews with key actors and associates, stills, scripts, newspaper clippings, letters and Dreyer's own words. Beautifully put together, My Metier chronicles Dreyer's life with the artistry that he deserves.

Master of the House and Ordet are out now. Days of Wrath and Gertrud will be released on 10 April 2006.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Director's cult: Carl Th Dreyer

As the BFI releases some of the Danish director master Carl Th Dreyer (1889-1968), here is a text I wrote a couple of years ago for Kamera, a film website which yours truly also edits.

Renee Maria Falconetti as
the Maid of Orleans

Slow, intense, tragic: these are some of the epithets that could be employed to describe the body of work of Danish filmmaker Carl Dreyer, a largely ignored film director who worked between the 20s and 60s and who has recently enjoyed critical revisionism, even hailed by some as one of cinema's greatest directors. Evidence of his new–found popularity was given by The National Film Theatre in London, which put together a comprehensive season throughout June (called The Passion of Joan Carl Dreyer, a reference to his masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc). Considering how full the screenings were, it looks like there is still a need for the slow-burning, intense cinematic vision of Dreyer.

Dreyer's popularity has been stymied by several factors. Despite his career spanning over 40 years, he only made 14 films, with long gaps in between. He was never 'fashionable', linked to any movement or labelled an enfant terrible, preferring instead to stick to a classical, minimalist style that rejected naturalism and excess and flirted with experimentalism. His last film, Gertrud (1964) was met with a certain degree of hostility since critics thought at the time it was too old-fashioned for the sixties, missing out on the richness and subversion that underlies this Brechtian drama.

Like most great film directors, you can find a common thread that connects different works. In Dreyer's case it may well be the vision of love as a sentiment that is misunderstood and even punished by the world, a love that is more esoteric than romantic, and the inevitable impossibility of communicating such feeling. His archetypal hero is the person escaping the strictures of social obedience and moral codes in search of the desire for freedom raging inside – the kind of hero perfectly symbolised by The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928).

The fact that Dreyer was an adopted child may have informed his sympathy for the emotional pariah, in his films usually women. His works were prematurely feminist, or more accurately, feminine in their depiction and respectful treatment of female characters. His take on women was never fetishistic – and they figured largely in his work – as he seemed to be more interested in delving into their spirit and intuition than casting a male, eroticised look at them (as in Gertrud).

In an interview he gave during the London Film Festival in 1965, he said no one ever did tragedy better than him. Speaking timidly from behind his glassy Scandinavian eyes, he was probably right. Tragedy for Dreyer translates cinematically not in excessive gestures, but instead in the defying absence of them. The effect his films have on the viewer, at best, are nothing short of wondrous.

Two of Dreyer's films illustrate the overriding concerns which came to dominate his career: The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), his best-known movie, an another piece set in an age of religious cruelty, Day of Wrath (1943). In both the heroines meet their end at the stake as a punishment for their surrender to love.

The Passion of Joan of Arc is a film so strong and yet so simple, made almost exclusively of close-ups, an experience that only cinema can create – and there are few films that 'belong' exclusively to the medium in which they are made. It has been referred to elsewhere as transcendental cinema. As soon as the film starts, with the camera tracking along the jury trying the French heroine, the audience is mesmerised, almost trapped in a trance – as the atmosphere instantly created by the imagery is overwhelming. The stroke of genius in Dreyer's first and definitive rendition of the myth is to stick to the trial and execution– this is not the armoured Joan of Jean Luc Besson, but a nineteen-year-old woman (played with moving intensity by Renee Maria Falconetti) going through the tribulations of a trial while her soul alternates between ecstasy and agony. Her face is one of the most memorable sights in the history of cinema.
In essence, The Passion of Joan of Arc is a documentary, as the dialogues were based on archive documentation. When she is brought outside the courtroom after fainting at the sight of the torture devices she is shown to, she finally signs the confession, but as soon as she is taken back to her cell, she declares she wishes to recant. She is immediately taken out again to be burnt alive. The sequence of her death is shown almost in real time, interspersed with footage of a mob revolt. That could well be the moment when the aforementioned transcendence reaches its zenith.

Transcendence also occurs in Day of Wrath (1943), not with the viewer, but with the heroine instead, who spends the film looking for love only to be fatally betrayed by the object of her love. The film was made 11 years after Dreyer made his most experimental work, Vampyr (1932), a surrealist piece with wild camera work and stylised Gothic mise-en-scene. With Day of Wrath, Dreyer achieved a finely balanced combination of subject and form, and the austerity and density of the atmosphere of this historical, ecstatically realist (to borrow the expression from Herzog) piece can certainly be ranked as one of his masterpieces.

Set in 1623, a hundred years after the Protestant reformation in Denmark, we enter this archaic universe, through the eyes of Anne (Lisbeth Movin), the young wife of Reverend Absalon Pedersson (Thorkild Roose). The couple live under the disapproving gaze of his mother Meret (Sigrid Neiiendam) who sees in Anne a sinner, or, in modern parlance, a free spirit, a sexual being.

This aspect of Anne's psychology is unveiled by the hunt and condemnation of a witch right at the beginning of the film. The peasant Marthe (Anna Skierkier) seeks refuge at Anne's house after being denounced as a witch. Even though Anne is sympathetic, she cannot prevent her arrest and eventual sacrifice, but the event arouses her curiosity about her own power. When Marthe is tortured and forced to confess to Absalon, she tries to negotiate with him her freedom by reminding him that Anne's mother was a witch as well. From this moment onwards, this and other visual cues anticipate to the viewer what lies ahead for Anne.

Made during the Nazi occupation, Day of Wrath is commonly thought of as a metaphor for the political context of the time. The minimal use of light and the panning shots create a sense of paranoia, perfectly translating into images the essence of intolerance and repression. In that sense, it is a timeless essay on the desire for freedom and happiness.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Film Review: L'Armée des ombres (Army in the Shadows)


When L'Armée des ombres (Army in the Shadows) opens, we are immediately struck by Jean-Pierre Melville's style: the blue-grey colours that also dominate the Alain Delon-starred Le Samuraï (1967), the minimalist, elegant and unmistakably Gallic mise-en-scene and the references to the American gangster movie genre. For Melville, like his New Wave successors, loved 1940s American film and Army in the Shadows, as a film about a resistance group during WW2, certainly pays homage to American cinema as a symbol of liberation (how times have changed!). Traditionally the French have shown a knack for appropriating American genre conventions, then slow down the pace of the narrative and elevate it to something approaching highbrow status.

Based on Joseph Kessel's war-time novel, but also drawing on Melville's own memories of the Underground, the film starts with a one-minute sequence showing the Wehrmacht marching down the Champs Elysées. The screen projects a sombre spectre and draws us into this cold, semi-monochromatic world of wartime espionage and resistance. Despite the bleakness, Melville made it incredibly attractive to look at.

However, the success of this long, slow film is mainly due to the cast: Lino Ventura tops the bill with his laconic and swift Philippe Gerbier, the leader of an Underground network. Simone Signoret's Mathilde, the only feminine presence in this otherwise purposefully masculine film (like most of Melville's films, where women exist on the periphery), is the most memorable presence, though, perhaps due to her 'lonely female' standing in the narrative, but also due to her charisma, the intellectual aura of her acting skills and her left-wing star persona that infuses her resistance character with extra pathos and morality.

Originally released in September 1969 around the time of the commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the liberation of Paris, this melancholy, downbeat story is less about heroism and more about the relationships within the group, their liaisons and the moral decisions that they have to make. Their bravery and cold-bloodedness is quite something to watch. In line with Melville's controlled style, this is a film that requires great attention to detail, but the effort is continuously rewarded. Also, the fact that it is a film hinged on a historic moment freed the director from having to build up a narrative towards a resolution since that is provided by life. We know from the beginning, from the terrifying marching scene, that the world is damned and that things will not turn out well.

The film is pervaded by a fatalistic sentiment, even during the 'action' sequences such as the heist segment when the resistance disguise as German Red Cross to get into German quarters for a rescue operation that turns out to be futile, the airplane/parachute scenes and Gerbier's rescue from prison. The expressionist look of the film serves a story that is less concerned about historic details than it is with the banality of the war and the tragedy that befalls all the characters. Stylisation leads to abstraction and the effect is altogether more moving and hard-hitting. Melville's originality of vision combined with controlled performances and dense atmosphere form a film which is highly coherent aesthetically, making for a devastatingly moving experience.

Army in the Shadows is showing in several venues across London and the UK until 25 May.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The abridged version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I love Gore...

Vidal, that is. I'm going through something of a Gore Vidal phase after having read the fabulous sixties camp classic he wrote, Myra Breckinridge, which was turned into a Raquel Welch/Mae West movie, so buy it now as I did earlier today ( I try the poison before recommending it).

The thing about Vidal, whose film career includes this turkey as well as the celebrity-studded soft porn Caligula (1980), is that he has an unflinching iconoclastic verbal skill that feels like the brain is being fed an intelligence tonic when we come in contact with his sturdy words. Here's what he said in 1988 and which I agree with 100%:
"I regard monotheism as the greatest disaster ever to befall the human race. I see no good in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam -- good people, yes, but any religion based on a single, well, frenzied and virulent god, is not as useful to the human race as, say, Confucianism, which is not a religion but an ethical and educational system."
I wonder if anyone will replace him when he dies (he's 80 now). This type of artist/intellectual is becoming an increasingly rare sighting in Western culture, but then, as Vidal loves to say, humanity won't be around for much longer, so it doesn't really matter.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bitchy mash-up

Film review: The Double Life of Veronique

Jacob: one of the most memorable film performances

The great Polish/French director Krystof Kieslowski, who in the early 1990s gave the world the colour trilogy (Red, Blue and White) once said that what he looked for in a story were similarities. "People are of course divided by politics, religion, race and passions, but they also have a lot in common. Whether monarchists, republicans or communists, they still feel love, pain and hate, jealousy, they fear death and feel in general the same way. In other words, a religous person would suffer from toothache as an atheist would. And I always try to describe the toothache. If I succeed, I believe that everybody will be able to understand me because everyone knows exactly what it means to have a toothache. The country where it happens is not important", he once said.

Kieslowski's statement is particularly relevant in this age when the confrontational (but often merely pseudo-confrontational) and the "challenging" are prized epithets by the art and film worlds. Such ideas about filmmaking provide a strong clue to the work of the director largely considered cinema's last great auteur who plumbed with Bergman-level artistry the depths of human emotions in a way that typically only music seems to be able to. Kieslowski's cinema hits the viewer like a song or a painting. The curious thing, though, is that his films are not overladen visually; beautifully composed for sure, and his use of colour was masterful; but he didn't resort to ostentatious painterliness in the same vein as, say, Peter Greenaway. Kiewslowski's films were narrative pieces which nevertheless found an entry point into the view's imagination at the deepest level of the unconscious. I see parallels between his work and the post-modern cinema of Denys Arcand, who, despite using a more minimalist, neo-classical aesthetic, also succeeds in bridging cine-modernity with late 20th century/new millenium emotionalism). Kiewslowski doesn't challenge the viewer, he gives, and does so with boundless generosity.

The Double Life of Veronique, which won Irène Jacob's Best Actress award at Cannes in 1991, is a case in point. Exploring a simple story based on the myth of the 'twin soul', the film is a heady concoction of music, spirituality and transcendence that although slightly surreal in principle, is utterly convincing in its execution. The story is also completely indigineous to the medium of cinema because it is totally reliant on images and music - and Jacob's tour-de-force, expressive and sensitive performance.

Jacob plays two characters. The first and the one who has a smaller stay in the film is the Polish Weronika, a sensual, blissed woman with the voice of an angel. She exits the film when she dies of a heart failure. Cut to France and we arrive at the life of Veronique, a music teacher who is grieving the loss of something she can't name. She also has a heart problem, but unlike her Polish doppelganger, she is aware of it. She starts a romance with a children's book writer, but the feeling of loss persists until at the very end a photograph of Weronika she took from a tour bus while travelling in Krakow gives her a faint, mysterious clue to her obscure metaphysical situation.

There is plenty of symbolic material for psychoanalysts to feast on in a mystical story like this. But I'd rather stick to the intoxicating poetry of the film that holds the more sensitive viewer in a state of trance. The rhythm, the colour palette, the cinematography, Jacob's face and the inner (double) life of her Veronique: all these elements converge to form something as close to catharsis as cinema can get. It is virtually impossible to describe this film using conventional paradigms of film reviewing; its "meaning" is elusive and irrelevant; what matters is the sensorial experience it offers and the feeling of having experienced something utterly beautiful and magical. At this point we go back to what Kiewslowski said about being interested in what people have in common as opposed to their divergences. The response the film provokes is universal. The Double Life of Veronique invites our own doubles, our dichotomies for a peaceful dance and for the length of the film, we feel reconciled.

The Double Life of Veronique opens today at the Renoir and then across the UK .

Friday, March 10, 2006

Film review: Manderlay

Those who don't like me, raise their hands: Bryce Dallas in Manderlay

As it has become typical of the reception to Lars Von Trier's films, who has created something of a niche for himself as cinema's pre-eminent bad boy, Manderlay arrived with its fair share of marketing and critical fuss, although a less hysterical one compared with the film's companion, Dogville, released two years ago. It seems like this was what Von Trier was looking for. While Dogville was designed as a radical formal experiment, Manderlay seems to have been conceived as a kind of breezier, more playful sequel to exhaust a two-film genre ruled over by one director. And make no mistake: this is as a director's film as it gets, with the actors turned almost into marionettes in the darkness of the soundstage where the film is set (Manderlay looks even more like a play than Dogville) and subjugated to Von Trier's authorial demands.

By and large, Manderlay looks like a karaoke of Dogville. Past the aesthetic pleasant shock of the latter, Von Trier invested the sequel with humour and even more ironic truisms that may offend the intelligence at points but which make sense as part of the whole. The case here is of meaning lying in the sum of all parts, not so much in the rambling fragments of the film.

The young, earnest-looking Bryce Dallas Howard replaces Nicole Kidman in the role of Grace and it takes some time to getting used to her, as if an impostor had stolen the part that Kidman played with unbelievable loveliness and charisma. Once the shock subdues, we get used to Howard's Grace, who is more earthy, callow and American. Conversely, William Dafoe in the role played by James Caan in Dogville is an uncompensated-for loss.

Manderlay is the name of a plantation that Grace, her father and their gangsters come across after leaving Dogville (their car trajectory is shown in a stunning aerial shot of a dotted-lined map). A black woman knocks on the window of their car and tells them that behind the iron gates that open to Manderlay white masters still keep black slaves (the year is 1933) and one of them, Timothy (Isaach de Bankolé) is about to be punished with the whip.

Backed by her father's gun-powered gang, Grace frees the slaves and starts a kind of cooperative where the ex-slaves start working for profit while their fallen masters are treated as slaves as part of an educational programme of sorts.

Like in Dogville, human relations turn out to be a mocking game of deceptive appearances. Without going into plot details, Manderlay is an allegory to the human tendency, especially on the part of the white race, to assume it knows what's better for others, a tendency that finds its most eloquent and unquestioned expression in the democratic credo based on 'majority' rule. This is not a film with historic accuracy (John Hurt's voice-over, slacker than in Dogville, includes the term politically correct in its current usage) nor does it try to plumb America's guilt over slavery. It really is a simple tale of how human relations are inherently corrupt and and we all play a part in the theatre of civilisation.

While Dogville was a formally stricter as well as a subtler film, Manderlay is more accessible and, despite the shortcomings paraded during its long 140 minutes, Von Trier's skills as director and writer ensures that the revelations in the final part of the film make it work in hindsight.
Manderlay is currently playing in the UK.