Archive for October, 2009

More in Sorrow than in Anger

October 29, 2009

This all started with a jaunt to two of my favorite New York apartment houses: the Monterey (351 West 114th Street) and 333 East 69 (between First and Second Avenues). Discovered by accident years ago, it seemed time to revisit them to see if they were actually still there (in New York you really never know), and in what condition.

One was built in 1891, the other in 1962. But both offer pleasing design and modest comfort, surrounded by earlier brownstones, and make a strong case for multiple dwelling. The Monterey is uptown, a charming combination of montereyRomanesque and Prairie aesthetic. Although sadly compromised by time and ill-conceived piecemeal repairs, it still shows what was (and can be) done in an urban context.

Designed by Thomas O. Speir, it fronts on Lafayette Square – a tiny cobblestoned triangle framing a heroic bronze statue of Lafayette. Its western facade faces a waterfall and a huge willow tree just inside the beautifully renewed Morningside Park. The building is an odd shape (following the diverging avenues that surround it) and is only seven stories high. But it was built with eight-room apartments and a roof walk (the better to view the park and the surrounding neighborhood). To be honest, its magical site is unique for New York.

69e333_01_photoThe surprise on East 69th Street is twelve stories high, and definitely modern. But its architect, William Conklin, imagined a plan to make its simple concrete verticals and horizontals interesting in subtle ways; there are two-story maisonettes with private entrances on the ground floor, and recessed balconies enclosed on three sides, alternating (and on the same plane) with flat windows—a really terrific and original touch. Across the street: a harmonizing row of three-story brownstones. Most of them sport plantings (as does the apartment house), and the block has lots of trees. Bottom line: it’s not a place to visit, but to live in. In the middle of the city.

In truth, this post has been sitting unwritten for months; today is the day to put it up for the architecturally curious for its two destinations worth the trip. But its real catalyst was the news that the New York City Council had actually approved Jean Nouvel’s mid-block tower down the street from its eventual primary tenant: the Museum of Modern Art.moma1

Estimates of its ultimate height remain mysterious—anywhere from 75 to 82 stories. But mid-block? Even in New York? No matter what Nouvel designs, or the developer coyly agrees to whittle down (in the classic us-vs.-them real estate tap dance), it will still overwhelm everything else on the block—certainly the 588-foot condo built by MoMA only a few years ago, and CBS’ Black Rock on the corner.moma2

The persistence of memory recalls a MoMA that was once a six-story destination, pulsing with art, energy, a cutting-edge film department, and a friendly, neighborly vibe. It’s café was behind a balcony on the top floor, full of artists, students, connoisseurs and tourists. Probably the best place in the city to find romance (before a much, much bigger museum supplanted it and the urban bar scene ramped up). Oh, and going toward Sixth Avenue, there were rows of big, once-luxurious mansions—still home then to a few stubborn holdouts, and to the fabled Theater Guild, among other institutions.theaterguild

Where once there were trees, purpose, and anticipation of the future, there will be darkness, stratospheric admission costs to see what’s in the museum (planning to add another 40,000 feet to its gallery space), and the constant roar of bodies and wheels in motion. It is no secret that the block association (yes, we still have them) and the local community board were opposed, for all the right reasons. But reason does not prevail here and now.

So make some time to take in the Monterey and 333 East 69th Street and, if you want an education in the real meaning of neighborhood, of urban human scale (and a glorious architectural orgy in the bargain), walk around Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights. brooklyn-park-slope

 

While they’re still there…..

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October 26, 2009

Pray the Devil Back to Hell (Abigail Disney/Gini Reticker)

pray the devil4America has had a special relationship to Liberia since 1847, when it was founded by American slaves who had escaped or been freed. They formed an elite that continued to rule the country until the the end of the 20th century, when violence erupted between rebels (many of them young boys wielding heavy artillery) and the repressive government of Charles Taylor. Most Liberians were caught in the middle of the escalating carnage; it is estimated that 200,000 of them died.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell reflects the conflict, and takes us behind the scenes in the villages destroyed by the rebels, the refugee camps, and the Presidential palace, where Charles Taylor shamelessly insisted his corrupt regime was the only alternative to chaos. It’s an increasingly common scenario around the world, but the real miracle of this film is its first-person accounts (there is no narration) by the women who decided to do something about it. Their restrained testimony is all the more powerful in contrast to the horrific footage that plays against it.

Their first small groups grew until thousands protested, peacefully and silently, against the bloodshed. They were Christian and Muslim, from Liberia and other African countries, allied by dressing in white (for peace), lining the routes of presidential motorcades with hand-made signs. They brought their growing numbers to Taylor’s palace in the capital, and eventually reached out to the international community, staging a sit-in outside the “peace talks” (populated by tribal leaders and politicians, all of them men).Pray the Devil Back to Hell2 They invented their strategies as they went

along—including mobilizing to deny sexual favors to their husbands. It worked 2400 years ago when Aristophanes wrote Lysistrata (about women mobilizing against war to deny sexual favors to their husbands), and it worked in Liberia. Nothing, apparently, is a more irresistible argument: the husbands agreed to disarm and make peace.

So, the women, and a growing general disgust and impatience with the 15-year-long war, prevailed. In the end, not only was the war over, but Charles Taylor had been exiled to Nigeria, and Africa’s first woman president (Ellen ellen_johnson-sirleaf3Johnson Sirleaf) had been democratically elected in his place.

Goals accomplished, the sisterhod disbanded. But Charles Taylor is currently on trial in the Hague for war crimes, and they have learned to be watchful. As their leaders assert, “We stepped out and did the unimaginable…..If things ever get bad again, we will be back!”    Pray the Devil Back to Hell is available on DVD in mid-November.

 

Where the Wild Things Are

Sometimes, when you see a movie, it’s better not to have read the book or seen a previous film version. You have no expectations, and can simply respond directly to what you see and hear. And, in Where the Wild Things Are, you will—it goes deep, with its volatile mixture of violence, love, joy, and sorrow mirroring the human spirit (especially that of children, who haven’t yet learned how to mediate their emotions). They’re all mixed up together, and erupt without warning, or logic, in the blink of an eye. So you’re inside a child, yet perceiving with an adult’s eye.where-wild-things-are-tree

This film is extraordinary, moving and powerful; often side-splittingly funny, but darkness is always just outside the door, waiting to invade if it’s opened a crack. It’s an original, and it works all the time. (But I couldn’t shake a persistent and alluring fantasy about what it might have been like to be a fly on the wall during its evolution….)

It may be that Spike Jonze’s collaborator (in this case the anarchic and brilliant writer Dave Eggers) is a better match for him than the anarchic, brilliant, but self-indulgent, writer Charlie Kaufman (who scripted The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Adaptation, both directed by Jonze). But Wild Things is a real heart-in-mouth trip: always absorbing, and it cuts to the bone. Maybe not for children…yet like nothing else, and must be seen, heard, and especially, felt. Perhaps, after applauding all its art and craft, that’s what you’ll remember best.

A Wish-List for Random Reprises…..

Diaghilev’s Theatre of Marvels at the NYPL, reminding us of how truly cataclysmic the cultural shifts of the early 20th century arts were, and how the fabled synergy of the Ballet Russes’ music (Stravinsky);nypl2 décor (Bakst, Goncharova, Picasso); and choreography (Massine, Nijinska) set off decades of inspiration and imitation. To say nothing of the company’s (mostly) Russian dancers, whose names still evoke nostalgia. Pity that their work was captured only in still photographs, however evocative.

And yet, there was a hint of more some years ago: a librarian at the NYPL Dance Division bought at auction, for $10, an old Ballets Russes (then on tour in the UK) customs declaration. Its list of effects included “a camera and cinematographic equipment,” and was dated smack in the middle of Nijinsky’s brief reign. It seems unlikely that the company, with its cameras and film, would not have trained them on its superstar dancer. nijinskyWho knows what it might have taught us about celestial motion?

Macmillan’s The Invitation (an over-the-top, but unforgettable, erotic ballet about a young couple corrupted by an older pair; originally with Desmond Doyle, Anya Linden, Christopher Gable, and Lynne Seymour). Joffrey’s Gamelan, (a dreamlike interlude with Indonesian overlay, set to Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Small Orchestra; danced by Christian Holder). Opus 69—one of the earlier naughty jazz ballets, with a score by Teo Macero. Cranko’s versions of Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet; two of the best story ballets of all time, and certainly two of the funniest and most moving, respectively. Shakespeare would have loved them.

And, from London (or from anywhere), Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia.

arcadia

 

P.S.: Where is Pogo, now that we really need him?Pogo_-_Earth_Day_1971_poster

 

 

Cooper’s London

October 25, 2009

Screwed to a Turn

by Mel Cooper

I may have been wrong about ENRON initially but, if I may congratulate myself and quote my September 20 post, I did predict that the ENO’s autumnal Turn of the Screw would be good. This time I was only half wrong: it wasn’t just good, actually, it was the best Turn of the Screw ever!

TURN OF THE SCREW5If anything, I underestimated Mackerras in advance. He conducted the original UK run in 1954, replacing Britten for some performances. He is now 82 and getting every nuance, every sonority, every rhythm, every ounce of the drama. You cannot describe this performance; you have to experience it. And you have only four more chances to get to the Coliseum before the run ends.

Of course the cast was amazing. Every singer was dramatically and vocally spot-on. And the production is brilliant, intelligent, visually compelling, and dramatically cogent. The orchestra played with total love and devotion for Mackerras, producing constant clarity and transparency, while maintaining the most astonishing sense of pacing and rhythm.

It was opening night, so the cast, crew, and current music director, Edward Gardiner, gave a surprise presentation at the end to thank Mackerras for 61 years of conducting for Sadler’s Wells/English National Opera. And so it was a kind of love letter for a never-to-be forgotten job well done.

Half the audience was in tears during the opera’s last scene—it was so moving, and had built up to such a pitch. There were a few more tears when Mackerras accepted the gift—a photo of the set—signed by the entire cast. Mackerras has conducted 65 different operas at the ENO and is amazingly idiomatic in everything from Bach and Handel through Janacek, Martinu, and Britten. He conducts virtually peerless Wagner, Johann Strauss, Richard Strauss, and Gilbert and Sullivan. He is, for me, right up there with Furtwängler, Toscanini, Klemperer, Giulini, the Kleibers, and Bernstein.

eno-screw-3This celebration confirmed my rule: never ever miss a Mackerras performance if you can possibly help it. I hope he gets to do another 65 operas, and that someone finally records more of them. He is weirdly under-appreciated because he’s so eclectic, and doesn’t specialize. But I’ve never heard him give anything but completely-lived interpretations, and Turn of the Screw is breathtakingly right in every way. Book the remaining performances, catch it if you can, and marvel.

 

 

Twelfth Night: or What We, and Will, Will!

 Like conductor Charles Mackerras, Gregory Doran is stratford-dorananother artist who can do no wrong. He has returned to Stratford to direct a new and utterly beguiling Twelfth Night, that conveys its charm while highlighting its darker elements: Sir Toby’s alcoholism, the cruelty of the practical jokes, the real danger of the brawls and, finally, Malvolio’s unreconciled fury at the end when, unlike a Falstaff, he cannot forgive or forget the practical jokes played on him, or accept his own part in bringing them upon himself.

 Richard McCabe’s belching and farting Sir Toby is a fine foil for the narrow, fundamentalist, smug Malvolio of Richard Wilson. Doran’s designer, Robert Jones, creates an early 19th-century Illyria based on the historic Albania of Napoleonic and Byronic romanticism. It works brilliantly to convey a sense of somewhere exotic and almost magical; a setting (and costumes!) that are quasi-fantastical and “other”. Viola has landed in her own kind of Oz. The music is particularly fine, and one momentwhen the interior of Olivia’s home melts into a street bazaaris particularly gorgeous.

 As always, at Stratford,shakespeare'sgrave2 the cast performs as an excellent ensemble, with Nancy Carroll and Sam Alexander as poignant twins; Alexandra Gilbreath as a fetching Olivia; Jo Stone-Fewings as a sexy Duke (who seems to have discovered love for the first time); and Pamela Nomvete as an earthy and totally appealing Maria. I should also single out James Fleet’s touching Sir Andrew Aguecheek and the whirling dervish of Miltos Yerolemou’s Feste.

 During a week in which the head of Britain’s fascist British National Party got too much positive publicity for his pure-Brit lunatic cant, the RSC’s cast reflected the multi-cultural and multi-racial make-up of the country effortlessly, yet gave the audience an illuminating and entertaining production of Shakespeare’s great classic. Three cheers for the RSC, and its colour-blind casting; and three more specifically for Greg Doran and his entire team! Clearly the BNP doesn’t watch the X-Factor TV show either, which, whatever else you think of it, offers a platform to talents from the many backgrounds that enrich contemporary Britain.

 Like the Nazis before them, the morons of the BNP have some insane notions about racial purity, and a very shaky sense of the nation’s history and the contributions of people from all over the bnpworld who have settled here over millennia. Shame on the BNP… and hurrah for the RSC for recognizing that we’re in the 21st century!

 

Apollo’s Girls

October 19, 2009

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Hamptons Film Festival

October 19, 2009

A Weekend in the Country

hamptonsSpread out through the East End, this festival has a mixture of foreign and indie choices that can be worth the trip. Local film royalty was in attendance, and could be seen sauntering down Main Street with ice cream cones. Alan Alda, Sharon Stone, and Steve Buscemi could be heard “In Conversation with…” The newly refurbished Guild Hall theater is a real gem. And—let’s face it—with the trees just beginning to turn, the ocean, and the manicured lawns and historic houses on view, it’s fun to be there without breaking into a sweat. But be prepared to stand on line for every film. Some recommendations:

johnrabe.1What sets John Rabe apart is its complex, fascinating (and underexposed) true story, about a German who ran the Siemens factory in Nanjing up to, and during, the Japanese occupation. As an old China hand, Rabe loved the country and its people, and managed to save several hundred thousand of them from certain death by setting up a neutral zone for foreign nationals in the middle of the city and hiding the Chinese there in plain sight.

Meant to star Ulrich Mühe (The Lives of Others), who died tragically only months before production was to begin, the film is now graced by the excellent Ulrich Tukur, JohnRabe_Ulrich_Tukur_article(White Ribbon and Seraphine) in Mühe’s place. John Rabe has already nailed four top awards in Germany: best film, best actor—for Tukur–best production design, and best costumes. This is a big film, and the sixth written and directed by Florian Gallenberger; since he’s only 37, he’s likely to join the international A-list by the time John Rabe opens here in the spring.

Lukas Moodyyson’s hilarious Together and devastating Lilya 4-Ever displayed the exceptional range of this Swedish talent, so the US premiere of his newest (and first English-language) film–Mammoth–was much anticipated. MAMMOTH_0_previewMammoth stars Michelle Williams, Gael Garcia Bernal, Marife Necessito, and Sophie Nyweide. All of them are outstanding in roles that mirror a very contemporary dilemma: the overworked mom (a pediatric surgeon); the gentle genius dad who has made millions as a game designer; and a nanny from the Philippines who devotes herself to their daughter (Nyweide), while her own sons languish without her at home. But it is newcomer Sophie Nyweide who really shines. mammoth3A veteran of several films, as well as Law and Order, Nyweide is a competitive snowboarder who “owns a pet cow.” Alone at the post-screening press conference, she represented the entire cast and crew with wit and sangfroid that were truly awesome! Mammoth opens in the US on November 20th.

For environmentalists and everyone else: a modest but powerful documentary, Dirty Oil, by Leslie Iwerks (granddaughter of legendary animation artist Ub Iwerks). Iwerks has taken an unflinching look at some seriously dirty oilunpleasant landscape and health abuse by the Canadian companies that drain oil sands to supply insatiable US gas guzzlers with their black gold fix.

dirtyoil2Known for The Pixar Story, Iwerks here pulls no punches in getting her story out, and giving us a heads-up on the importance of finding a saner alternative to current practices.
http://www.babelgum.com/dirtyoil

On a lighter note: The Hunting Inn has the best carrot cake you’ll ever eat. One slice was enough for three of us, with takeaway for next day’s lunch.

Cooper’s London

October 14, 2009

Singing Their Artful Hearts Out

by Mel Cooper

One of the gems of the classical music season in the UK is the Oxford Lieder Festival, oxfordliederfounded in 2001 by a fine pianist, Sholto Kynoch, when he was an undergraduate at the university. It has become a fixture for the city and is certainly worth the trip if you are going to be nearby between 16 and 31 October and happen to like the art of song. Venues are steeped in history and suitably intimate, like the Jacqueline Du Pré Hall in St. Hilda’s College and the historic Holywell Music Room (Europe’s holywelloldest concert hall, opened in 1748), which Mozart and Haydn knew. Some concerts are in the odd mediaeval church or college chapel. Even if the music were not so excellent, the settings alone would be top priority.

Highlights this year include the complete Canticles of Benjamin Britten performed by pianist Julius Drake and his friends on 17 and 18 October; Wolfgang Holzmair and Andreas Haefliger interpreting Schubert’s Winterreise on 20 October; and a concert of Schumann’s Kerner Lieder (with songs by Mahler and Korngold for good measure), performed by Roderick Williams and Andrew West on 26 October. I also particularly recommend Christopher Maltman and Graham Johnson in Schubert’s Schöne Müllerin (30 October).

sholto kynochThe festival, in my experience, always has a captivating mix of new and established singers, as well as top-notch music, spiced by unexpected programming. Sholto Kynoch keeps a strong hand on the festival tiller and it reflects his tastes. The setting of Oxford itself and the surrounding Cotswolds can’t be beat, and there’s lots to see if you feel like playing hooky from the recitals. You can even get to Stratford-upon-Avon fairly easily for a play if you want a change of pace. (Or vice-versa?) There are usually three events a day, including master classes; there’s something for all tastes and interests in the field of the art song; there are cleverly themed programmes; and the festival gets stronger and more varied each year. oxford festival4www.oxfordlieder.co.uk

Of course, there is a huge plus at the venue: the historic surroundings! The city of Oxford was founded around 1100 B.C., and parts of its past can be found throughout the streets and inside the university. “New” College (something of an understatement) contains a medaieval wall within its gardens; Christ Church echos the power struggles between Cardinal Wolsey and Henry the VIII (and figures in Brideshead Revisited).  Update: parts of Harry Potter have been filmed (digitally enhanced) within its dining hall. On a lighter note, Charley’s Aunt is set at St. John’s College.  Before you start walking, climb the tower of St. Mary’s Church for a view of the entire city and relive three millennia of what happened here. Food for thought, and the perfect prelude (or postlude) to the Oxford Lieder Festival.

Apollo’s Girls

October 9, 2009

muses-2

New York Film Festival: Pix Picks

October 9, 2009

White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)

festival_25A. O. Scott, the NY Times’ übercritic, is not happy. He says (and I quote): “…the 47th edition of New York cinephilia’s flagship event has already distinguished itself as the grimmest in memory,” and goes on to build a case against “festivalism,” admitting only many paragraphs later that the Festival’s slate “is, rather, a symptom of the divided, anxious state of American and indeed of global film culture.” But he concludes his argument with, “It’s a nonstop party, as long as we follow the party line.”

Well, here’s another take on the party: festivals are different every year because their lineup depends, at least in part, on what’s available that season, and also has to please many ticket buyers. Grim or not, this NYFF has, as always, some things for everyone. And in the real world, those somethings are not equal. The%20White%20Ribbon%20%20movie%20image%20(4)Some are actually much better, or somewhat better, than others (we all have our opinions). Let’s start at the top:

Although I am among those who found Haneke’s The Piano Teacher both disturbing and unpleasant, his
White Ribbon is a masterpiece. It would seem that there was general agreement in high places, because the film was selected for the Festival’s opening night. (And, as of October 21, was Germany’s choice for Best Foreign Film nominee.) To begin with, for those of you whose eyes have grown dim from peering into iPhones at lo-res movies on tiny screens, do not miss this film! And see it in a theater, on a very, very big screen. It was shot in 35mm in color, then printed in black and white so glorious, so crammed with subtle variations of gray, so beautifully focused, lit, and framed, that it provides a visual high from the first scene. But it doesn’t stop there. white-ribbon33

Haneke’s tale about a small town in Germany on the eve of World War One is revealed through the work of a brilliant cast, playing characters whose intertwined lives are chapters in a chilling morality play. Everyone knows everyone—the Baron and Baroness, the doctor, the minister, the farmer, and the young teacher whose narration frames the story. There are few secrets. Except for those behind a series of strange events. Repression is rampant, and no one escapes its short-, or long-term consequences—especially the children who figure so prominently in the action. white ribbon 5

But it’s the way Haneke’s vision unfolds that puts White Ribbon in a class by itself. He uses a technique that’s mystifying at first—in which scenes appear to be a continuation of what preceded them. Only after a few moments do you realize that the scene is new, and the characters are not the same. In the end, this technique (so perfectly deployed) maintains tension and keeps the story moving. At two-and-a-half hours, the film never lags.

The period is meticulously recreated, and Haneke’s microscope offers a probing view of a town that has stepped out of a turn-of-the-century history book. The fields, the streets, the church, surround and stifle you despite their beauty. Women’s austere hair styles and clothing are almost identical, making visible the conformity they imply. Their rigid, upright posture completes the portrait of a society locked into old traditions that will be violently overturned a generation later. white_ribbon

So yes, see White Ribbon in a theater, then see it again. Perhaps the second time around you will be able to penetrate some of its mysteries, and take in all the details that make this film a work of art and power.

 

 

Precious

The Festival centerpiece, Precious is, in a way, a woman’s film (though directed, and written, by men–Lee Daniels and Geoffrey Fletcher). Its inspiration is the novel Push, written by Sapphire,sapphire who spent eight years teaching reading and writing to teenagers and adults in Harlem. The novel, and the film, reflect what Sapphire experienced.

Using hand-held cameras, harsh lighting, and urban music, it recreates the uptown of 1987 in which Clareece “Precious” Jones tries desperately to survive a monstrous life. Although light years away from the German dorf of White Ribbon, Precious’ city also surrounds you, and drags you into its mean streets, refusing to let you go until you join the fight for Precious’ survival. It’s a life lesson in priorities, and how to get them straight.

The cast is not only strong, but amazing: Mo’Nique (usually a high-energy comic), here plays a demon of a mother; Lenny Kravitz (rock musician) plays a male nurse; and Mariah Carey (trust me – you won’t recognize her!) plays a social worker. But the most amazing strength comes from the title character herself—played by newcomer and college student Gabourey Sidibe—whose stoic bravery remains the still center of the film.precious

Precious has been substantially Oprahfied (she’s one of the film’s executive producers), and has all of the broad strokes that one would expect. Okay, it’s a weeper. But it’s absolutely the real deal. Raw and overwhelming, and guaranteed to take you with it. Don’t even try to resist.

Previous Post

October 6, 2009

police2Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu)

Sly is really, really good, and full of surprises! At first, this seems a modest, unassuming piece of work—just like Christi, its hero cop (Dragos Bucur). He spends most of his time with his head down, hands in his pockets, hiding behind lampposts, using his cellphone to record the action (mostly low-key) of the young suspects he’s tailing, and dutifully filing reports.

At home, he and his wife barely speak. She watches a variety show, playing her favorite pop tune over and over, while he eats alone in the kitchen. police 3A metaphysical discussion ensues to deconstruct the meaning of the song’s lyrics (don’t ask!). By then, writer/director Corneliu Porumboiu has gotten down to business, and you realize the game is on.

It continues back at the station house, as the cop’s stubborn insistence on sticking with his principles against the bureaucracy puts him increasingly at risk. The centerpiece (and it’s a knockout!) of this gem is a three-way debate that impales the heyday of Romania’s socialist dialectic and treats us to the leftovers, with a dictionary wielded as arbiter of doublespeak.police1

By the time you realize you’ve been had, and brilliantly, the film is over. Funny thing, though—you can’t stop thinking about it, or missing Christi, afterwards—or trying to figure out how you can see both of them again. Police, Adjective opens here in December, and you’ll find me in the theater.

October 6, 2009

Antichrist

Seeing Lars von Trier’s newest film, the product of a severe depression (he describes it as “the most important film of my entire career”), is a little like being placed on a mediaeval rack and pulled apart, limb by limb.

Why, you may ask, would I say that? Because the first 20 minutes of Antichrist (shot in the slowest of slo-mo), is a glorious dream of cinematic and carnal poetry set to Handel’s Laschia ch’io pianga
Antichrist_1405338cso nuanced, so beautiful, that you give it up only reluctantly, as you realize the full meaning of the images you’re seeing, and discover what they will lead to. While you don’t want the dream to end, you don’t have any control over your desires; it’s von Trier who’s pulling the strings.

Much has been written about von Trier’s symbol-laden style. But with limited space, and with limited access to his associations, let’s just say that I hope the Academy conjures up a special award for Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg–a thespian equivalent of the Purple Heart–for bravery far, far, beyond the call of duty.

Their nitty gets pretty gritty, and they are good at their work , right up to the very last frame.  While Dafoe claims it was a wonderful experience, it can’t all have been fun, and must have been exhausting. Yet, to be honest, there is also a terrible hypnotic power to their descent into the relationship from hell. (Literally.) antichrist06-lst064548See it for its place in the von Trier canon, and out of curiosity. But at your own risk. And leave the children at home.


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