Author Topic: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat  (Read 12984 times)

Bondo

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #80 on: November 29, 2011, 12:17:13 AM »
You should have read my review of The Future before they shipped you The Future. :P

Bondo

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #81 on: November 29, 2011, 11:02:39 PM »
Dogville (2003)

This has to be one of the largest disparities between the my appreciation of the story and my appreciation of the filmmaking I've ever seen. Curiously, though it has been too long ago for me to talk about it in much detail, Manderlay was my first Lars von Trier film, and as the second part of the (unfinished) trilogy that Dogville initiates. It uses the same tactics like heavy narration and a minimalist staging using chalk for building outlines. It also runs over two hours. Yet I at least liked it and its interesting perspective on post-slavery conditions and was engaged in it enough.

It is interesting to talk about Dogville as part of this extreme cinema marathon because, while it has a fairly extreme plot and a strongly misanthropic message, the way it is staged makes it positively tame. The fact that the artifice is front and center in the staging, as well as in a certain theatricality in the acting, never brings you as close, and the sexual and violent content is more implied than is typical of von Trier, even in Manderlay. This feels more like a textbook exercise in teaching us of the miserable or animalistic nature of man than an authentic story.

The far greater problem is with the runtime of just under three hours. Cutting a half hour would make it passable, cutting an hour would be entirely possible to make it good. There is just too much lolling around and inefficient narration. This feels more like listening to an audiobook at times. It isn't really until 90 minutes into the film that it starts to even show its hand at the eventual message.

But like I suggest, this is a very interesting outline for a story. Grace (Nicole Kidman) is on the run from gangsters and happens upon this small Colorado town and is protected by resident Tom Edison Jr. (Paul Bettany). Her precarious situation is faced with mistrust from the residents and so she sets out to prove her honesty and usefulness by assisting them with chores. Over (too much) time, this evolves into an increasingly exploitative relationship. Lars von Trier apparently describes the film as saying that "evil can arise anywhere, as long as the situation is right," which certainly fits the notion of a broader misanthropic interpretation. Ebert critiques him as being anti-American, which I accept tangentially, though with a less negative emphasis. It is a broader ideological point that America happens to embody simply about income inequality or the way people will turn desperation and need into their benefit. It is a selfish nature of humanity that again ties back into misanthropy, but one that I, though perhaps not von Trier, would argue some systems have done a better job resolving.

This is all to the good, but it just needed a better film telling the tale. Clip an hour and do just a little less to highlight the artificiality and come back to talk to me. Either way, I feel like this film as much as any others explains why von Trier might have been keen to depict the end of the world in Melancholia.

2/5

MartinTeller

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #82 on: November 29, 2011, 11:41:55 PM »
The Brechtian production is designed to distance you from the emotional content of the story and encourage self-reflection.
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Bondo

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #83 on: December 03, 2011, 09:51:06 PM »
The Last Mistress (2007)

This film marks a pretty distinct shift in Breillat's filmography. Though her films had previously left the gritty, arguably poor technical quality behind some ten years earlier, this marks a particular level of cinematography and art direction that would be seen again in her next film Bluebeard. This costumed melodrama is also much more traditional in its narrative and themes and bit less in your face sexuality (though still enough nudity, old habits die hard).

The film starts us in the late 19th Century on the eve of the marriage of Ryno, a poor and somewhat disgraced man of aristocratic birth, and the proper and wealthy Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida making her third appearance for Breillat). This is a controversial pairing because Ryno has had an extended relationship with Spaniard Vellini (Asia Argento). The bulk of the film is flashbacks of his relationship with Vellini as related to Hermangarde's grandmother to earn her trust that he will be faithful to his soon to be wife.

I'm not sure I get a lot of thematic depth here but as a torrid romantic drama with lots of emotional ups and downs it manages alright. It is very French, presenting an interesting culture where people seem to be jumping from marriage to marriage, all while carrying on extramarital activity. Love is a wild and unkempt sort of thing. And yet despite the tumult we see in this relationship, a certain strain of commitment exists. Whether this does more to prove his fitness in this new marriage or undercuts it, I don't know, but we do get to see into the marriage in the final act.

This film is interesting in that a great number of leads in past Breillat films populate much of the supporting cast here. She's not quite Mike Leigh in having a troop but it would suggest a certain strong relationship or loyalty she develops among her actors.

While I am certainly happy to see Catherine Breillat continue to develop as a technical filmmaker and have no complaints there, and ultimately The Last Mistress and Bluebeard are both solid films, there is something lost from her original stories (basically every film until this point). We shall see with The Sleeping Beauty to follow, but her adaptations lack that biting insight that made her so interesting as a filmmaker even when the films weren't working.

3/5

Bondo

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #84 on: December 04, 2011, 12:53:26 AM »
The Sleeping Beauty (2010)

This film doesn't beat around the bush in getting the plot rolling. It opens upon a birth, an old and unattractive (and thus evil) witch placing a curse on the newborn girl (as she is cradled in the arms of her mother even), and three young and beautiful (and thus good) fairies showing up late and figuring a way around the curse. Instead of dying at 16, the girl will fall asleep at 6 and wake up 100 years later as a 16 year old. In the meantime, she will be sent to an active fantasy world.

In the brief time we see the princess before she falls into her sleep, we get a clear signal that she is gender conflicted and rather considers herself a boy, upset whenever they try to limit her or sort her according to her birth sex. This of course is of immediate interest to me. Having entered her fantasy world, she happens upon a mother and son and they take her in having wanted a daughter, yet they dress her in the old boy's clothes and she is happy as can be playing along with the boy until he hits puberty and suddenly a tension is thrown into the situation.

The film occasionally throws symbolic hints back to the real world. Early on in the dream world she is shown a queen bee that has eaten so much it is unable to move and she is frightened by it and responds with a line that hints at burial, implying that is what is happening to her body in the real world. As she moves on she hits a world where she continues to be told not to be noticed, which ties into a certain gender norm about girls.

At the end of the day, the film is a fantasy version of a coming of age story and kind of finding your own way toward being a woman with various comments on gender expectations. I'm not sure I picked up all the layers but the ending, if I interpret it right, is fairly provocative and interesting. Having now finished Breillat's entire feature filmography, this one settles near the top and is a great way to send me into the future and the hopes of more to come from someone who has become one of my favorite directors.

4/5

Bondo

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #85 on: December 04, 2011, 12:58:07 AM »
Well, that wraps it up for this marathon. It turned out to be really incredible. Breillat, who I had seen one film from prior, is now solidly in my top-50 directors. Lars von Trier who I had seen three films from and was rather mixed about is now borderline top-50. Peter Greenaway who I had seen two films from is now top-100. Where do I go from here? Well, Breillat did a segment in an omnibus picture that I'll probably try to check out. von Trier has the other two parts of the Europe trilogy that I could watch or The Five Obstructions which would be DOCember relevant. Greenaway also has a few films remaining that I could visit. I probably won't make too much of that a priority but it is always nice to have a bit left to find with a director. Anyway, below are my film rankings for the three directors.

Catherine Breillat
Sex Is Comedy 5/5
Anatomy of Hell 4/5
The Sleeping Beauty 4/5
Brief Crossing 4/5
Fat Girl 4/5
Bluebeard 3/5
The Last Mistress 3/5
Perfect Love 3/5
36 Fillette 3/5
Romance 2/5
A Real Young Girl 2/5
Dirty Like An Angel 1/5
Nocturnal Uproar 1/5

Lars von Trier
The Idiots 5/5
Antichrist 4/5
Melancholia 4/5
Breaking The Waves 4/5
Manderlay 3/5
Dogville 2/5
Medea 2/5
The Element of Crime 2/5

Peter Greenaway
The Baby of Macon 5/5
The Pillow Book 4/5
The Draughtsman's Contract 4/5
Drowning By Numbers 4/5
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover 3/5
8 1/2 Women 3/5
The Falls 2/5
The Shorts 2/5
A Zed & Two Noughts 2/5
The Belly of an Architect 1/5

Lobby

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #86 on: December 04, 2011, 01:41:52 AM »
I've been bugging you about why you need to watch the TV series The Kingdom in the chatroom. But I'll tell you to do so here as well. Just as a reminder. No Trier marathon is complete without that. Besides it's awesome.
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oldkid

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #87 on: December 04, 2011, 06:50:53 PM »
Great marathon, Bondo.  I'll be checking out a number of those and I suppose I'll try Greenway again, although I haven't cared for the couple films I'd seen.  Baby of Macon sounds fascinating, though.
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