See This: Dancer in the Dark

Björk and Catherine Deneuve in Dancer in the Dark
Björk and Catherine Deneuve in Dancer in the Dark

 

 

 

Is it “Unique” (CNN), “Heartbreaking” (The Independent), “Riveting” (Radio Times)? Or, perhaps, “Ludicrous” (Daily Mail), “Numbing” (Salon.com) or “Grim” (TV Guide)? Lars Von Trier’s low-rent, grainy tale of the Czech immigrant in the USA who is losing her sight, made according to the minimalist Dogme manifesto, won the Palme D’Or at the 2000 Cannes film festival. And even there fighting almost broke out in the audience.

What got everyone’s goat was Von Trier’s decision to couple his muddy shakeycam style to the most velour of Hollywood genres – the musical – and to cast the coolest of Euro sophisticats, Catherine Deneuve, as a factory worker. Adding to this deliberate provocation is the singing of elfin popsqueak Björk, which has always split the jury.

It is entirely typical of Von Trier to set out on a bold experiment and to try to work his way out of the box he’s put himself in – remember the “slaves love their masters” message of Manderlay, or Melancholia, definitely the most downbeat “end of the world” movie ever made. Remember also that Von Trier made a documentary in 2003 called The Five Obstructions, a challenge to his friend Jørgen Leth, to remake his film The Perfect Human five times, each time with a different obstruction of Von Trier’s devising.

That’s what we have here. The grit in the oyster of the artistic process. But does it produce a pearl?

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

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  • Dancer in the Dark (2000) Crime, Drama, Musical | 2h 20min | 6 October 2000 (USA) 8.0
    Director: Lars von TrierWriters: Lars von TrierStars: Björk, Catherine Deneuve, David MorseSummary: 1964 in small town Washington state. Selma Jezková, a Czechoslovakian immigrant, and her preteen son Gene live in a rented trailer owned by and on the property of married Bill and Linda Houston, he the town sheriff. Beyond Bill and Linda, Selma has a small group of friends who look out for her, including her primary confidante, Kathy, with who she works, and Jeff who wants to be her boyfriend. Jeff regularly waits outside Selma's workplace long before the end of her shift to drive her home, despite she always refusing in not wanting to lead him on. Her primary job is working on the Anderson Tool factory assembly line, but she does whatever she can to earn money. What only Kathy knows among Selma's friends is that she is slowly going blind, her medical condition being genetic. Selma is barely able to see, just enough to do her job. Her primary reason for moving to the US and for working all the time is to earn enough money for an operation for Gene when he turns thirteen, he who ... Written by Huggo

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