Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! I’m reviewing just 3 films today. I also finished watching S3 of “The Sinner.” Please please please make a S4! I also watched disc 1 of Ken Burns’ Jazz series and am SO glad I did. It really helps me understand the magic of jazz music; am looking forward to getting the next disc.
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Starring: Björk, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare, Joel Grey, Cara Seymour, Vladica Kostic, Jean-Marc Barr, Vincent Paterson, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Zeljko Ivanek, Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgård, and many others.
Director: Lars Von Trier
Genres: crime, drama, musical
Synopsis: Set in 1964 in a small town in Washington State, Selma (played by Björk) is an Eastern European immigrant with a young son living in the U.S., trying to make her way in a new land. She runs a metal-shaping machine in a factory. She depends on the friendships and kindness of those around her and as the story opens seems to be fairly integrated and settled in to the community. It doesn’t take long to see something is amiss, a secret she’s been holding onto for a long time. She makes the mistake of telling someone her secret and things start to fall apart from there. The film has multiple breakout musical sections which are demonstrating Selma’s escape from reality when reality becomes too much for her to bear.
Impressions: The musical sequences are cheesy at best and cringe-worthy at worse. They had a feel of being thrown in as an afterthought which left me with a feeling of dissonance. The story line is so sad as to be almost unbearable. It is very adept at showing the best and the worst of human nature. There are a couple of disturbing scenes that are extremely difficult to witness. Warning: children should not watch this one. The acting is good but it is limited by the plot. It has a personal aspect to it that makes me think the director might have experienced something like what happened in it or someone close to him did.
Etc.: imdb trivia: Lars von Trier has said that each morning before filming, Björk would say, “Mr. von Trier, I despise you,” and spit at him. There is a plethora of trivia on this film at imdb.
Awards: 35 wins and 49 nominations
more imdb trivia:
Björk was known for erratic behavior during and after filming. She once attacked a news anchor when asked about working with Lars von Trier and supposedly ate part of her costume after filming was complete. Later, in 2017, she admitted to “experiences with a Danish director” where “humiliation and [a] role as a lesser sexually harassed being [were] the norm”; after rejecting him, he “sulked and punished me”, but “[he] was fully aware of this game and I am sure of that the film he made after was based on his experiences with me”. Von Triër’s next movie would be Dogville (2003) which deals with a woman who is physically and psychologically abused by a small community”.
Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
Starring: Samuel Le Bihan, Jérémie Renier, Mark Dacascos, Vincent Cassel, Émilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci, Jacques Perrin, Christian Marc, Karin Kriström, Philippe Nahon, and many more.
Director: Christophe Gans
Genres: action, adventure, drama
Synopsis: Lifted from “Anonymous” at imdb:
In 1764 something was stalking the mountains of central France. A ‘beast’ that pounced on humans and animals with terrible ferocity. Indeed the beast became so notorious that the King of France dispatched envoys to find out what was happening and to kill the creature. By the end, the Beast of Gevaudan had killed over 100 people.To this day, no one is entirely sure what it was, a wolf? a hyena? or something supernatural? The Beast is a popular myth in France, albeit one rooted firmly in reality; somewhat surprisingly it is little known to the outside world, and perhaps incredibly it has never been made into a movie. Until now. Based on the true story of the Beast of the Gevaudan that terrorized France in the eighteenth century, the movie aims to tell first and explain afterwards.
The King of France sends the special envoy of Grégoire de Fronsac (played by Le Bihan) and Mani (played by Dacascos) to investigate, which is where the story begins. De Fransac is a scientist and Mani is a reticent warrior who, as a member of the Mohawk tribe, has his specialized ways of doing things. The two men begin to unravel the mystery of the beast and outmaneuver death more than once during the process. The high society people are just as menacing as the common villagers and it’s difficult to know who to trust as the plot weaves its mystery and unnerving atmosphere.
Impressions: I thought the film was very well-constructed. The casting was first-rate, costumes and special effects were excellent. I really like how they hid what the beast looked like through most of it in order to build the dread and the tension. The landscape and mountainous area are gorgeous but also frightening when you’re trying to find a monster. There are several very attractive looking people in this film as well as some titillating scenes. Good action sequences.
Etc.: French movie, French language with English subtitles; imdb trivia: All the primary characters, except the Native American Mani, actually existed and lived during reign of King Louis XV.
Awards: 4 wins and 22 nominations
Let Him Go (2020)
Starring: Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Kayli Carter, Ryan Bruce, Otto Hornung, Bram Hornung, Lesley Manville, Will Brittain, Jeffrey Donovan, Connor Mackay, Adam Stafford, Booboo Stewart, Greg Lawson, Bradley Stryker, Will Hochman, and many others.
Director: Thomas Bezucha
Genres: crime, drama, thriller
Synopsis: Set in the 1960’s in the Plains, Lane and Costner’s characters have a modest ranch with some property. Their son and his wife and 3-year-old child live with them. Right in the beginning of the movie their son dies in a tragic accident. Not long after, his widow marries a man they aren’t real crazy about but remain silent about it. The young widow and their grandson move out after the marriage. It doesn’t take Lane’s character long to randomly see the three on the street and her new husband slapping both her and the kid around. Next thing you know they’ve moved out of their ratty apartment, whereabouts unknown. The rest of the movie is about Lane and Costner trying to find out where their grandson is and trying to get him away from the brutal clan that has no intentions of letting him go.
Impressions: There are some quite lovely scenes between Lane and Costner while they’re on the road looking for their grandson. The two characters have a special relationship that is intimate and touching to watch. If only that would have remained the focus instead of the brutal unpleasantness of what followed. Kevin Costner underplays his role to the point of being inert material. Lane is animated and driven by the love of her grandbaby and the fear of what the little guy is going through. Her character is much better developed than anyone else’s. A standout performance for me was Donovan as the sarcastic provocateur Uncle Bill Weboy. The matriarch of the clan, Blanche Weboy (played by Manville) was way over the top with her performance to the point of being a caricature. The plot sounded good, but the execution of said plot was painful to watch once they found the boy.
Etc.: adapted from a novel by Larry Watson, which is set in 1951; in the movie, it is set in 1963. Set in North Dakota and Montana, but filmed in Canada; Peter, one of the characters (played by Stewart) is an adult Native American who was abducted from his family by the government as a child and forced to live in an Indian School. He now lives as a hermit out on the prairie.
Awards: 2 nominations