Fragmented Films April 2012

If you can’t handle my worst then you don’t deserve my best,” Lars Von Trier paraphrases Marylyn Monroe in the directors commentary of Melancholia (Madman), where the eccentric Danish auteur continues his recent trawl through the darker emotions of mood disorders. He’s referring of course to the controversy that had the at times infantile, yet always interesting provocateur kicked out of Cannes. “I’ve learnt to not talk about Nazis or my admiration for their architecture,” he offers later, simultaneously demonstrating both his ability to learn from his mistakes, and his inability to resist poking the bear one more time. As for the film he self depreciatingly refers to it as kitsch, lamenting that it’s too romantic, without enough roughness. Mood disorders commonly skew your perception and Von Trier is a case in point. Melancholia is a film about the deep all encompassing depression of Kirsten Dunst, her condition seemingly underscored by a planet careering headlong towards earth. The romance here is very difficult to find. Dunst won a best actress award at Cannes for her gruelling portrayal, her marriage disintegrating with Alexander Skaarsgard (True Blood) on the night of their wedding. Kiefer Sutherland pops up as does Charlotte Gainsbourg, one of the few female leads willing to work with him again, and that’s after having sliced off her genitalia in their last outing. It’s typically self indulgent, a unique blend of surreal imagery, apocalyptic sci fi, and social drama imbued with a palpable sense of emotion that is simultaneously tragic and devastatingly beautiful. Particularly on blue ray.

Black Mamma White Mamma (Umbrella) is a women in prison film that begins with sadistic lesbian prison wardens and gratuitous shower scenes before ending in a deluge of bullets. It’s a cross-cultural exploitation buddy film with prostitute Pam Grier (Jackie Brown) and revolutionary Margaret Markov (The Hot Box) finding themselves chained together on the run and fending off gangsters, guerrillas, potential rapists and the police. It’s sleazy episodic b grade fare, shot in the Philippines by Eddie Romero, which is streets ahead of many in the genre, but admittedly that’s not saying much. The highlight is Sid Haig’s (The Big Bird Cage) outlandish cowboy outfits.

Guilty of Romance (Monster) is a dazzling descent into degradation, the third in Japanese director Sion Sono’s (Suicide Club) hate trilogy. It follows the life of a famous author, a serene domestic slave, who lives solely to serve her husband. “You may touch my penis,” he offers early on and she rushes down to grab it eagerly. “I’m so happy, “ she gushes, and you know this is only the beginning. She begins her journey by posing for erotic photos, though when she meets a street prostitute by night and university lecturer by day it appears she has found a kindred spirit. She hasn’t. And it gets much much worse There’s a real cynical darkness to this film, blatant psychosexual exploitation masquerading as arthouse fare. Sono enjoys the sex-fuelled descent way too much, and the appalling consequences of her newfound freedom are examined with voyeuristic relish.

 

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