Saturday, August 23, 2008

CTJ: The Weekend Watcher

"Dear Wendy" *****

Lars von Trier is the filmmaking equivalent of all the economic imbalance in the world. People always throw around statistics like "0.5% of the world owns 95% of the world's wealth, and blah blah blah..." Well, I think Lars von Trier owns a rather disproportionate amount of the talent in the world of film. The guy just does not disappoint me.

Although he only wrote and did not direct Dear Wendy, his signature is all over it. He is known for making games of his films -- little strategems that your mind will inevitably play with much as your tongue runs over the surface of your teeth from time to time. You feel out the contours of his films with your mind, and although they are structured around his games, and obviously so, they never fail to tantalize. Dear Wendy is no exception.

It is part Western, part Dead Poet's Society, part Chocolate War, part Dogville, part Bonnie & Clyde, part Peckinpah, part Stand by Me, part brain, part heart. It is told with aplomb and with the appreciation of narrative that all true storytellers seem to possess.

The film is named as it is because it is literally a boy's (Jamie Bell) love letter to his gun, Wendy. And if that doesn't sound interesting enough, then you should just go watch The Little Mermaid because you are probably going to hate it anyway. But if you are interested in how Lars von Trier and director Thomas Vintenberg manage to make the audience invest emotionally in an inanimate object, in a firearm no less, then please do watch. It is a pleasure.

The five-star rating comes more from appreciation and "I'll-be-damned-if-they-didn't-just-make-this-film" guffawing. It's an unlikely film that feels like the successful outcome of a film school project, but the sort of project that a teacher -- a maestro like von Trier -- would make to remind his students that he's still got the goods. I don't know who this Thomas Vintenberg fellow is, but he did Mr. von Trier justice. This film sings like a shell exiting a barrel and plowing through a target. Well done.

"Slaughterhouse Five" ****

"The Sentinel" ***

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