Sunday, April 01, 2001

Revisiting Old Topics, I

Signs of Spring: a woolly bear on the back step. We ooh and ahh and put her back onto the wet grass: we have learned our lesson—Don’t fuck with Nature—and Nature has sent us this Sally Caterpillar like a blessing, like a kiss of forgiveness.

Revisiting Old Topics, II

I have at last seen Dancer In The Dark, and can at last formulate an intelligent opinion. So, Zen, this one's for you.

An extremely polarizing film, from what I’ve heard—one that inspires either rapturous praise or scoffing dismissal. I find myself, then, in the curious position of having no strong feelings about it. It was emotionally moving, yes, but as I watched my mind kept wandering, riffing, associating—because the one thing nobody has mentioned about Dancer is how derivative it is.

I can see where Dancer would seem unprecedented and off-putting if one were not already familiar with Von Trier’s earlier films (Breaking the Waves anticipates a lot of the elements of Dancer, from the hand-held cameras and whip-pans to the bleak colors, from the central theme of a saintly woman being sacrificed on the altar of circumstance to the presence of übercreep Udo Kier in a supporting role), the recorded output of Björk, the films of director Krzysztof Kieslowski (in many ways Dancer seemed like an outtake from The Decalogue), cinema verité, postwar Italian neo-realism and, most obviously, the teleplays of writer Dennis Potter, especially Pennies From Heaven and The Singing Detective.

But I am familiar with all that stuff—which confirms my status as an overeducated film snob, I suppose—and so Dancer, though it had much merit, held very few surprises for me.

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