Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Someone is confused and THE ELEMENT OF CRIME (80)

A story about a very confused individual:

Alex and I are walking down Valencia last week, just chatting, on our way to lord knows where for what, when a dirty white car, chock full of bearded men (I can't recall if they were actually bearded, it just fits my vision more) roll past us. For whatever reason I'm idly staring at the street and this car, so I'm quite aware when one of these bearded boys sticks his head out the window, stares directly at me and screams:

"You're art show fucking sucks faggot!"

And then hastily sped away. Now this presents a few issues: first off, my bearded friend, I'm not gay. Thus your referral of me as a homosexual in such a crass way is not only rude, and painfully out of place in a town like San Francisco, but incorrect. Secondly, I have not, as of yet, ever had an art show of any kind, in San Francisco or any other city, thus your intonation that my current art show might be not up to standards is pretty delusional. I usually take a good deal of offense to being yelled at from a car. I can't explain it, just the pure randomness of picking some shmuck (me) off the street and screaming at them for no apparent reason chaps my cheeks. Usually I fill with anger and I want to find some object and toss it through their back window. This time, I looked at Alex, laughed and just yelled:

"Please sir, I only want your insults to make sense."

It also crossed my mind that maybe his insulting of my faux-art show was actually the mark of an intelligent insulter. Perhaps if he'd had more time he would of yelled something along the lines of, "Pardon me cock sucker, but I think your referring to your art as 'post-modern' is an affront to all those who came before you" or "I thought your choice of colors poorly represented your themes and narratives." You know smart insulting.

Lars Von Trier is one of those directors that everyone appreciates more and more, the longer they spend time with him. I saw Breaking The Waves years ago and was completely baffled by the weird colors and strangely sexual plot. It was interesting, but I just couldn't figure out what I was watching. I've seen almost all of his films since then, and honestly, with each one I've appreciated his abilities and his filmmaking more.

The Elements of Crime (80)
, his first film, is one of the greatest visual showcases I've ever seen. The story of a series of murders in a Germany gone mad is as creepy and visually haunting as anything I've seen before. Von Trier choses to fill the palates of the film with only shades of sepia and black, giving each and every moment of the film this eerie, almost old fashioned sort of look. Couple this with a film that revolves around body parts, dead donkeys, caged whores and a whole lot of sweaty miscreants, and you have a film that pops off the screen. Even more so when Von Trier chooses to bring a light burst of blue to the screen in a light or a television or the reflection in someone's eye. Every shot is entirely different from the next, each a beautiful blur of background, movement and camera work. I was blown away over and over again.

If this film had been only a visual treat I would've been happy, but jesus upon jesus, if the story of four murders in Germany and the ex-cop who buries himself in to the crimes to solve them wasn't as layered and engaging as just about any I've seen. "The Element of Crime" refers to the method of solving crime where you literally become the killer, and exiled police officer Fisher (Michael Elphick) digs in to the mind of serial killer Harry Grey and his journey through it is fascinating.

Even more amazing in this film is the narration, as Fisher starts the film in the office of a psychiatrist, trying to remember what came before, and as we find ourselves deeper and deeper in the mind of Fisher, who in turn is deep in to the mind of Harry Grey, it becomes more and more apparent that some of this wild visual density is just Fisher's mind going off: a pool of dead donkeys, tiny cars in tiny tunnels, a sexy tryst involving windshield wipers - all of it could just be Fisher's incorrect memory. Or it could be the truth. We never really know, but the journey through each layer is absolutely enthralling.

Thursday: Variety Lights (81)

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