Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lars Loses His Way in Manderlay; Dogville Sequel Lacks Any Drama

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lars Loses His Way in Manderlay; Dogville Sequel Lacks Any Drama

Article excerpt

Byline: DEREK MALCOLM

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Manderlay

A History Of Violence

CONTROVERSY stalks Cannes like bread stalks butter, and it has now arrived in spades with new films by Lars von Trier and David Cronenberg.

Neither represents the best work of the two filmmakers, but both caused severe ructions among the serried rows of international critics.

Von Trier's Manderlay is the sequel to Dogville in which Nicole Kidman appeared as a young girl trying to escape from the activities of her crime-boss father in the rural Midwest of the Thirties.

This time played by Bryce Dallas Howard, she travels from there to the Deep South where, in the small town of Manderlay, Alabama, she tries to improve the lot of its black population by teaching them the tenets of democracy.

Whatever she does, however, turns out badly, since slavery has left an indelible mark upon them.

The film, made in the same theatrical way as Dogville, with props for sets, becomes an even more virulent and sometimes patronising attack on American hypocrisy. You don't have to be a Bush supporter to be offended, and many Americans present were spitting blood by the end.

Manderlay misses the star power of Kidman, though Howard gives a good performance. But its chief fault is that it seems more like an illustrated lecture than a drama, however capably made and acted. Cronenberg's A History Of Violence has Viggo Mortensen as a respected member of a small-town community in Indiana who is suddenly faced with his criminal past when a bevy of Philadelphia hoods, including Ed Harris and William Hurt, visit. It's a bit like an urban Western with dialogue to match, and there was laughter where it seemed to hover on the edge of perhaps intentional cliche. Suddenly a stentorian voice shouted out from the audience: "Shut up, you critic sons of bitches. …

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