Thomas Vinterberg is the reason the Dogme 95 movement amounted to anything â€” 1998’s "The Celebration" remains fresh long after the novelty of cinematic vows of chastity was gone, a gothic excursion into the dark secrets of an upper-crust Danish family, unexpectedly lovely in golden natural light and luscious shadowed hallways. But since his international hit he’s bobbled around with an experimental live improvised film for Danish television, an admittedly lovely music video for Blur in which he used night vision to film the band sleeping, and 2003’s complete departure from anything Dogme-ish, "It’s All About Love," which has been sitting on our DVR for weeks and which we just can’t seem to motivate ourselves to watch, despite the fact that it’s partially about ice dancing.
Either way, we’ve always thought Vinterberg was worth watching out for, and were particularly distressed to see that for his latest, "Dear Wendy," which premiered to unexceptional reviews at Sundance this year, he seems to have thrown himself in front of the derailed train that is Lars von Trier, taking a script by his fellow Dogme-founder and making one of the anvil-obvious parables set in small-town American town von Trier is so fond of recently. "Wendy" opens here on September 23, but it’s in UK theaters this week, and the reviews are less than stellar. The most positive one is from Sukhdev Sandhu at the Telegraph, who finds it lovely and bewildering, "a fascinating anti-masterclass in the always fraught dynamics of the writer-director relationship." Philip French in the Observer is equally ambivalent, James Christopher, in the Times, a little harsher, because he’s such a fan of "The Celebration" and "Dogville," "283 minutes of the best cinema I have ever seen." Anthony Quinn at the Independent sees Vinterberg as having lost his way, while Peter Bradshaw is the hardest on the film, largely because of the participation of Jamie Bell, Britain’s great post-child hope, who danced en pointe into harmless arthouse success as "Billy Elliot," and who now, grown into an awkward, less photogenic teen, has moved into playing disaffected American outcast youths.
Over at the Japan Times, Mark Schilling reviews "17-Sai no Fukei â€” Shonen wa Nani o Mita no ka (Scenery of Seventeen â€” What Did the Boy See?)," from radical filmmaker-turned-pink film maker Koji Wakamatsu. Based on the true story of a teenage boy who killed his mother with a baseball bat and fled north on his bike for 17 days until he was caught by the police. The film recreates the boy’s journey, supplying his thoughts in captions and narration. Schilling also interview the director ("I want people who see the film to go out afterward with their friends to a coffee shop or bar and argue with each other about what Wakamatsu was trying to say.").
And, over at the New York Times, Laura Kern reviews "Chaos," a film we also got to see not to long ago. When a film’s ambition is to be "the most brutal film ever made," judging it on normal standards of quality is profligate â€” nevertheless, as Kern points out, the most shocking thing about the film is ultimately how painfully it denies that its anything more than a clumsy remake of "The Last House on the Left" (which is, of course, itself a remake of sorts of Ingmar Bergman’s "The Virgin Spring"). The filmmakers’ chutzpah seems to the most noteworthy thing here â€” by loudly disparaging the exploitation classic they’ve copied, they’ve angered many fans into furiously bashing their own film, getting it more attention than most not-particularly-well-done low-budget grindhouse flicks even see.
+ Beautifully shot (Telegraph)
+ Dear Wendy (Observer)
+ Dear Wendy (Times of London)
+ Dear Wendy (15) (Independent)
+ Dear Wendy (Guardian)
+ Troubled youth on a road to nowhere (Japan Times)
+ No easy answers (Japan Times)
+ Looking a Lot Like ‘Last House on the Left’ (NY Times)