Lars von Trier’s Melancholia begins with a series of tableaux that, like the opening of his previous film Antichrist, could be a demented perfume ad.  This time around, however, he’s putting his cards on the table at the very start.  The images reflect both the mental state of its two main characters and a portent for things to come. A bride is being ensnared by limbs and roots, a woman runs frantically across the 19th green of a golf course clutching a child, the bride is peacefully sinking into water like Millais’ Ophelia, and so on and so on.  Never one to hold back theatrical bombast, this is all set to a piece from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde.  It ends with nothing less than the destruction of earth as a significantly larger heavenly sphere smashes through it.  This prologue is both beautiful and almost laughably overblown, but it is also turns out to be an incredibly useful mood-setter for events to come.  Read the rest of this entry »

District 9

September 6, 2009

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Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 is a rare treat.  Its high concept is established with an opening presented as a mockumentary, providing exposition in a witty, politically pointed manner.  The first thirty or so minutes of the film are extraordinarily good, no doubt as it was an extension of the short feature from which this current version was borne.  What’s so rare about it as how it eventually (and yes, to a degree, sloppily) abandons this approach and becomes a fairly standard fugitive/sci-fi/actioner, and I wasn’t left disappointed in missed opportunities.  When I say “standard”, I should add that this is actually executed with an above-average level of skill, even if it never truly rises beyond the tropes of the genre. Read the rest of this entry »