It feels awkward to attempt to put Dancer in the Dark into words. Von Trier's film is one of those movies that truly change the way we think about cinema and its possibilities, and for such a film, words do no justice. Dancer in the Dark centers around Selma (Björk), a factory worker, who loves her 10-year-old son above everything else in the world. Selma is a happy, innocent creature who enjoys musicals for "nothing bad ever happens in them". These elements (mother's love for her son, joyfulness of musicals versus the hardships of every day life) create a whole unlike anything ever seen on silver screen. Selma is rapidly losing her eye sight, but not her vision: she's the 'dancer in the dark' who is prepared to sacrifice herself to keep the light in her child's eyes. Very early on it becomes obvious that this story can't have a happy ending. However, once you've accepted it, you can put your mind at ease and see the film as it unfolds from Selma's point of view. And what a view it is! Björk gives a performance of a life time - this little woman with a huge voice is all emotion all the time without ever appearing overtly dramatic or cheaply sentimental. There's no weak link in the rest of the cast either, Peter Stormare as Jeff, Catherine Deneuve as Kathy and Siobhan Fallon as the prison guard to name but a few. The biggest star is still the director himself; von Trier demonstrates his talent in a superb fashion by both telling a simple story that will most likely break you heart and examining the ever-persistent ills of the life of the lower class of the American society. What about the film's musical character then? This is where von Trier triumphs the most by understanding the very essence of the whole genre - hope; hope that will live in our soul for ever if we'll only follow our heart.
Seldom have I left a cinema feeling so content and fulfilled in my expectations as I did after having seen Lisa Cholodenko's High Art. After so many disappointing lesbian features it's a real thrill to see a film that's intelligent, funny, sexy, compassionate... and truly an original work of art! Although the very word may sound like a tiresome cliché, I do say 'art' because despite the ironic title itself, Cholodenko's work represents modern cinematic art at its best. From the very first frame to the last what we get is a remarkably well-thought of layout of images. The composition, colors, lighting - there's nothing trivial about any of it for it all just works beautifully.
'High Art' is not just a pure visual joy. One cannot but mention its splendid cast as well. Ally Sheedy has gone a long way since her 'St. Elmo's Fire' -days; her charismatic performance as Lucy Berliner is truly captivating in its touching simplicity and quiet intuition. Radha Mitchell has a wonderful way of expressing a flood of emotion in only one word, gesture, or expression. And who could forget Patricia Clarkson's wisecracking junkie girlfriend?
Although the images speak for themselves, the dialogue has an exceptionally sincere (not to mention hot and seductive...)quality to it as well. Words seem to flow freely, spontaneously out of the characters' mouths; it's almost as if we were eavesdropping on the most intimate moments of two real people.
I've been waiting to see this film ever since it premiered in 1993, but only a couple of days ago I finally got a chance to see it on TV. It was well worth the wait, although I would have loved to have seen it on big screen instead. First of all, Suzy Amis who I think has repeatedly been miscast and generally far too unappreciated as an actress does a brilliant, intuitive job in the lead role. Her transformation from Josephine to Jo is touching and believable, and her performance all through the film maintains the very same characteristics. She avoids the trap of being a mere male imitation and instead builds her own tough concept of what constitutes a true man of honor living in the middle of the rough wilderness. Director Greenwald lets her story flow beautifully in its own calm pace; she makes Jo's expressive face the very core of this remarkable film - that's where all starts and, finally, ends. Film's gorgeous landscapes and panorama may take your breath away as well, but it's really the director's ability to understand Jo Monaghan's incredible life story that makes The Ballad of Little Jo such a magnificent experience.
It certainly took a long time to get to see the first spoof on the ever-so -serious mafia flicks! However, it was worth the wait - Jim Abrahams has certainly not lost his touch. Although there is an abundant number of really bad jokes in the picture, and many times you've heard them before (in Airplane!, Naked Gun etc.), one cannot help but like it. For one thing, Mafia! looks fabulous (especially the Sicilian scenes). At times sparks really fly in terms of funny dialogue and character interaction - I especially enjoyed Christina Applegate's 'presidential' performance. Although Lloyd Bridges will be fondly remembered (and missed), I would have preferred to see Leslie Nielsen in Don Cortino's role.