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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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WI Film Fest presents several big European films

While the Wisconsin Film Festival focuses mainly on showcasing small or obscure films, this year’s fest featured several bigger films from Europe, two of them Danish, one Irish.

The title, familiar to American audiences, is an Irish film by first-time director John Crowley and first-time writer Mark O’Rowe, “Intermission” (a.k.a. “the one with Colin Farrell”). This crime caper is some kind of hybrid between Richard Curtis’ “Love Actually” and Guy Ritchie’s “Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels,” though it is not as successful as either of these two films. Nevertheless, it is entertaining and occasionally quite funny. The plot is fragmented, as it focuses on several days in the lives of a variety of quirky characters, from an arrogant, un-streetwise detective to an insecure woman with a slight moustache. Yet the main character seems to be John (Cilian Murphy, “28 Days Later”) who hopes to get back his girlfriend, Deirdre (Kelly Macdonald, “Gosford Park”).

The major problem with the film is its bipolar nature, oscillating between romance and violence, sap and cruelty. This may have worked had it not been gone from one extreme to the other. Ultimately, the romantic current is severely undercut by the violence. Though I have to hand it to the filmmakers for having the guts to have an opening scene like the one here, in which a petty criminal (Farrell, “S.W.A.T.”) flirts with a waitress before punching her in the face to steal the money out of the cash register. (B/C)

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The Danish, noir-flavored “Reconstruction” is the likely result of mixing the romance of Cameron Crowe’s “Vanilla Sky” with the dreamscape of David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.” Director & co-writer Christoffer Boe has crafted a stylish noir romance-thriller that is engaging and perplexing, but not entirely satisfying. There is much to be said of the film’s style. The cinematography is dazzling, using color saturation, lighting and a growing sense of puzzlement keeps the viewer interested throughout. In fact, the movie opens with a voice-over explaining the manipulation of reality through film, and continues on this path by adding a bit of surrealism to an otherwise simple plot about infidelity. After meeting the gorgeous Aimee (Maria Bonnevie, “The 13th Warrior”), Alex (Nikolaj Lie Kaas, “The Idiots”) is completely infatuated. On a whim, he decides to risk the loss his girlfriend, Simone (also Maria Bonnevie), to be with Aimee. Unfortunately for Alex, the next day his reality has been inexplicably altered. (B)

The best film I saw at this year’s festival is the Danish dark comedy-drama “The Green Butchers.” Writer and director Anders Thomas Jensen, who also wrote festival entry “Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself,” was in attendance at the screening and participated in a discussion after the film. Chicago Tribune film critic Mike Wilmington was also at the screening to give an introduction. All of this made for a one-of-a-kind, enjoyable experience, but the real surprise was the film itself.

“The Green Butchers” is without a doubt one of the most darkly funny and inventive movies I have seen. Svend (Mads Mikkelsen, “Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself”) and Bjarne (Nikolaj Lie Kaas, again, in a fine performance) are two butchers who decide to open up their own butcher shop. Accidentally, an electrician gets locked in the freezer overnight and dies. Svend, in a panic, begins selling off the evidence as meat. Much to the butchers’ surprise, the consumers love the new meat, and Svend quickly realize they need more human flesh to keep up supply…

The plot may sound disgusting and/or hilarious, but as it develops, the viewer discovers this is more than just a dark comedy. Jensen has added a sense of sincerity to the story and its characters, and the script provides ample time to become familiar with and understand them and their motives. This, in turn, really allows the film to shine. Shifting the tone like this is very risky, but, miraculously, Jensen has found a perfect balance between sincerity and comedy. The bulk of the plot is best left undisclosed, because the film takes a number of interesting turns, including the resolution, which actually is quite touching. Jensen mentioned the film has found an American distributor, and I hope it ends up in theatres. I look forward to seeing it again. (A)

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