Now Showing at: No theatres in Cincinnati
Review by: Larry Thomas
In May of this year, Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier created worldwide headlines from the Cannes Film Festival. Most of them were related to some unfortunate remarks he made during a press conference that created a firestorm of controversy and got him banned for life from attending the festival. It was a classic case of open mouth, insert foot.
The other headlines were on behalf of the star of his new film Melancholia, Kirsten Dunst. She’s generally best known for the three Spider-Man movies, but has proven to the world that she has the ability to stretch far beyond blockbuster popcorn movies.
Dunst plays Justine, a seriously depressed young woman afflicted with Melancholia. On her wedding night, with both families ensconced at a lavish country estate, she must also deal with impending doom. A new planet has appeared and seems to be headed for a collision with Earth. Not coincidentally, the planet is also named Melancholia, and its color is blue. At this point, you can guess that the film is a metaphor for life, love, and the end of the world.
While Lars Von Trier is not a filmmaker for the masses, he has managed to carve out a niche audience that either loves or hates his movies. From Breaking the Waves to Dancer in the Dark to Antichrist, Von Trier comes up with off-the-wall, sometimes controversial films that at least get discussions going. Melancholia is a beautifully shot film, with some outstanding performances, and makes appropriate use of music by Wagner. In addition to Dunst, there’s Kiefer Sutherland as her brother-in-law; Charlotte Gainsbourg as her older sister; and John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling as the girls’ parents, who are divorced. Also along for the evening’s festivities are Alexander Skarsgaard as the groom, while his real-life father Stellan Skarsgaard plays a wedding guest. Andy Warhol favorite Udo Kier has an interesting turn as a wedding planner.
Although Melancholia is, as we like to say, leisurely paced it’s still fascinating to entwine yourself with these characters, which are a completely dysfunctional lot.
Dunst is glowing in the role, contrasting her natural beauty with erratic behavior at such an auspicious occasion, even to the point of being late for the cutting of the wedding cake. She is one of names frequently mentioned that may grab an Oscar nomination when those are announced in January.
However, it’s not something that you need concern yourself with because Melancholia has not played in Cincinnati, and is not likely to play here. The film’s distributor, Magnolia Pictures, has devised a way to help offset the cost of releasing such problematic films. Magnolia offers three showings on the satellite / cable channel HD Net Movies on the Wednesday before the film opens in New York, followed by day-and-date availability on various on-demand services. Unfortunately, the theatre operators in Cincinnati feel that this is unfair competition and refuse to play any film released in such a manner. It’s just another reason why Cincinnati will never be a haven for film buffs. You could have seen Melancholia theatrically in Indianapolis, Louisville, Lexington, Dayton, Columbus…both Columbus Ohio and Columbus Indiana, and Paducah, just to name a few. To see Melancholia in Cincinnati, you’ll just have to wait for the DVD release on March 13. And that alone is enough to make me feel… well… melancholy.