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Thursday, May 6, 2010

EUROPA (aka ZENTROPA) (1991)

Scripter/helmer/provocateur Lars von Trier was still fully engaged on all artistic levels in this wildly inventive, thru-a-glass-darkly, post-WWII fable. Technically, the film is ravishing as Trier employs a surging mix of rich color & high contrast b&w (often within the same frame) in combination with a fluid soundstage æsthetic he’s meticulously worked out on storyboards worthy of a graphic novel. The rustle of an unexpected breeze won’t be found here, but there can be art in artifice. The story plays out like a deconstructed ‘take’ on THE THIRD MAN/’49. A ‘good’ American blunders his way into a demoralized, wicked post-war world he’s unable to fathom and falls for the mysterious beauty who turns out to be less Venus than Venus Flytrap. His good intentions unwittingly aid diehard enemy stragglers, and not even the blunt advise of a sympathetic officer can bring this naïf up to speed. Trier’s Europe is no divided Vienna, but a train that's both solid & surrealistic, with discrete carriages holding the past, present & future of Europe. It’s a thrilling ride and a daringly vivid act of imagination that makes Steven Soderbergh’s THIRD MAN pastiche (THE GOOD GERMAN/’06) look hopelessly square.

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