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Manderlay (Unrated)

Release Date: January 27th, 2006 (IFC Center) by IFC Films.
The Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Isaach de Bankolť, Danny Glover, Willem Dafoe, Michšel Abiteboul, Lauren Bacall, Jean-Marc Barr, Geoffrey Bateman, Virgile Bramly, Ruben Brinkman, Dona Croll, Jeremy Davies, Llewella Gideon, Mona Hammond, Ginny Holder, Emmanuel Idowu, Zeljko Ivanek, Teddy Kempner, Udo Kier, Rik Launspach, Suzette Llewellyn, Charles Maquignon, Joseph Mydell, Javone Prince, Clive Rowe, ChloŽ Sevigny, Nina Sosanya.
Directed by Lars von Trier.

BASIC PREMISE: In 1933, Grace (Howard) enters the town of Manderlay where she reverses the role of black slaves so that they rule over their white masters.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Bryce Dallas Howard replaces Nicole Kidman in the role of Grace with little success. Grace still comes across as a cold, dull character that is difficult to like. Her supporting cast gives a better performance, especially Danny Glover as Wilhelm and the always-great Lauren Bacall as Mam. After Mamís early death, Grace immediately switches the slavesí roles with their mastersí roles. Willem Dafoe replaces James Caanís role as Graceís father. Manderlay has the same, mundane musical score as Dogville as well as the same narrator. Just like in Dogville , he resorts to Dogma 95 rules. Both films feel theatrical while taking place on a stage with props and scenes are divided into chapters with titles. Many of the titles give away whatís going to happen in the following scene. The premise initially sounds controversial and bold, but writer-director Lars von Trier turns Manderlay into endless boredom during its two-hour and twenty minutes running time. The slow pace along with too many characters makes for an excruciating film thatís difficult to watch. The explicit sex scenes and brutal violence donít add much that really holds your interestóespecially when you donít care about any of the bland, one-dimensional characters. To make matters worse, the third act feels contrived, overblown and plain silly.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Lars von Trier tries to make a point about how America has not really changed its racial attitude since the abolishment of slavery. Whether you agree with him or not doesnít matter. What does matter is the way that he presents his theories. His anti-American sentiment continues to be felt, but his lack of subtlety makes him look too angry. For example, he includes montage of anti-American images at the end of the film just to drive his point even further. Ultimately, he comes across as a cranky pessimist rather than a realist.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Mundane plot with dull characters and silly ending.


IN A NUTSHELL: Often boring, mundane and dull with a relentlessly pessimistic anti-American tone that feels too extreme and even cruel.


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