CVIndependent

Mon05252020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Matt Dillon is all sorts of horrifying as the titular character, a serial killer in 1970s America, in The House That Jack Built.

He’s an architect; he has OCD; and he’s a killer who likens his work to art. He describes his murders to an off-camera inquisitor (Bruno Ganz) as if they were symphonic masterworks. The allegory is a bit heavy-handed, and the satire is a little more than obvious. At times, it plays a lot like the book version of American Psycho. (The book was nastier than the film.)

Director Lars von Trier, who is seemingly getting nastier and stranger with every film, has always been quite the provocateur. This marks a slight comeback from his awful Nymphomaniac movies, although it doesn’t compare to his best work (Melancholia, Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist).

The main reason to see The House That Jack Built is Dillon, who delivers one of his best performances as a very complicated, very sick dude. The final act of the movie is its best, as Jack completes a journey that takes him to a hot place, including an impressive ride on the river Styx. Dillon and a supporting cast that includes Uma Thurman and Riley Keough make this worth seeing.

Von Trier makes good-looking movies, but he gets a little carried away sometimes, and this one is quite insane. He seriously needs to make a movie about puppies and rainbows, and calm things down.

The House That Jack Built is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

A couple of weeks ago, I explained how much I hated the latest from Lars von Trier, his awful Nymphomaniac: Vol. I. As much as I hated it, I hoped that Vol. II, released just after the first film, might improve upon the first part and allow the whole mess to make sense.

Nope.

This one picks up where the first film left off—and it’s actually more tedious than the previous chapter. Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) continues telling her story to the man who found her bloody body in an alley (Stellan Skarsgård)—a sordid tale about her crazy sex life and criminal activity.

The whole story basically leads up to the moment when Joe wound up in the gutter. Along the way in Vol. II, we discover that she had a baby, and she become a debt collector for a crime boss (Willem Dafoe) using S&M techniques instead of breaking arms. It is all so … incredibly … lame.

Both films play out like long, unfunny jokes told by a jerk with a lousy sense of humor. The punch line is both crass and uninspired.

Seriously: I want von Trier to retreat from provocation in his next venture, and perhaps make a film about puppies and ice cream.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. II is now playing at the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews

There’s no denying that writer-director Lars von Trier is a true talent. Melancholia, Antichrist and Dancer in the Dark represent some of the best bizarre cinema this side of David Lynch. His other offerings, Dogville and Breaking the Waves, are not favorites of mine, but they are still respectable.

Alas, now comes Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1, a despicably bad attempt at shock cinema that represents the very worst in sensationalistic, lazy filmmaking. Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is a confessed nymphomaniac who is found bleeding in the gutter by a kind soul (Stellan Skarsgård); he takes her back to his apartment. After a cup of tea, Joe starts telling her sad story (a boring framing device that rips off, among others,The Princess Bride). In flashback, we see Joe’s sad, humiliating story as she (played in her younger days by Stacy Martin) recounts her outrageous sexual escapades and supposed emotional problems.

This movie is hard to watch and features nothing that stands out as original or genuinely provocative. Instead, it comes off as desperate, with von Trier laboring to shock his audience—something that was never evident in his prior films.

Only Uma Thurman shines as a jilted wife; she blisters the screen in what feels like an improvised moment. The rest of the movie is just stuff like Christian Slater crapping himself and Shia LaBeouf getting naked.

This is a total piece of garbage—and it is only Part One of the saga: Part Two is coming out right on its heels, so God help us all.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 is now playing at the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews