MONTREAL -- 0ne of the intriguing things about the Dogme 95 collective is that after the first four Dogme films, one directed by each of the signatories to the "Vow of Chastity" (Tomas Vinterberg, Lars Von Trier, Soren Kraig-Jacobsen and Kristian Levring), none has produced a second film under the strictures of the Vow (http://www.tvropa.com/tvropa1.2/film/dogme95/menu/menuset.htm). I see this as confirmation that the whole thing was a drunken joke that the perpetrators were dumb enough to post on the internet.
There are now 31 films officially designated as Dogme 95 films, almost a third of them Danish -- with films like Italian for Beginners and Open Hearts, the Danes tend to have the highest batting average -- Levring's The King Is Alive and Kraig-Jacobsen's Mifune are startling as films, and would be whether we knew how they were produced or not. Indeed, I find the Dogme designation sets me immediately looking to see if the Vows have been violated -- was that opening music in Open Hearts recorded on set or added afterward (it has a source -- it's what the heroine is listening to on her walkman.)
The funny thing about the Dogme strictures is that they seem at once more pathetically desperate as a reaction to Hollywood's blockbuster mentality and to Eurotrash filmmakers like Luc Besson, whose ambition is to make product indistinguishable from Hollywood blockbusters. (How, exactly, is Besson's production of The Transporter different from John Frankenheimer's Ronin, aside from Ronin having much crisper dialogue from uncredited script doctor David Mamet and a more compelling cast?)
I missed Susanne Bier's Open Hearts at the Toronto Film Festival, where it premiered last month, but caught it yesterday in the Festival of New Cinema and New Media's principal venue, the ex-Centris complex on St. Laurent, which is home not merely to Montreal's oldest alternative screening entity, Cinema Paralelle, but has a pair of first rate rooms named for Cassavetes and Fellini.
Open Hearts played, appropriately enough, in the Cinema Cassavetes -- with its close-in camera work and emotionally intense performances, it's definitely a film the late director might have enjoyed.
Fun to remember, after junk like julien donkey-boy and the Belgian Strass (sociopathic acting teacher abuses his students in a mockumentary format) -- the sort of thing that can be achieved by stripping away everything but actors in a simple story of life, death and adultery.
Off to the latest Chris Marker film, to see if I can handle 40 minutes of Marker without subtitles, then a Canada Council thing honoring Nelson Henricks with the 2002 Bell Canada Award in Video Art. Never heard of this guy, which, given that I tend to avoid anything labelled "video art" the way I try to avoid things labelled "syphilis" or "anthrax" (the disease or the band, take your pick.