Strass, a belgian film about the psychodramas that run amok in an acting school, is officially designated as Dogme 20, which means it has an actual certificate from the Dogme politburo. It also means that what I still think must have been a drunken prank on the part of Danish director Lars von Trier and his buddies has gotten way out of hand. According to the Dogme95 Web site (www.tvropa.com/tvropa1.2/film/dogme95/index.htm), there are now 25 films with Dogme certification.
For those who missed this tempest in the teapot of international cinema, the Dogme95 manifesto calls for a cinema made without the benefit of special effects, lighting, props that cannot be found on site, non-sourced music or generic plots.
What it generally produces is movies that look like crap, due to the insistence on shooting hand-held digital video with natural lighting.
Vincent Lannoo, the writer and director of Strass, found a way around these visual strictures. Strass is a mockumentary constructed as a documentary being shot around a "radical" acting teacher, so the appearance of light sources in the frame and annoying swish pans can be allowed as nods to the documentary aesthetic.
Producer Pierre Lekeux stars (or star Pierre Lekeux also produces) as an acting teacher who's both a psychological terrorist and a sexual predator who tries to drag every situation into his own emotional swamp. This puts Strass in the category of such Dogme psychodramas as The Celebration, even if Lannoo isn't in Thomas Vinterberg's class as a director. It's more enjoyable than an aesthetic tar pit like Julien Donkey-Boy, if you like sub-Cassavetes email@example.com
STRASS written and directed by Vincent Lannoo, produced by Pierre Lekeux, with Lekeux, Carlo Ferrante and Hélène Ramet. 75 minutes. A Radowsky Films production. An Odeon Films release. Opens Friday (June 14). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 85. Rating: NNN