Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#80: The Element of Crime

(Lars Von Trier, 1984)


Well, I will say one thing about Criterion and their insistence on liking Von Trier: it's not an overnight phenomenon. As an early addition to their DVD run, The Element of Crime is a strange frustrating installment, a bizarre mix of uninteresting trashy noir and technically impressive (but ultimately hollow) cinematic style. The movie looks beautiful, and by beautiful I mean horrible, disgusting, unappealing, and unlikable. Perhaps this is what I meant Hunger should look like, which makes me doubt why I was complaining about that film's appearance anyway. Who wants to look at crap when they can look at beauty?

And, really, The Element of Crime is crap. It's partially crap on purpose, and it's also crap for a lot of reasons I have problems with Trier's work. The two that most bother me with his work are that it's incredibly sexist, and it has a disdain for conventional filmmaking that is only matched by its constant derivation of material from classic filmmakers. But really it's crap because Trier is an incredibly talented filmmaker who has occasionally stumbled into great work, seemingly unintentionally. I don't say that because he is clueless, but instead because I genuinely don't think Trier has any interest in entertaining an audience, or even really engaging with one. He just wants to be an asshole. Sometimes assholes make great art because what they say needs to be said. I personally think that's happened a few times with Trier, but I wouldn't be surprised if I was wrong.

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