Maderlay (2006)

The word pretentious often accompanies Lars Von Trier’s name. Just recently Variety called his newest film The Boss of it All Von Trier’s “least pretentious and most sheerly enjoyable film in years.” I can only assume that the reviewer is referring to films before Dancer in the Dark and Dogville, open, scathing attacks on American’s social and political problems.

If pretentiousness is supposed to be describe a work tries to impress, but falls short due to lack of depth or talent, it seems hardly fair to hang the word from Von Trier’s neck. I can think of few American directors who could even consider crafting a story that thoughtfully considers whether or not America was or even is ready to accept blacks as being equal to whites.

Other than asking questions of America’s history and the roles played by all parties after the emancipation of slavery, there is little pretension in the film. Actually, just as it was in Dogville, the film is more like a play, set on one sound stage with limited props and set dressing.  Wouldn’t have been more pretentsious to allocate all the work and money Hollywood often throws at depicting a bygone era only to leave the politics of the time unquestioned?


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