Nymphomaniac Vol.1 -2014-

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Directed by Lars von Trier. 118 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at Landmark’s Nuart Theater)

Von Trier has followed the uncharacteristically ambiguous Melancholia with a return to his familiar right-up-in-your-fucking face style of The Element of Crime, Antichrist, and many films in between. Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 more than lives up to its title, but I was pleasantly surprised by its sense of humor. The film covers some heavy shit (and I can only imagine what Vol. 2 has in store), yet it stands second only to The Boss of It All as LvT’s funniest movie to date.

The casting is reliably brilliant and confusing. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgård work very well together in the frame story scenes (though I would watch Skarsgård in just about anything). Newcomer Stacy Martin plays a younger version of Gainsbourg’s character, and she deserves a lot of credit for handling the role so well. Simply going through the audition process for the part and dealing with LvT should be enough to earn her some type of reward. Shia LaBeouf and Christian Slater are conspicuous with their terrible English accents, but I thought it added to the film’s charm. Uma Thurman’s small role is easily the best thing she’s done in a decade.

Long gone are the days of Dogme 95 minimalism – Vol. 1 may be LvT’s flashiest film since Europa (or Zentropa if you’re a movie dick). The cinematography uses fewer handheld shots than is usual for the director, and nearly every sequence contains at least one scene with a clever effects shot  (including superimposed diagrams, sped up or reversed video, split screen, archival footage, and the like).

Some of the stylistic gimmicks are too clever for their own good, however. LvT never forgoes a chance to show how brilliant he is, and many of his tricks serve only to drive home themes you probably already understood on your own. More irritating is the frequency with which Skarsgård goes on long tangents explaining how Gainsbourg’s sexual proclivities are similar to the nuances of fly-fishing. We get it, Stel.

Still, Vol. 1 is bizarre, fun ride through the sewers of LvT’s mind, and if that sounds appealing to you, it will be. I’m eager to see Vol. 2 next week.

(Seen and written on 2014-03-29)