Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2022 2:19 pm 
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A young woman finding herself completes Trier's superb "Oslo Trilogy"

Joachim Trier's third in his "Oslo trilogy," the first two being his debut Reprise (2006) and Oslo, August 31[ (2011), is as vibrant, fluid, and exciting as the two others, the three together comprising the best work of this brilliant 47-year-old Norwegian filmmaker. All three feature the wonderful Anders Danielsen Lie. The focus this time is a young woman, Julie (Renate Reinsve, Best Actress at Cannes for this performance), and follows four years of her life. "In essaying Julie," wrote Guy Lodge in his Variety review, "a character at once watery and opaque, shaped by everything around her but vocally resistant to influence, Reinsve has a tricky assignment that she nails with remarkable fluidity and grace." A top student and product of Oslo's well-off intellectual-creative middle class (who may have too many options), at first Julie studies medicine; then deciding that's too much like "carpentry," flips to psychology studies, only to change focus again, to photography, each change approved by her indulgent mom (Marianne Krogh). While mainly working in a bookstore she publishes a bold semi-confessional essay, "Oral Sex in the Age of #MeToo," which gains a lot of attention. Aksel (Lie) is a forty-something creator of a well-known underground comic (Gaupe, "Bobcat"), who becomes her boyfriend, for whom she drops a younger, prettier one, until another man lures her away from him. (The ironic, forgiving title is the third boyfriend's reference to himself.)

This has been called a "dark romantic comedy drama," but above all it's another thrilling display of Trier's originality and his buoyant, fluid filmmaking, a joyous, sometimes sad, always free-ranging exploration of life through the late-stage coming of age of a young woman. It's marked by cinematographer Kasper Tuxen's glowing urban exteriors and nimble interior camerawork and by organization and editing that keep things fresh, light and on the move, like its millennial protagonist. This is a director working at the top of his game with first rate cast and crew.

Julie is approaching the age of thirty, Aksel fifteen years older: that difference is the simple pivot-point of the story. Aksel really is more serious and more settled and lives in an older world. He also wants to have children and she doesn't. not yet anyway. Later he will explain to Julie how growing up "before internet and mobile phones," when "culture was passed along through objects, and they were interesting because we could live among them," has left him permanently rooted in the love of physical things. His cartooning, which brought him security but he's now abandoned, is ill-received by post-feminists, and he ill receives their condemnations. It's when Aksel tells Julie right at the start that they must separate so she can be free to explore and find herself that she becomes smitten, returns, and soon moves in with him.

Then at a party she crashes Julie meets Elvind (Herbert Nordrum). Like her he's in a relationship, but they play a series of dare games, fueled by drink, to see how close they can get without being inappropriate or cheating (it's pretty inappropriate), and they form a deep bond that will pull them together and lead the exploratory, impulsive Julie to leave Aksel, not admitting she's found someone else. Later, she learns Aksel is dying, and she rushes back to him, for a little while, for he doesn't last long.

Trier's style is marked by its fluidity, energy, and intensity, though always also by lightness. His debt to the French Nouvelle Vague was acknowledged early on and you might see something in common here with Truffaut's masterpiece Jules et Jim, the love triangle, the arbitrary woman, the casual touch with earth-shaking matters of life and love. There are some playful devices here, as in Truffaut's film: sinking, sliding figures during a drug sequence, frozen ones throughout the town when Julie and Elvind first get together again and for them, nothing else matters. In the cunningly edited 'shrooms dream sequence Julie confronts her deadbeat estranged dad. When she runs through Oslo to find Elving and kiss him, the entire city goes into freeze-frame. Trier fashions such familiar tropes in very fresh ways.

Though Reinsve, whose adventures are organized into twelve chapters and formalized by a humorous voiceover by a different voice, is center stage, Lie still dominates with the most touching lines and resonant scenes. One would not have it otherwise. The Lie-Trier collaboration is central to Trier's art. Lie looks thinner and older now but the glowing smile and charisma remain. He is still effortlessly riveting and now seems somehow more central, important, precisely by Aksel's declaring himself to be outmoded and peripheral and being literally not long for this world. Trier and regular cowriter Eskil Vogt as before handle conventional themes freshly, skirting disaster and tragedy with a light touch.

Lie has an extraordinary, if for him rather typical, transparency in the scenes where Julie tells Aksel she's leaving him and the later ones when it's the end for Aksel and he holds back nothing. Lie in real life is a remarkable in living two full lives: recent Vanity Fair interview related to his other major Cannes role this year, in Mia Hansen-Løve's much admired Bergman Island, confirms that he is indeed a full-time medical doctor. He acknowledges maintaining the two intensive vocations, and not being able to decide between being a doctor and being an actor - is "a constant struggle" he "would never recommend" to anybody else. Whatever this double life means, it seems to have made Anders Danielsen Lie into one of the sexiest and most intelligent men and actors alive.

Reinsve as Julie manages to be a force of nature without being showy about it. Things are seen from her point of view, despite the detachment imposed by the voiceover and vignette-like multiple chapters, some of which are very short. Herbert Nordrum as the new, younger man, like Lie, isn't conventionally handsome, even less so, but a big, tall, powerful man with youthful energy and enthusiasm that make him exciting in his own way. But Elvind seems unambitious, only working in a coffee shop, which plays into Julie's disenchantment with him later. The theme is that she is exploring jobs, lives, and men. She will not settle on anything. But what happens here will settle, and form, her. This movie is so good it may reconfigure you too a little.

The Worst Person in the World/Verdens verste menneske, 127 mins., debuted at Cannes Jul. 9, 2021, showing in 39 other international festivals including Toronto and New York and Jan. 20, 2022 at Sundance. It is a finalist, representing Norway, for the Best International Feature Oscar, 2022. Its US theatrical release by NEON is Feb. 4, 2022. Metacritic rating: 88%.

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