Friday, April 21, 2006

Red Road Not So Meh After All

Andrea Arnold's Cannes contender Red Road doesn't strike me as quite so ho-hum today as it did yesterday.

Arnold directed the Oscar winning short Wasp, which, honestly, I didn't care for - it seemed to have Shane Meadow's butterfingered "grasp" on social realities, presented with the dourness of later, dramatically inert and polemical Ken Loach. To be fair, I was absolutely exhausted when I saw it, so it may not have been as dreadful as I remember, but it was certainly nothing that suggested to me that Ms. Arnold's first feature would be anything to look forward to keenly.

And then I am shown that, actually, her feature is just one part of a bigger picture, and the big picture is a potentially beguiling one.

Lars von Trier cooked the experiment up, as he is wont to do. Its a group project, called "The Advance Party", and the idea seems to be that three different writer-directors would make their own films using the same actors playing the same characters. Further rules dictated that the films had to be shot digitally, within a six week schedule and in Glasgow. Mikkel Norgard and Morag MacKinnon were selected as directors for the other two films in the set.

The films were financed separately, which might well have exerted tensions on the collaboration, and it isn't clear how strictly the rules were eventually followed. Nonetheless, no matter how Red Road may stand as an individual work, the truly intriguing thing will be the alchemy between the three films, the overlap, the differences, the divergences and comparative approaches.

After setting out a few boundaries, Lars von Trier hasn't had a hand in the films at all, but singlehandedly, he's elevated all three to must-watch status. Cinema needs more minds like his.

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