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NOT what I was hoping for
As my headline states this was a big disappointment (at first, read on). Not because of its acting, or production value and not because of its way of telling the story. All done very well, which is why I give it a pretty solid score. But simply because of the story it chooses to tell.
Dirch Passer was a giant amongst midgets. He had a unique talent shining above almost anyone he ever shared the limelight with. Seldom do we see this and as few states elsewhere; he is the greatest comic ever produced by Denmark and to this day one cannot help but feel his magic when watching him. Even in the poorer movies, of which there are many, Dirch somehow radiates through them all. I salute him, and I was hoping to bask in his magic once more when watching "A Funny Man (2011)". I wasn't that lucky.
It is not the kind of movie that leaves your mind, it sticks and pricks... and grows.
The movie surprisingly focused solely on his stage career and not at all on his movie career, which is impressive by any standards (averaging more than 3 movies a year). And in doing so, I suppose we must accept that most of his life is left out like his partnership with another great Dane (Ove Sprogøe). It was a shame not to tell his story more broadly, as many of us became fans from his persona on the silver screens rather than from the backseats of the theaters.
I was also surprised to how much Kjeld Petersen got of the screen time. Until this movie I did not realize his importance in Dirch's life, and I get the feeling that the movie overdid his importance a bit.
Ultimately, it chose not tell the story of Dirch Passer's life, but rather his struggles in life (where Petersen perhaps was an extraordinary catalyst).
Really, the movie showed us a drunk, a womanizer, a weakling... even a coward and I assume all of these traits are flip-sides from an extraordinary life constantly on the edge. The movie did to a lesser degree show us his good sides, and not much of the genius we all know and love. I resent this and it opted me to firstly dislike it in great roar.
But upon contemplation, I digress by saying that perhaps this was actually okay. His genius is still there for us all to enjoy, however the darker side less so. And the movie did give me a closer and much appreciated look into this kind giant's soul.... so, in the end I still say that it did not give me what I was hoping for, but perhaps it truly gave me what I needed.
end product has an amateurish feel to it, though great acting
I was impressed with the acting, but pretty much everything else was a hit and a miss; poor scripted dialog, bad editing and the storytelling was embarrassingly obvious - radiated a lack of cinema experience from the directors side. Basically, a sweet attempt to make a farce, but nothing more.
Had a few moments of missed great comic opportunities like the scene at the attic which kept calling out for more (could have been great), the poison scene was blatantly non-mysterious when it could have been a jaw-doping scene of disbelieve and we have of cause the no-surprise buildup to the son at the airport in the end.
Its many quirks of techniques (e.g. the odd almost random present- day shots from time to time - and not because of the bad old-woman makeup - and the momentarily out of focus shots) did not work or support its purpose, thus repeatedly reminding us of itself and creating a theatre like distance which made it impossible to emotionally truly identify with any of the characters: A fatal flaw of any would-be comedy, be it black or not!
At its core I can see the story holds a hint of potential, but not enough to carry a feature film - well unless a serious makeover in the story was done, adding subplots etc. Film school 101.
Rome wasn't build in one day, but neither was Warszawa it seems ... so Polish cinema will hopefully learn from this empathy seeking mishmash of a dark comedy attempt and return at some point with some true heartfelt cinematic storytelling instead? (I intentionally leave this with a question mark)