Reviews written by registered user
UlrikSander

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24 reviews in total 
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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Criminally Underrated Hollywood Risk-Taker!, 28 June 2012
7/10

Warning: My reviews are 100% guaranteed plot-summary-free - as you can find movie summaries anywhere online. I truly believe a real movie reviewer should dissect the soul of movies, as opposed to merely summarizing plots - which any 14-year old could do.

Embarrassingly low IMDb rating for a Hollywood superhero-movie this unique and risky! GR2 creates a twisted and dark universe with visually compelling night-scenes bathed in Absinthe-green color-tones contrasting the day-time's over-exposed sharp white daylight. Equally compelling are the cartoon-universe's morally ambiguous characters - including the Morphine-popping, self-loathing protagonist Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider (Nicolas Cage)! The line between good and evil is thin here. Cage injects drops of his former manic acting-style known from early-career surrealistic masterpieces, e.g. "Wild At Heart" (David Lynch, 1990) which will please his long-time followers.

GR2 does admittedly have faults. It suffers from the standard sub-par, dumbed-down dialog of big-budget blockbusters, and its audience are asked to accept some far-fetched events so fantastic they would be fatal to the credibility of any storyline... normally! However, GR2 is not normal. Do NOT expect sophisticated plot and realism! Watch it for the weird world and sensatory experience: the GR2 trip is instinctive - NOT intellectual! When you open your mind to such an experience, the aforementioned faults become irrelevant.

Consider the odds: it is a closely-controlled, big-budgeted blockbuster sequel targeted at the horrified-of-boredom, escapism-craving superhero- movie audience (which is how Hollywood studios wrongfully conceive us...), and despite all this, GR2 is clearly a work of its own, therefore considerably more interesting than its by-the-book predecessor "Ghost Rider" (Mark Steven Johnson, 2007).

...

And as a result, sadly also widely misunderstood, hence the criminally low IMDb rating. Risk-taking is not a quality in itself, but when it results in an different AND fascinating spin on the arch- American superhero-movie genre, it deserves to be rewarded. GR2 is not a masterpiece, merely a slightly left-field, good movie. 7/10

THX 1138 (1971)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Underrated science fiction classic full of philosophical ideas, 7 November 2008
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a review of the Director's Cut version of "THX 1138". I have not seen the original theatrical version, and I have no idea how well it works or if it's even nearly as good as the Director's Cut.

I will not summarize the plot of "THX 1138" as it's a waste of both your and my time. Reviews should ideally always seek to investigate and analyze the core of a given movie as opposed to the easy way out which is just summarizing its plot. In fact my reviews are as much for those who have already seen the given movie as it is for those who haven't.

At the beginning of sound movies, one of the old masters of silent film, perhaps it was Buster Keaton, but it could have been any of those legends who never fully made the transformation from silence to sound, said that dialog was a cheap and uncinematic way of telling a story in films. In a sense he was right, because what is film, but a long series of pictures executed quickly after each other? Cinematic stories should be told in pictures.

Dialog, sound effects, and music are spices that complete the dish, but ultimately the soup that is cinema is cooked on pictures. George Lucas understood this perhaps more than ever in his career when he directed his debut-film, the hopelessly underrated "THX 1138". The cinematography of "THX 1138" is stunningly beautiful, yet cold and overly stylized perfectly underlining its themes of conformity, identity, bureaucracy, surveillance, consumerism, etc.

"THX 1138" is about escaping or leaving your old routines and schematically planed everyday life, and venturing out into the unknown. When THX is imprisoned for participating in sexual activity and avoiding drug-use, he spends his time waiting, thinking... like one does in prison. But he gathers up the courage to explore the prison, and discovers that it in reality only is a mental prison. He believes he is imprisoned, therefore he is imprisoned. The enemy is therefore, in some sense, himself.

All the rules and routines of the sterile and cold mechanized society THX lives, can also be interpreted as representing the inner workings of small-town societies. THX escapes his mental prison, and ventures in to the big world, leaving his home-town behind. When the film ends, we have no idea what's going to happen to him, nor whether it's bad or good. And where he's going does essentially not even matter. The only important thing is that he's leaving the familiarity of home behind. In this interpretation, systematized societies are the key enemy.

The theme of flying from the nest might sound kind of basic and boring. Not in "THX 1138"! Lucas and co-writer Walter Murch spice it up with so many philosophical ideas about faith and society that one could several books on it. The theme might also sound kind of familiar... that is because Lucas re-used it in "American Graffiti" and "Star Wars". That's right, George Lucas is at heart an auteur! But where "Star Wars" essentially is an entertaining and very professionally executed mainstream action-adventure movie (although not without its own share of ideas and layers), "THX 1138" is at its core an art-house movie with something to say. "THX 1138" is clearly closely related to sci-fi classics such as Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey", Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner", and even Andrei Tarkovsky's "Solyaris". Yet at the core it ressembles mostly Danish sci-fi/love-story art-house film "Allegro" (Christoffer Boe, 2005) which also has the main character searching for his identity in a labyrinthic, otherworldly society.

The only flaw in "THX 1138" is its third act which fails to expand further on the themes and merely drags out the story. Pure action for the sake of entertaining the crowd. It's a bit as if George Lucas didn't fully have the guts to complete such an uncompromising film. This doesn't take away from the fact that it is a cinematic (near) classic that should be required viewing for any self-proclaimed science fiction fan.

Currently "THX 1138" has the low rating of 6.8 on IMDb which is unfair to say the least. However, many of the films we acknowledge as classics today, were for a long time not recognized as good films at all. For example, the movies of Italian horror director Mario Bava (my favorite director) made in the 60's and 70's were not seen as classics at all until long after his death. Only for perhaps the last 10 years have movie-buffs begun to acknowledge Bava movies such as "Black Sunday" (1960"), "Blood and Black Lace" (1964), and "Rabid Dogs" (1974") as important cinematic works. Perhaps, though long overdue, this will happen to "THX 1138" too some day. I certainly hope so. 9/10

Lost Souls (2000)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Far from perfect, but a lot better than it's IMDb rating..., 5 November 2008
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I just finished watching "Lost Souls" on TV2 Film (a Danish movie channel), and I instantly logged on to IMDb to see its rating, and perhaps learn more about the layers of the film.

I was shocked:: a 4,5/10 rating on IMDb!? Granted, the film is far from perfect, but it's a lot better than 4,5/10, so I must admit, I actually only think the film deserves a 7/10 rating, but because its rating is so low, I give it an 8/10.

I also managed to find some good heated discussions about the movie on its IMDb board - especially its ending. And I must say, any movie-ending capable of starting such heated discussions on IMDb has my full respect! "Lost Souls" definitely owes a lot to Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" from 1968 and William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" from 1973 (and perhaps even Roman Polanski's "The Ninth Gate" from 1995) thematically, visually, and plot-wise. Examples: the general dark cinematography, the cinematography during the "exorcism of the priest"-scene resembles scenes in "The Exorcist" a lot, director Janusz Kaminski's choice to leave scenes open to debate (Which they are! Want proof? Just check the heated discussions on IMDb...), and finally the whole idea of "everybody" being in on it (as shown in the church-scene towards the ending) resembles "Rosemary's Baby" a lot. You can see these examples as a sign of director Kaminski being unoriginal, or as references/a tribute to the original classics. I choose to see it as the latter.

It's clear that director Janusz Kaminski and cinematographer Mauro Fiore understand the horror genre. The cinematography is dark, creepy, and classy. The scenes are slow, although not Tarkovsky-slow, but, however, still far from the past-paced MTV editing of most of today's horror movies. All in all the movie is very atmospheric and has the feeling that something dark is looming around the corner (which perfectly underbuilds its plot). Kaminski also manages to avoid the most annoying horror clichés, although, as aforementioned, he does pay a lot of (too much?)tribute to especially "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Exorcist" - but there are even more genre references, so keep an eye open if you dig movie intertextuality. Furthermore Kaminski understands that true horror arises not from whats going on on-screen (too often big over-blown CGI-monsters), but from what goes on off-screen (in your mind!). No movie monster can ever compete with the figures of your imagination. This movie follows that philosophy.

Wionna Ryder fits perfect in the role as Maya. It's not a mind-blowing performance (because the character is, to be honest, rather cliché), but it's steady. Ryder understands when to act subtle and when to act on the big emotions. Ben Chaplin is acceptable as Peter, although a bit more anonymous character-wise and easily replaceable by another actor with similar looks. Finally, Philip Baker Hall as Father James, is always a joy to watch. He doesn't receive much screen-time, but he's menacing in the few scenes he appear. A true character actor!

I see a lot of IMDb users hate this movie because of its ending. Personally I like the ending, but I understand them to a certain a degree. It can feel like an anti-climax - but only if you're not using all your senses when watching movies. I think it's a great ending for the same reason I liked the ending of "Rosemary's Baby": it's open for interpretation, thus leaving the movie running in your head a long time after it's ended. You can't stop thinking about the ending. Did Peter turn into Satan before Maya shot him? Or Did Maya actually shoot an innocent man? Was she, in fact, the one destined to become Satan all along? Or did the whole story perhaps take place in a mentally ill Maya's mind? If you're a thinker, these questions are bound to come up. That's what makes this movie so interesting, and even re-watchable. At least I'm gonna watch it again, so I can look for more clues to the puzzle that I didn't catch the first time.

But the movie also has its flaws. It's as if the director didn't have the guts to go all the way with the "horror works best in the audience's imagination"-philosophy, and had to put in some supernatural slasher scenes that only work against the movie's horror. Either that or he was under pressure from studio execs. Furthermore the plot and the dialog sometimes feel a bit too cliché. It's as if the movie isn't sure if it's a mainstream or art-house movie. Does it want to be an intelligent piece of art or a mind-numbing by-the-books Hollywood horror. It's as if it's going in both directions at once, and therefore doesn't fully succeed at either one.

That being said, the movie does have a lot of qualities, and is definitely worth watching for any serious fans of the genre (as I am). I've watched all the classics: "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "The Exorcist", "Rosemary's Baby", "Repulsion", "Halloween", "Cannibal Holocaust", "Nosferatu", "Dracula" (1932 and 1958), "Vertigo", "Psycho", etc. etc. etc. - this movie has a lot of good elements, although not quite enough to reach the classic/cult status of the aforementioned movies. At the moment I'm waiting for Lars von Trier's upcoming 2009 movie "Antikrist" which is, surprise, surprise, a horror movie... Trier's first since his TV-series "Riget". I hope he'll bring something new to the genre, because the genre sure needs it.

Well... that's about it I guess. On to the rating. I find the movie worthy of 7/10, but give it 8/10 because of its currently absurdly low IMDb rating of 4,5/10!

Hondo (1953)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Arch-typical American western that should be required viewing for genre fans, 19 December 2007
7/10

Hondo Lane (John Wayne) is a scout for the cavalry, and a loner. In the Apache-Indian territory he receives shelter on a farm, where Angie Lowe (Geraldine Page) lives together with her son Johnny (Lee Aaker). Here, Hondo and Angie slowly fall in love, but soon there's a shown between the Apaches and the cavalry, and Hondo rides out to participate.

"Hondo" from 1953 is directed by John Farrow, written by James Edward Grant, and based on a short story by Louis L'Amour.

Hondo is tough. He is that type of guy who has learned everything the hard way. When he discovers that Johnny can't swim, he simply throws him in the water, so that he can learn-by-doing. It is a clash between the tough and the civilized. Hondo understands the Apaches, because he has Apache-Indian blood in him. He can smell them as Apaches can smell the white man. He respects their chief Vittorio (Michael Pate), but when war time comes he does what he has to do.

"Hondo" is an arch-typical American western that should be required viewing for fans of the genre or The Duke.

A masterpiece exploration of violence, 14 December 2007
9/10

Wes Craven's "The Last House on the Left" is a masterpiece exploration of violence, and what it does to the human soul.

This movie contains many a classic scene. The Krug-orders-Phillis-to-urinate-scene. The messing-with-organs-scene. The Mari-walks-into-the-water-and-gets-shot-scene. Not for the faint of heart! This movie is all about animal instinct. It could be argued that Krug, 'Weasel', and Sadie just follow their natural instincts. Killing, hunting, and playing with the victim are human instincts that are largely neglected in civilization today. All civilized thought patterns aside, is it healthy to neglect this side of ourselves.

Craven does fail in the largely unnecessary comedic scenes, which seem hopelessly out of place. Most likely in the movie to counterweight for the violence scenes, their only success is tearing apart some of the terrifying atmosphere established by the aforementioned scenes.

This is, however, not enough to destroy an otherwise fantastic movie. "The Last House on the Left" was probably the first movie to seriously explore the depths of the human soul via violence. Perhaps this is the success of the movie. It casts light on instincts we had pleasantly forgotten. 9/10

Powerful documentary with important themes and great psychological insight into its characters..., 12 April 2007
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Andrew Jarecki's CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS from 2003 asks many important questions about family ties, mental illness in form of pedophilia and the US court system: Was it fair to judge the 19-year-old Jesse? Should only the father-of-three Arnold, who did confess, have been imprisoned? Was the US court system too harsh? Was it worth further destroying the family's life, even though the father certainly caused permanent damage to the minds of a lot of young children? Personally I believe that Jesse was involved in these perverted sex-crimes, but I also believe that the court system was too harsh. Perhaps because I live in Denmark where imprisonments of criminals generally are substantially shorter...

Throughout almost the entire documentary I couldn't feel sympathy for these brothers. During the four years of waiting-time they acted as brats, especially towards their mother, who was only looking for the truth, but didn't get it, even from her own husband and son. She did the right thing in avoiding just accepting and helping cover it up. In retrospect I understand how unbelievably demanding it must have been for the brothers to witness their beloved father transform from a well-respected member of the Great Neck community, who other family-fathers entrusted with their children, into a perverse child-molesting monster! They refused to accept this fact mentally - and they still do to this day. In the interviews it's obvious how especially David attempts manipulating us, the viewers, and even himself unconsciously, into believing that his father was much more innocent than he was in reality. The attempt backlashes, and is easily exposed as a primitive psychological defense-mechanism.

But in the ending-shot something strange happens - I start feeling actual sympathy for the whole family. When Jesse, after a 13-year-long imprisonment, returns home to his now-remarried mother Elaine, one senses in his eyes (which are the windows to our soul) that he is a changed and ultimately better man. It finally looks like this self-destructive family is going to be okay after all. They have lost an enormous amount of time, so their main objective is to forget their bitterness and anger towards each-other, and thereby obtain a decent family-life. It's still possible! The father Arnold, who is the only "real" monster (if there indeed is a such? I personally think it's a terrible term, but the public tends to be looking for one, so for the sake of simplification...) dies with honor and at least some sympathy when he commits suicide by swallowing a large amount of benzodiazepines (pain-killers) in prison, so that Jesse gets paid 250.000$ in insurance money. A rare case of suicide not being a selfish act - you can't help thinking that it's the best solution, and as Arnold's brother Howard puts it (I'm paraphrasing): "he's finally out of his misery". In the end we feel compassionate towards the family - they've suffered more than enough: Jesse has paid his debt towards society, they've been torn apart as a family, their father Arnold is dead, and they've been widely exposed and harassed in the press. It's time to forgive - for the Friedmans and for rest of the US!

Andrew Jarecki's documentary CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS is a very touching, heart-wrenching, hard-to-watch experience with great psychological insight into its characters. It shows you that the executioner (the child-molester) is almost always also a victim in some ways, and that the victims sometimes also are executioners. Cinematically it's very well put-together - actually so well you don't even notice its mechanisms, which helps you to just focus on the story being told. And that's how serious documentaries should be. An absolutely recommendable documentary that almost ranks up there with Barbara Kopple's classic "Direct Cinema" documentary HARLAN COUNTY U.S.A. from 1976, in terms of CAPTURING a realistic depiction of life. 8/10

Clerks II (2006)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Generation X - 10 years after!, 25 January 2007
9/10

I'm a loyal fan of Kevin Smith. I even enjoyed JERSEY GIRL from 2004 to some degree. But the quality had been steadily declining from movie to movie almost without exception. CLERKS from 1994 was his greatest movie, MALLRATS from 1995 was his second-greatest movie, CHASING AMY from 1997 was his third-greatest movie and so on. And then came CLERKS II in 2006, in my opinion his greatest effort yet, and perhaps one of the greatest movie sequels ever. It's clever and funny, it's touching, and it's full of Kevin Smith trademarks such as the inter-textual reoccurring of characters and locations, and its themes and message.

Storyline: Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) are now working in Mooby's, a fictional McDonald's-inspired fast-food restaurant in New Jersey, which isn't less of a dead-end job than Quick Stop. Dante has a girlfriend Emma Bunting (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith) whom he's about to marry and move to Florida with, but the unspoken truth is that he loves the Mooby's manager Becky (Rosario Dawson). Randal is depressed. He's now 32 and the world slowly passes by him. And soon Dante, his best friend, will move away to Florida to start a new so-called proper life...

Kevin Smith's manuscript is full of his usual ingenious pop-culture dissections, relationship talks, and other authentic Generation X trademarks (if such trademarks indeed exist?). Thematically it's about finding the place in life that fits you and makes you happy, and not taking the wrong route just 'cus it at first glance seems more right and respectable; a mistake Dante almost makes when he nearly moves to Florida with his incredibly annoying fiancé. I would imagine that it's a very uplifting movie for everyone in their post-30's who still haven't found the right route in their life. Smith's characters are well-defined and realistic, only slightly more cartoonish than in CLERKS which I still feel is the perfect portrait of Generation X (perhaps Smith was smitten by the cartoon-Clerks-style). But that's not what Smith intended with CLERKS II. CLERKS II is Generation X - 10 years after! Smith makes perfect use of his long-time friend Jeff Anderson's dry wit and voice, yet without losing sight of the character's soul and personal motivations. And all us not-so-perfect-looking nice intelligent guys can perfectly relate to Brian O'Halloran's character Dante Hicks.

Kevin smith has also shown improvement visually. CLERKS II just looks much greater than his previous efforts. The colors are extremely fresh and cheerful. There are some nice crane-shots, and a well-shot sing-and-dance scene(!) bound to cheer even the saddest souls up. Some would say that some of the heart and soul of the original CLERKS movie lies in its under-lit black/white picture, but actually the color transition is just perfect. And it's incredibly effective when Smith fades the colors into black/white in the end-shot. I always loved the soundtrack in CLERKS, and this one's even better consisting of such diverse groups as Talking Heads, King Diamond, Jackson Five, and Soul Asylum (who also were on the CLERKS soundtrack).

What I like the most about CLERKS II is that it's a feel-good movie that I can believe in and relate to. Too many Hollywood feel-good blockbusters are out-of-sync with their audience, but Kevin Smith manages to make me believe that this is a real story with real characters. For the first time in a long time I was moved by a feature film. It's funny, sharp, touching, and perhaps Kevin Smith's greatest movie ever. With CLERKS II Smith (again) proofs that great movie-making doesn't necessarily require billions of dollars. The budget of CLERKS II is only $5,000,000 which is pretty low for a Hollywood blockbuster. And look at no-budget/low-budget directors like Lars von Trier (Denmark), Werner Herzog (Germany) and Todd Solondz (USA) who always deliver the goods. Hollywood could really learn from this, but hey, enough film-politics. CLERKS II is freakin' great movie - steal it, borrow it, buy it. Whatever. Watch it!! 9/10

Rope (1948)
Great experimental Hitchcock movie, 3 November 2006
9/10

The big strength of ROPE (1948) is that it manages to be Alfred Hitchcock's possibly most experimental movie ever, while exploring one of Hitchcock's favorite themes, guilt, at the same time. It's experimental, because Hitckcock wanted ROPE to have no cuts in it whatsoever, which he almost succeeded in achieving. There's an invisible cut every tenth minute (the camera zooms in on a character's black suit while the cut takes place) which was necessary, because 35mm film rolls only lasts 10 minutes, and there are three visible cuts, which were necessary for practical reasons, because back then, cinemas replaced the film roll three times during a movie. Hitchcock's artistic reason for the not-cuts-allowed rule was to melt the actual time and the fictive time together. The story lasts 105 minutes, and so does the story. Just as with Lars von Trier's Dogme95 rules in IDIOTERNE (1998), the rule helps tell the story. The lack of cuts gives the movie a theatrical feel, which is ironic, because Hitchcock believed that movies were to be told trough images, and not dialog. On the hand, Hitchock has many times disproved this theory, as a lot of his best movies are dialog-based.

Storyline: The two young upper-class intellectuals Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger) carry out a vicious plan to strangle their old friend/classmate in their apartment, hide his corpse in a old chest, invite guests over for a party, and use the old chest as a dinner table. While Brandon sees their plan as art and likes playing with fire, Phillip already feels an enormous amount of guilt. They both start getting nervous, as the guests starts wondering where David Kentley (the classmate they killed) is. Their old role model and philosophy teacher, the very intelligent Rupert Cadell (James Stewart), who is also among the guests, senses that something is terribly wrong, as he sees all these little hints that support his theory that David is dead.

ROBE is one of the most underrated Hitcock movies. It's interesting, suspenseful, and James Stewart is as great as in VERTIGO. In the documentary on the DVD the writer says that he thinks Hitchcock shouldn't have shown the two men strangle the friend, because he thinks that the suspense lies in that audiences don't know whether there really is a corpse in the chest or not. I don't necessarily agree. I think that would be unnecessary, and suspense for the take of the suspense, with no meaning behind it. It would remove focus from the Hitchcockian guilt and moral themes. Another (almost) idea left out of the movie was the homosexual theme between the two men, although you still sense that the undertones are there.

Highly recommendable, especially if you're a Hitchcock fan. 10/10

20 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Great episode from an interesting director, 26 September 2006
8/10

I'm usually very ambivalent about Quentin Tarantino's movies. To use an old but relevant term, he puts style above substance. If you strip away the hip references to pop-culture and Asian cinema, you will realize that the themes of his movies only get touched upon very superficially. Yet his cool dialog and ingenious use of continuity in PULP FICTION (1994) has been a great inspiration to movie-makers for over a decade, therefore it could be argued that he's the Godard of his generation. I personally acknowledge the significance of his movies, although I request more real substance.

Quentin Tarantino's episode GRAVE DANGER: PART 1 (of two episodes) doesn't disappoint, whether you are a fan of Tarantino or CSI. I haven't seen many CSI episodes, so my reference frame isn't exactly huge, but I understand its basic concept. In my opinion Tarantino manages to harmonically combine the usual CSI thriller elements with the classic Tarantino trademarks. It could in fact be argued that fusing completely different movie styles and genres is Tarantino's great strength. That's possibly the main reason this project fit him so well. The result is a fresh, pumped-up, stylistic CSI. It's not as ground-breaking as PULP FICTION, but who expected it to be? TV-series are always dumbed down to fit the mainstream, and that goes for the GRAVE DANGER episodes too. Yet if all TV-series were like this, the general TV standard would indeed be very high. Then again, Tarantino was gives two full episodes to operate on, which meant that he had the necessary time for character developing scenes with non-plot-driven dialog that the normal CSI directors don't have.

Regardless of you're a CSI or Quentin Tarantino fan I highly recommend watching the GRAVE DANGER episodes. It's CSI Ultimate Edition and an interesting curiosity for QT fans. 8/10

Gambler (2006)
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A testament to the great inconvenience of personal movie making, 23 September 2006
7/10

Phie Ambo's documentary "Gambler" follows Danish auteur movie maker Nicolas Winding Refn during and after the making of "Pusher 2". It makes the assertion that Refn's decision to follow up his hugely successful "Pusher" from 1996, the highest-grossing Danish directorial debut movie ever, with two sequels is risky business; hence the title. In reality it is the the most secure career move available to Refn whose production company went bankrupt with box office disaster "Fear X" in 2003. Although the soul of the trilogy is art-house, it has huge mainstream appeal.

The biggest success of "Gambler" lies in its portrait of Refn's day-to-day life during a stressful period of dealing with actors, the bank, his producer, his girlfriend Liv Corfixen, and, last but not least, his inner demons. One feels for Refn as he struggles, and barely manages to finance his projects. In that respect this is a testament to the great inconvenience of making personal movies in a commercial world. Rumor has it that Refn is a cynical manipulator that will do literally anything to get the performances he needs from his actors. It is therefore nice to see him appear actually very humane and responsible towards his actors, specifically former drug addict Kurt Nielsen, whom Refn locates a weekend cottage for to stay in in a time when Kurt feels especially inclined to relapse. Moviebuffs should find great pleasure in Refn's cool movie stuff, among it a huge "Cannibal Holocaust" poster hanging above Nicolas' and Liv's bed - any woman willing to accept such a poster above her bed has to be the dream wife of any movie buff!

The documentary is constructed chronologically, and takes on a fly-on-the-wall approach, in the tradition of Barbara Kopple ("Harlan County U.S.A.", "Shut Up & Sing"), with director Phie Ambo never seen or heard once, however sometimes with the participants speaking directly to the camera. It is, however, also very cinematic utilizing several stylistic tools, e.g. recurring close-ups of a Treo tablet, which Refn apparently is somewhat addicted to, dissolving in a glass of water (as a metaphor for Refn's disintegrating career situation) and the montage sequences in the the beginning and end. As a result it has a very cinematic feel to it, and the fact that it had cinema distribution (by new Danish distribution company Dox-on-Wheels) seems reasonable.

"Gambler" is not just for the fans. It contains plenty of drama, and Refn's struggles resonate far beyond the movie world. Several documentaries on Refn and his "Pusher" trilogy exist. This one is justifiable for its unique portrayal of the Danish art-house director's day-to-day life. "Gambler" is, its aforementioned assertion aside, an interesting and well-made documentary, and a testament to the great inconvenience of personal movie making. 7/10


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