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"Manderlay"

Yup, it’s another cracker. Crying shame they couldn’t get Nicole Kidman back (I don’t have anything against Bryce Dallas Howard, but her Grace doesn’t have the fragile beauty of Kidman’s Grace) – not that I’m particularly surprised since I don’t suppose our Nicole would have agreed to a scene were she is in flagrante delicto : lying on her back, naked, with her legs spread wide, filmed from the bottom of the bed….

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Lars von Trier has struck gold again, and the above gratuious sex was only about 2 minutes in an otherwise entirely modest film.

The story picks up from the end of Dogville – Grace and her father are travelling through the US, when they come upon the plantation called Manderlay. Grace discovers a negro slave is about to be beaten by his owners, and Grace intervenes to set the slaves free, as should have happenbed 70 years sooner. The stories follows Grace’s efforts to turn this former slave colony into a free enterprise – no easy task. Her father wants no part of it and continues on his way, although not before leaving Grace with some gangsters and guns (‘power’) to help things on their way.

Where Dogville was brutal and even shocking – very uncomfortable to watch, Manderlay is gentler on the surface, but a lot more challenging. Lars is making a very strong statement about the attitude of white Americans to black people – slave or otherwise – and winds up the films with clips like the beating of Rodney King (which he reminds us was only in 1991).

I won’t say anymore, because I don’t want to spoil it – suffice to say when I’ve watched next year’s offering – Washington – I fully intend to buy the trilogy to keep as powerful and thought provoking set of films.

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