Thursday, January 8, 2009

Brief Review: Reprise (2008)


* * * *

D: Joachim Trier
W: Joachim Trier; Eskil Vogt
S: Espen Klouman-Hoiner; Anders Danielsen Lie

 Just when I'd resigned this past year to superb minimalist drama (Frozen River, Wendy and Lucy, The Wrestler), stunning blockbusters (The Dark Knight, Wall-E), gigantic opuses (Australia, Benjamin Button) and uneven adaptations (Slumdog Millionaire, Revolutionary Road), I manage to find one more gem!

Joachim Trier's first feature film is like an explosion of energy from Norwegian cinema.  It drips of French New Wave style and irony in its stinging examination of the successes and tribulations of early-20s writers Erik and Phillip, who want nothing more than to be profound but lack ideas and output.  Filled with beautiful jump cuts, compositions that linger on form and lighting, and (THANK GOD!) a story to match, Reprise is filmmaking to actually get excited about.

It is at once sarcastic and self-knowing, brutally honest and deeply personal, heartfelt and flimsy, satiric and stinging.  It evokes Godard, Truffaut, Fellini, and Melville with profound grace and sensibility.  Trier knows his film history and he knows his theory and he knows his form.

It hasn't been a secret I've been in a glut with modern movies this year.  Even when I'm visually overwhelmed by a film (Benjamin Button), I can't ignore its honest and superficial flaws.  Such a sigh of relief then, to finally find one more film amongst a small handful that blends a superb narrative (a dual character study that rarely feels obvious and always unexpected) with a fascinating array of techniques that marry form and content in such small and polished ways as to aesthetically rival some of the year's best work.

I know, this is just me going off on a giant tangent.  Forgive me, for its the burst of exuberance this film, as solemn it may be, gives.  Perhaps its greatest strength is in its free-form narrator, who shifts the film from present to past and into the future before heading back to the present, or even exploring alternate futures with such immediacy that it threatens to convolute the story, yet never does.  Trier finds ways to visually navigate time and consolidate it appropriately.

Yes, THIS is cinema.  Big, bold, and as lavish as we are likely to see.  I'm so glad this 2006 film found a 2008 release in the US, so as to give me something to latch on to.

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