Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jens Albinus, Peter Gantzler, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Benedikt Erlingsson, Iben Hjejle, Henrik Prip, Mia Lyhne, Casper Christensen, Louise Mieritz, Jean-Marc Barr, Sofie Gråbøl, Anders Hove, Lars von Trier
Written by: Lars von Trier
Directed by: Lars von Trier
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Danish, Icelandic, English, Russian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 99
Date: 21/09/2006

The Boss of It All (2007)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Office Smarty

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lars von Trier lays aside his recent scathing commentary on the U.S. (Dogville, Manderlay) for this hilarious, lightweight office comedy.

The CEO of a company, Ravn (Peter Gantzler), has for years pretended to be a drone working among his own employees and leaving all decisions to an unseen "boss of it all." But a potential buyer from Iceland wishes to meet the actual "boss," so Ravn hires an out-of-work actor, Kristoffer (Jens Albinus), to help seal the deal. Of course, what was supposed to be a few hours' work turns into an entire week, and the actor -- trained in the methods of (fictitious) playwright Gambini -- must improvise. This includes dealing with unaccepted marriage proposals, illicit sex and strange fits of violence. Some of the best jokes involve the many secret rendezvous between the actor and his "director," Ravn, in the most unlikely of places.

Oddly, von Trier manages to wrap this high concept, potentially stupid slapstick idea into a well-balanced and absolutely hilarious package. The entire cast, made up of vivid character types, is wonderful, but it's especially good to see the lovely Iben Hjejle (High Fidelity) again after many years away from these shores.

Part of von Trier's scheme involves the filmmaker himself hanging out on a crane outside the office (we can see only his reflection in the windows), making wry comments on the comedy formula from time to time. Strangest of all is the off-kilter camerawork, apparently organized by a computer, which randomly zooms or tilts, sometimes cutting actors out of the frame. Von Trier apparently wishes this technique to be a metaphor for the captainless ship.

The 2007 DVD release from IFC Films comes with a few featurettes; some are called "mockumentaries" and some "featurettes," but I was unable to tell the difference. They're both filled with talking heads and clips from the film. Regardless, there's more information about von Trier's computer-assisted camera technique, called the "Automavision." The transfer is excellent, and has been mastered to look like film rather than video.

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