28 Thursday, 23 July 2009 London Lite W HEN, at Cannes, Lars von Triers surreal, OTT and utterly be- musing horror flick Antichrist was booed, heckled and laughed at -- and eventually awarded a furious anti-award by judges -- the controversial Danish direc- tor all but pirouetted with glee. He denied (during a boo-heavy press conference where he pro- claimed himself the best director in the world) that it was the most misogynistic piece of cinema ever created. He laughed off claims it was gratuitously violent horror- porn. The boos thrilled him. The last thing he desired was handclaps and proclamations that Antichrist was 2009s Its A Wonderful Life. What he wanted, just as he did with 1998s The Idiots and 2003s Dogville, was to shock, disturb and confound. He had no intention of explaining, or defend- ing his work. I made this little film Im now quite fond of. I dont need to apologise, he said. The little film that split opin- ion like a guillotine goes like this: unnamed married couple Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are -- if the opening sequence of them getting graphi- cally frisky is anything to go by -- a loved-up pair. If this pro- logue wasnt spliced with footage of their baby son falling to his death from their window, youd think they were quite content. Things go swiftly southwards when they decamp to Eden (ha!), their gloomy woodland cottage, to grieve. Mums reaction is natural, inconsolable grief manifested in depression, panic attacks, fear and anger, but Dad, a therapist, combats pain through mental exercises and pie charts. Dad, it must be said, is a twerp. His ir ritating attempts to rationalise the irra- tional almost make you under- stand when she goes berserk. She starts using rusty scissors to lop bits off her own body, and brute force to hammer new bits into his. Willem Dafoe says he still doesnt get the film. Von Trier -- an atheist who fixed the title before he dreamt up (literally, it came to him in a dream) this horrifying but visually glossy piece of cinema -- made it in an attempt to claw his way out of a bout of crippling depression. Antichrist was his therapy, and thinking about the film like this brings it more sharply into focus. When an insurmountable obsta- cle defies explanation, analysis becomes grossly incompetent. The only way to escape, this naughty director implies, is to bash yourself out physically. Though might we recommend film school over a trip to Self- Mutilators R Us? REVIEWSCINEMA Antichrist Cert 18, 104 mins Strangecomfort of a violent cure Mummies, suicideand theundead THIS is one misleadingly titled film. Its as if The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had been released under the name Fluffy Bunnies DIY Misadventures. Just Another Love Story, a furious, brilliant and malignant thriller, is narrated by Jonas (Anders W Bertelsen), whom we see in the opening shot lying in the rain on a street in Copenhagen, apparently bleeding to death. A blonde arrives to grieve over him, but hes not impressed because she is his wife, Mette (Charlotte Fich), who he abandoned months earlier for the blind and mysterious Julia (Rebecka Hemse), heiress to a publishing fortune. How did he come to be lying on the street? The plot is tortuous but suffice to say it includes an undead boyfriend, a stolen suitcase, mistaken identity, a mummy (not of the nurturing kind) and a suicide pact in a Vietnamese hotel. Writer- director Ole Bornedals film is not only compelling but utterly beautiful, too -- one of the films of the year. PC Heart: Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal Decentproposalforlightrelief The Proposal Cert12A,107mins Alsoshowing... STRANGE as it may sound, its genetically possible for two white parents to have a black child -- but its not a situation youd want to find yourself in if you lived in Fifties South Africa. This true story follows Afrikaners Abraham and Sannie (Sam Neill and Alice Krige) who are determined to get their daughter Sandra (Sophie Okonedo) accepted as white despite her dark skin. We see Abraham refusing to touch black people who come into his shop, and Sandra trying to bleach her skin with cleaning products. Skin is really a study in how horrible parents can be to their kids. LAUREN PAXMAN Skin Cert 12A, 107 mins Charles Dickenss England Cert U, 118 mins THE makers of this documentary, about the people and places that inspired writer Charles Dickens, presumably spent all their budget securing Derek Jacobi, below, as narrator. They couldnt even afford to reshoot a scene in which a random person comically walks into the background as Jacobi recounts Dickenss sister-in-laws tragic death. While Jacobis theatrical credentials are impeccable, seeing his raised eyebrows on the big screen immediately makes phrases like Ill have a dry white wine funnier than they should be. LP Ups the Anti: Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist Compelling: Bertelsen and Hemse Just Another Love Story Cert 18, 104 mins REVIEW BY MARTHA DE LACEY IN&OUTTONIGHT FILMS THE Proposal will not win any awards for originality. But in a week in which we have Lars von Triers singular and horrifying Antichrist, a movie version of a comfort blanket isnt such a bad thing. Of course, it also features Sandra Bullock, a thoroughly excellent actress hamstrung by a Nicolas Cage-like inability to choose decent movies. Indeed, Bullock carries the formulaic romcom from the off. She plays Margaret, a tyrannical Canadian book editor who, in order to avoid being deported back to Canada from New York, decides to marry her much-abused assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds, still resembling a kind of elongated Michael Owen), to get her green card. Theres a very cynical immigration agent to outwit, Andrews family and friends in Alaska to fool, and only four days before Margaret is to be deported if they fail. Its an age-old premise. Two people who hate each other grow to love each other. However, unlike in other recent romcoms, the director, Anne Fletcher (who also directed the not- bad 27 Dresses), plays down the usual ritual humiliations that humble the arrogant protagonist, so what you get is a romantic comedy in which people actually bring out the best in one another rather than the worst. Yes, The Proposal is neck-deep in clichs and some of the comic set pieces are not nearly as funny as they think they are, but theres heart here and thats a rare quality. 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