I, despite reading Phil Hall’s review of it at FilmThreat, loved Dogville. Yes, I agree that Nicole Kidman was horribly miscast as a socialite mobster’s daughter turned social activist after being treated poorly by the citizens of a small (really small) town. The rest of the movie, though, was riveting. It wasn’t even the subject matter that intrigued me but the method and style of the film. The entire movie was shot on a single soundstage using just the barest hint of sets (often just one wall or, in most cases, just a tape outline of a building on the floor) and similar props. It had a very experimental flavor to it that I just dug. Half the time I wasn’t even thinking about the story but just admiring the pure craft involved in this sort of production.
So I’m interested in seeing Manderlay, the second part of a proposed trilogy from director Lars von Trier. This time Kidman is out and Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village) is in as Grace, the daughter of a mob boss (Willem Dafoe replacing James Caan) who thinks she can change the world. This time, though, she’s tackling slavery she encouters in 1930′s Alabama.
I actually don’t like this poster all that much. Too much real estate is taken up by the self back slapping of noting how many film festivals the movie was selected to be in or what awards the film won and quotes from critics. The credit block at the bottom also seems unusually large. That leaves only about the middle third of the poster for any pictures or other stuff relating to the actual film. I’m not a big fan of the floating heads posters or tri-striped ones (you know, three stripes either horizontal or vertical, with an actor’s face in each stripe) but this reduces them just too much. The whole point of these movies is acting so why not highlight the actors over festival programming. Who does that really attract, anyway? Is there really a segment of the movie going public – even among film snobs – that looks at the poster and says, “Oh! It was at _____ Festival! Now I must see it!” I doubt that very much.
The trailer opens up with the film festival cataloging but then shifts into plot mode. It sets the movie up pretty nicely. Grace (Howard) arrives with her father at Manderlay to find that 70 years after it was abolished slavery still survives here, like the equivalant of The Lost World of dinosaurs. They decide they can bring justice and freedom to the slaves there but it’s not quite as simple as that and Grace soon seems to be in over her head in this situation. Certainly seems Howard gives a better performance than Kidman did and is more believable as a spoiled kid who think she has all the answers.
It’s a nice website that retains the stark black look of the movie, which I think is a nice touch. On the main page is the trailer but aside from that you have to enter the Flash site.
Both the Cast and Crew sections present the names like the credits of people who worked on “The Apprentice”. The scroll from bottom to top in far too fast a manner and you have to click on someone’s name to view their biography. If you miss them you just have to wait for their name to come around the loop again and I didn’t find any way to stop that.
There’s a section director von Trier has all to himself. There’s a brief and enegmatic “Statement” from him, a “Filmography” and then a series of “Interviews” of the cast talking about the movie and working with the Dutch filmmaker. Gallery has about 20 stills and Facts contains only a “Synopsis.” Why they didn’t just name the section Synopsis is beyond me but oh well.
The Forum isn’t so much a forum but more like a guest book. You write entries/thoughts in a visual book and it’s viewable by other visitors. It’s a nice tool but I don’t think it’s utilized effectively. I’m not sure what more I think about it but something about it says it’s not being used to its full extent. Finally there’s a Press room where you can download some of the stills as well as a press kit.
The poster has a good basic design but its overall execution is poor, especially since the actual movie information gets such short shrift. The trailer rocks. The website is clunky in parts but overall contains good information on the movie. It’s a good campaign for a movie that likely, due to its harsh tone towards Amerian attitudes, will not be too popular in this country. I think IFC has done a good job marketing this movie for the discriminating audience that will likely find the subject matter interesting.
Oh, and Phil Hall likes this installment a lot more than Dogville. I think we can all sleep easier now.