Manderlay

Rated NR

This is a tremendously moralizing and cleverly filmed story about racism in 1930s America. This is the second part of Lars von Trier’s “USA—Land of Opportunity” trilogy. The first film, Dogville, was stunningly effective in spite of the appearance of Nicole Kidman in the lead. In the sequel, her role is taken up by Bryce Dallas Howard, who understands the stagey stylings that von Trier is after. However, the script is so heavy-handed and so intent on offending that it comes off as more of a moral lesson than a work of art, which is too bad, because von Trier is a great artist when he’s thoughtful enough to balance his didacticism with his compelling aesthetic sensibility. The all-star cast features Danny Glover, Chloë Sevigny, Udo Kier, Jeremy Davies, Lauren Bacall (!) and a group of unknowns who show up the celebrities. The film can be enjoyed for its staging and its acting, but probably not for its writing.

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