Light Danish pastry filled with charm

Movie: Mifune

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Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: 2000-07-07
Cast: Anders W. Berthelsen, Jesper Asholt, Iben Hjejle, Emil Tarding
Director: Soren Kragh-Jacobsen
Screenwriter: Soren Kragh-Jacobsen
Music Score: Thor Backhausen, Karl Bille, Christian Sievert
WorkNameSort: Mifune
Our Rating: 3.00

"Mifune," directed and co-written by Soren Kragh-Jacobsen, is the third Danish film made according to the tenets of Dogma 95, a set of rules devised by a collective of film directors in Copenhagen, Denmark, to foist a kind of technical neoprimitivism on the filmmaker.

The two main imperatives of this credo, at least as far as the average viewer is concerned, call for natural lighting and hand-held cameras, which will supposedly enhance a film's sense of immediacy and realism. As revolutionary movements go, it's very postmodern -- extremely self-conscious and somewhere between a prank and an interesting idea.

Unlike Tomas Vinterberg's "The Celebration," whose Strindbergian evisceration of a familial corpse was well served by this enforced roughness, "Mifune" is a comedy, and a sentimental one at that. It's the kind of amusing but cornball scenario where a group of lovable outsiders bands together to survive in the big old cruel world. No amount of Dogmatism is going to freshen this material, and so one wonders why Kragh-Jacobsen even bothered.

Our main lovable outsider is Kresten (Anders W. Berthelsen), a yuppie on the rise who, just as the film opens, has married the boss' daughter. Kresten's big secret is that he has a father and brother living out in the sticks, and when the former dies he's compelled to go and tend to the funeral, leaving his new wife in the city.

Here we meet outsider No. 2 and the source of Kresten's shame: his brother, Rud (Jesper Asholt). Rud could best be described as a "performance retard," coming on like a cross between Frank Fontaine's Crazy Gug-genheim and Benny Hill on Xanax; he has a form of arrested development that gives the sufferer a knack for low comedy.

Outsiders three and four are an improbably attractive prostitute named Liva (Iben Hjejle) and her delinquent younger brother, Bjarke (Emil Tarding). Liva, tired of hooking, answers an ad Kresten has placed in a newspaper for a housekeeper.

All this is heading pretty much where you think it is. Dogma 95 is also known as "the Vow of Chastity" -- a distinctly Scandinavian touch with its overtones of guilt and repentance. Mifune is a minor film, but its inconsequential charm manages to peek through the rigorous scouring of that terrible Vow.

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