Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Genz's TERRIBLY HAPPY, Danish entry in the Foreign Language Film derby, opens

Oh, those Danes! They think the "Oscar" voters want dark? Black comedy? Well, there's dark and there's midnight. There's black and there's pitch. So it's little wonder that TERRIBLY HAPPY, the Danish submis-
sion to compete for Best Foreign Lan-
guage Film, did not make the shortlist. Dark works best for Academy voters when it ends up giv-
ing them the chance to feel good. Or sad. (Or when the film in question receives critical hosannas and does well enough at the box-office to make some waves: No Country for Old Men.)  When a "dark" movie ends up making you feel nothing at all, that tends to be an Academy deal-breaker.

In this movie, directed and co-written (with Dunja Gry Jensen and Erling Jepsen) by Henrick Ruben Genz (shown at left), a Copenhagen policeman (Jakob Cedergren, below, left, a looker who also appears in Sally Potter's Rage) who's had a pot of trouble at home is transferred to a new post in a tiny little town in the Danish sticks that operates, well, a bit differently from your run-of-the-mill hamlet. (Or perhaps, being so small, everything percolates a bit faster.) That's all you need to know without having something spoiled for you, so if you're prone to the kind of entertainment that goes from gray to somber, all the while posing as a "comedy" -- yet sans laughs -- then this is a film for you.

TrustMovies is not certain what, if any, American landscape might fill in for the one shown here.  Appalachia?  Probably not, but it's as good a choice as any.  In our little town we have a man-in-charge who's drunk on power, some spousal abuse, a doctor (below) a tad too free with his drugs, a store owner who encourages kleptoma-
nia, and many more offbeat characters.  Genz likes to film at odd angles for arty, "meaningful" moments, in which all sorts of things -- including Shirley Jackson's The Lottery -- come fleetingly to mind.

In the end we have a non-hero hoisted by his own petard, which seems appropriate enough in this case.  Along the way, we learn a typical (I am guessing) Danish phrase: "Mojn," which mean (I am guessing again) Mornin'.  If I sound less than enchanted with this movie, it's because I am less than enchanted.  Dark but not much fun and telling us plenty of stuff about human nature of which we're already aware, Terribly Happy (ironic title, dontcha know) is a cynical little romp for art-house pseudo-sophisticates.

The film, distribted via Oscilloscope Laboratories, opens this Friday, February 5, at Manhattan's Angelika Film Center.

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