Friday, 8 May 2009

The Green Butchers (2003)

The director of this extremely black comedy Anders Thomas Jensen won an Oscar five years earlier for the best live action short, "Election Night", a telling signpost to the talent he shows here and proving that not all Danish cinema is Lars von Trier Dogma. Two apprentice butchers are ridiculed by their boss at the successful sausage shop where they work and are determined to open their own store, which looks doomed to failure. When an electrician gets accidentally locked in the cold store overnight, the more neurotic of the two panics and cuts up his thigh for "chickie-wickie" cutlets when asked by his mocking ex-boss to provide the meat for a large dinner party that evening. These are thought to be so delicious that word spreads and people queue up to buy more, creating the problem of fresh supplies to ensure the new shop's success.

There is a long history of playful and genteel cannibalism in film from Sweeney Todd through "Delicatessen" and this movie is up there with the best. The first lead of "sweaty Svend" is taken by Mads Mikkelsen, LeChiffre from "Casino Royale", sporting an unbelievably weird hairdo of a semi-shaved skull crowned by a great bouffant sweep of hair, making him look like a demented Christopher Walken. His partner, the pot-smoking skinhead Nikolaj Lie Kaas is even stranger. In order to raise his share of the money needed to open the shop, he borrows against the legacy due to his brain-damaged animal-loving twin brother who has been in a coma for the past seven years; he authorises the hospital to "unplug" him to hasten his death, which has the reverse effect of waking him up. Kaas brilliantly plays both parts as Bjarne tries to avoid the loony Eigel, while also trying to play down Mikkelsen's burgeoning killing spree. The movie is full of unexpected turns and one can't help warming to these damaged protagonists through the many twists of the plot. Very warmly recommended, especially to those with a taste for the macabre.

The same evening I also watched another 'colour' film, the Japanese "Black Kiss" (2004), which probably deserves its own review, if only for its spectacular deaths, but only time will tell if I get back to it.
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