Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pusher men

Kudos to the Sundance Channel for showing multi-part movies that are not easy to see--or perhaps just plain sit through, regardless of quality--theatrically. Sundance premiered Peter Greenaway's trying The Tulse Luper Suitcases last month, and is currently showing The Best of Youth, the acclaimed years-spanning Italian saga. Tonight, the trilogy that proves there's something rotten in Denmark, Pusher, screens in its entirety beginning at 10pm.

It's worth the time, which of course you can shift at your convenience. The movies are portraits of the underbelly of Copenhagen, centering on dope dealers. (Not "pushers" as we know them, milling about junior high schools, but the term may have crossed the Atlantic differently.) Director Nicolas Winding Refn shot the first in 1996, then a decade later made the other two back-to-back in 2004 and 2005. The first has a Pulp Fiction ring to it, and the third The Sopranos (with the shared metaphor of a swimming pool) but they don't feel derivative or knocked off. These are tough, gritty, Super 16-filmed pictures, occasionally quite funny (particularly the second, which spotlights the lunkhead Mads Mikkelsen, pre-Casino Royale, pictured) and ultimately as melancholic as a certain Dane.

These films share certain characters, but you don't necessarily have to watch them sequentially. (You'll be surprised to see Mikkelsen in the second if you've already screened the first, but the scar on his noggin acts to cover the reappearance.) There's at least one scene is each that is not for the squeamish--the third, where Milo the low-level kingpin (Zlatko Buric) has to drop his surface affability and deal with some immigrant upstarts, is something of a meatgrinder towards its close--but the violence isn't for violence's sake. It hollows the perpetrators, who for all their bragging rights come to learn that they'll have to live with what they've done. Not pretty pictures, but effective, and readily available for recording. (I'm not sure Sundance knows that the second has hardcore porn footage playing on a TV as Mikkelsen, freed from jail but too coked-out to perform, tries to dally with two hookers, but I won't tell if you won't tell.)

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