Alex van Warmerdam – Schneider vs. Bax (2015)

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A relatively straightforward genre exercise compared with last year’s Cannes-competing “Borgman,” “Schneider vs. Bax” (which has already opened in its native Netherlands, where it did arthouse business rather than action-movie numbers) likely wouldn’t have interested festivals or foreign distribs if not for the career-rekindling acclaim his previous feature attracted. Van Warmerdam would be the first to admit this follow-up was designed to be as different from “Borgman” as possible. Still, there’s so escaping the macabre and borderline-surreal sensibility that underlies them both, which should earn this pic playdates around the world in venues that would have ignored him a year earlier. Continue reading

Alex van Warmerdam – Borgman (2013)

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Synopsis

One of the Netherlands’s most adventurous filmmakers, Alex van Warmerdam specializes in creepy, fractured riffs on folk tales, and acerbic, surreal analyses of contemporary European society. His latest, Borgman, opens with a tribe of strange nomads being driven from their elaborate network of underground shelters. Their ostensible leader, Borgman, approaches an upper-middle-class home and aggressively begs for money. The infuriated husband, Richard, responds by beating the stranger senseless in front of his appalled wife, Marina. Soon after, Borgman infiltrates their lives — and Marina’s dreams — while Richard begins exhibiting his own increasingly erratic and violent behaviour. Then, Borgman’s associates begin circling the house. While somewhat related to the recent home invasion sub-genre, Borgman is primarily about the tensions, both economic and racial, inherent in modern-day society — especially the psychosexual tensions that characterize the bourgeoisie. Richard can’t help but look at his wife or his children as his property. Marina initially seems quite happy with her function as a trophy mother, but the moment the facade starts to crack she’s more than willing to consider the better offer. Driving the narrative arc and intensifying the disturbing tone is van Warmerdam’s refusal to place his characters morally. The open-ended nature of his allegory makes it feel all the more contemporary and unsettling, and therefore genuinely worthy of that overused term, Kafkaesque. ~ tiff Continue reading

Alex van Warmerdam – De Jurk AKA The Dress (1996)

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Description: The Dress is a tale filled with sex, violence, comedy and drama as it follows the life of a dress. Conceived under a cloud of frustration and despair, the dress serves as the hub in a great wheel of misfortune in an extraordinary sequence of events that envelopes both the dress and those fatefully drawn into its universe. An aloof artist, a virginal school girl, an unfulfilled maid, a lowly train conductor and a broken business executive, all become involuntary players in a macabre game of tag. No one who comes in contact with the dress can escape its dramatic, shocking and hilarious consequences. Continue reading

Alex van Warmerdam – De Noorderlingen aka The Northerners (1992)

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It’s no wonder the residents of the grotesque, unfinished housing development where Alex van Warmerdam has set his surreal comedy, “The Northerners,” are an unbalanced lot. The place is little more than a row of modern houses and a few shops on the edge of a forest somewhere in the Netherlands. Just to get to church, which is miles away, the residents must line up every Sunday morning to take a bus.

The film, set in 1960, follows the interactions of a group of the townspeople who become progressively more unstrung as the movie goes along. The local butcher, Jacob (Jack Wouterse), desperately desires his wife, Martha (Annet Malherbe), who finds him repulsive. Following the instructions of a religious statue, which comes to life when Jacob is not around, she refuses to eat. And as she wastes away, their home becomes a shrine in front of whose picture window the neighbors gather in a silent prayer vigil. Continue reading