Monday, February 15, 2010

Bad Leftenant

"In the most recent turn of the dialectical screw, there seems to be emerging a trend of European art film directors making Miramax-level sequels to macho American crime films. First there was Herzog's brilliant "reimagining" (as the marketing vampires say) of Abel Ferrera's Bad Lieutenant, and now rumors are circulating that Danish provocateur Lars von Trier has been talking to Martin Scorcese about making a sequel to the latter's 1976 film Taxi Driver. The rumor is that the film would feature the now-sexagenarian Robert DeNiro reprising his role as the homicidal loner Travis Bickle. I've always regarded Taxi Driver as the most interesting example of a fundamentally repugnant cinema. Scorcese's early work, with its machismo and depoliticized narratives of urban poverty, can be reduced to a thought experiment: what if we took the revolutionary political consciousness out of Italian neorealism? Taxi Driver is certainly his most critical film, by which I mean, since Scorcese is the Enemy, his most self-critical film, even if it is so in a merely 'unconscious' way, that is, in a way that is only real for me as I project my beliefs onto the film. One would think that the only reason von Trier would take on a classic of American (sorry, "United Statesian") cinema would be to destroy the cinema of this country which he so openly reviles from the inside, as he attempted more modestly in his "Land of Opportunity" films Dogville and Manderlay (the misogyny of which is probably the only thing Scorcese and von Trier have in common: can you imagine them having a conversation?). But maybe not. Perhaps von Trier, like Herzog, is genuinely drawn to that one really transcendentally great thing about American crime cinema: its misanthropy."

- Roger Ebert

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