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The Independent Culture
FESTEN (15)

The first film by Thomas Vinterberg was also the first to emerge from "Dogme 95", the evidently PR-savvy collective of Danish film-makers. Cheaply shot on digital video and transferred to film (producing a distinctively grainy image), it takes place at a Danish country mansion where a family has gathered for the father's 60th birthday. Christian (Ulrich Thomsen), provoked no doubt by the recent suicide of his twin sister, takes it upon himself to punctuate the gathering with one bombshell after another. Conventionally structured, the movie is enlivened not merely by the tawdriness of the revelations (incest and abuse) but by the frenetic hand-held camerawork (cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle makes liberal use of swooping overheads and outrageous angles). The end result is striking, though somewhat insubstantial.

NIAGARA NIAGARA (15)

Few film subgenres are more reliably objectionable than the disease-of- the-week road movie. In this one, the featured condition is Tourette's, and although it isn't as cloying or simplistic as, say, Rain Man or The Eighth Day, it's still as fundamentally wrong-headed. Marcy, the movie's afflicted heroine (Robin Tunney), twitches, grimaces, blurts out profanities, acts out obsessive-compulsive rituals, and subsists on a steady diet of whisky and pills. Given their roles, the leads do their best: Tunney in particular nobly aspires to be more than the sum of her spasms, but her efforts are to no avail as the film-makers shuttle her from one trivialising situation to another.

DENNIS LIM

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