If you hated "Dogville" because of the overage of narration or the length of time it took to finally get to a point, you'll be pleased to know that von Trier has lessened both those elements. With that said, it still has some of the same flaws.
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All of this plays out as flat, didactic, and lazy.
Lars von Trier is back, so to speak--he's never visited the States, which makes his snide anti-American allegories even more infuriating to some….But the story holds up well enough to deliver a pointed critique of establishing self-rule at gunpoint.
The film's conceits grow thin and von Trier's mocking, hectoring tone tiresome.
Nothing von Trier presents here, whether real or imagined, is fresh or new.
Another ridiculous anti-American screed by the minimalist Danish director Lars von Trier, who has never set foot in this country.
Howard struggles with the role Kidman nailed. And the graphic nude scene in which "proudy slave" Timothy (Isaach De Bankole) puts a towel over Grace's head before ravishing her pale body is as rugged on the audience as it is on the actors.
It's an extremely cynical perspective, enforced by some disappointingly turgid melodrama, but keep in mind, this movie was made before an almost uniformly poor and black population was left to rot in New Orleans floodwaters. Even at his worst, von Trier can still strike a nerve.
To warm to Manderlay, the chilly second installment of Lars von Trier's not-yet-finished three-part Brechtian allegory examining United States history, you must be willing to tolerate the derision and moral arrogance of a snide European intellectual thumbing his nose at American barbarism.
The subject being race relations, Manderlay is bound to stir considerable debate in intellectual circles, but given the director's abstract style and use of characters to enact an agenda, it's a discussion that will exclude the general public, who will ignore it as they did "Dogville."