[box cover]

Mifune

Mifune, the Danish film from 1999 whose original title is Mifunes sidste sang is an unusual entry in the canon of so-called "Dogma" films. On the surface Mifune, directed by SØren Kragh-Jacobsen (uncredited) from a screenplay co-written with Anders Thomas Jensen, conforms to 90 percent of the Dogma mandates, which includes no manipulation of lighting, no props, and no imposed music over the soundtrack. But the actual narrative of the film portrays none of the bare-knuckled confrontations or psychological and religious explorations seen in previous Dogma films by Lars von Trier and others. Mifune, stripped of its Dogma trappings, is perfectly acceptable Hollywood fare: no Herzogian extremities of drooling maniacs and orgy scenes for Kragh-Jacobsen. But for the viewer, once the Dogma delusions are put out of mind, Mifune proves to be a charming story of love triumphant over class barriers, a film that could easily be cast with Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr., with no damage to the text or context. In this case, however, it stars Iben Hjejle (High Fidelity) as Liva Psilander, a terrorized prostitute who goes underground as the house servant to a recently married yuppie businessman named Kresten (Anders W. Berthelsen). Kresten is a upwardly mobile executive who has married the boss's daughter. But he has an "ugly" secret he hasn't told spouse or boss: he's a country boy with a retarded brother Rud (Jesper Asholt) incapable of living on his own (the title of the film comes from the games Kresten plays to amuse Rud, which include doing a samurai routine). When Kresten's father dies, the high-powered yet honeymooning lad has to take over his father's ramshackle country estate and find a keeper for Rud. Liva and Preston solve each other's immediate problems. Naturally, he starts to fall for Liva, and in a way so does the space-alien-obsessed Rud, who thinks she is the embodiment of a particular Barbarella-style comic book heroine. Complications ensue: wife, bullies, disappearances. This material isn't particularly new to Kragh-Jacobsen, who directed several youth-oriented comedies before becoming a Dogma practitioner. It's just the technique that's different, and it gives him international credibility. Mifune was a hit in Europe, and won or was nominated for a handful of awards for acting and the script. But Mifune was much less so in America. Still, that hasn't prevented Columbia TriStar from issuing a nice DVD edition of it. This single-sided, single-layered disc offers up a full-screen (1.33:1) version of the film. Because Mifune was shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm, there is attendant graininess which, coupled with Dogma's lighting strictures, makes for an alternatingly good and bad source print, sometimes underlit, sometimes gloriously and richly red-hued. Audio in Danish, with English, Spanish, and French subtitles in an uninspiring Dolby Digital Mono audio track; for a movie that wasn't recorded all that well to begin with, audibility sometimes is a problem. The disc also features the theatrical trailer along with a clutch of other recent art-film trailers, DVD-ROM Web access to the official Dogma website, and scene selection of the 28 chapters. Best of all is an audio commentary by director Kragh-Jacobsen, which is authoritative, wry, informative, engaging, and bemused almost all at once. Mifune is a sweet-tempered yet surprisingly sharp-edged tale, with a superb cast that works well together. Keep case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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