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MOVIE REVIEW

A comic turn for Von Trier

June 15, 2007|Kevin Thomas | Special to The Times

"The Boss of It All" finds iconoclastic Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier in the lightest mood of his career. His best movies, such as "Breaking the Waves" and "Dancer in the Dark," are charged with wrenching tragedy and despair, and Von Trier's notion of comedy has seemed exceedingly dark, albeit outrageous, as exemplified by the surreal shenanigans of "The Kingdom," set in an immense Copenhagen hospital.

However, Trier turned 50 last year, and it would seem that he decided it was time to have some fun. The result is a sly, clever office comedy that also finds humor in long-standing tensions between Danes and Icelanders, who were under Danish rule for 400 years but, as Von Trier remarks, are "buying most of Copenhagen now." Von Trier also pokes fun at the artistic pretensions of an out-of-work actor, Kristoffer (Jens Albinus), hired to impersonate the U.S.-based president of an information technology firm. (Oddly enough, and despite the levity evident on screen, Von Trier told a Danish newspaper recently that he is being treated for depression and has doubts about when he will return to filmmaking.)

Ravn (Peter Gantzler), the firm's second-in-command, has struck a deal to sell the firm to an Icelandic company whose representative insists on dealing with Ravn's superior directly. Ravn rounds up Kristoffer, who is required to do little more than say, "Hello, so we finally meet. I'm the company president," adding that he has turned power of attorney over to Ravn, who will complete the deal.

But Kristoffer behaves as if he's been asked to play Hamlet. Complications escalate when Kristoffer is spotted by the firm's six key employees, who have never seen their company president. Von Trier has been inspired by the highly verbal comedies of Hollywood's Golden Age. This means that "Boss" is heavy on English subtitles, but Von Trier's twists are sufficiently inspired and his sense of absurdity sufficiently amusing to make the picture worth the effort.

No one is likely to rank "Boss" on the same level as his more somber and ambitious efforts, but Von Trier admirers will be pleased to discover that, even while working in a far less consequential mode than usual, the ever-uninhibited filmmaker's distinctive flair is in full force.

"The Boss of It All." Unrated. Some sex, blunt language. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. Exclusively at the Monica 4-Plex, 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-9741, and the One Colorado, 42 Miller Alley (Union at Fair Oaks), Pasadena, (626) 744-1224.

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