Here are the somewhat quick reviews for The House the Jack Built and Vox Lux.
The House That Jack Built
Consistently provocative, the most genuine description of the filmography of auteur director, Lars von Trier. And here he continues that with his new film The House That Jack Built, a film that chronicles five “incidents” over a twelve year period in the life of serial killer, Jack. It’s a film that has, like many von Trier films, caused much controversy for its extreme nature of strong, extremely bleak violence, of which caused many walk outs at its screening at Cannes earlier this year. Some of which I can understand, as for many the mileage will vary on this graphically violent saga, which includes a few brutal death scenes involving women and children, all from the perspective of the man perpetuating the crimes. But it’s the films artistry that transcends any precise litmus test for political correctness. The House That Jack Built is a very often-horrifying, callous dive into a psychotic internal monologue, with intellectual detour conversations about the nature of art in the world today, and puts considerable effort into causing much discomfort at key moments. I think it’s as well important to state that none of the violence is ever gratuitous, as it does carry its meaning and weight throughout the film. Through all the controversies, von Trier continues to get fantastic performances out of his actors and Matt Dillon here delivers his best performance to date as the titular, Jack. In his dynamic performance Dillon carries this film to heights it wouldn’t be able to reach without his fearlessness and dedication to the role. It’s his darting eyes, toothy grin, and uneasy charisma that help him deliver a very impactful movie monster performance. This film though isn’t perfect, as it at times gets a little heavy-handed with some of its messaging , and also the film has moments that could be trimmed down as well. But if von Trier never makes another film again, The House that Jack Built would be a strong career summation, as he caps it all off with quite possibly his most personal film to date. As Jack condemns himself by attempting to rectify his anxiety with murder, von Trier does through directing films. If a pervious von Trier film, Melancholia, celebrated the process of making peace with emotional frailty, Jack tracks the opposite trajectory: to feel like your trapped by your own flaws to a point that makes salvation practically impossible. And it’s through the films renegade musing on everything from history to architecture to cinema, that von Trier’s personal inquiry concludes that even von Trier is trapped in a private hell of his own making, holding on for dear life.
To call Vox Lux a pop-star drama would falsely suggest that it in any way resembles this years previous A Star Is Born or is at all interested with the music industry, especially when you learn, in its opening minutes, what compels our heroine to start singing in the first place. With the films opening brutality you are dropped to the alarming timeliness of the film, as it opens with a school shooting. School shootings are something that have been looming in the American consciousness for the past twenty years or so now, and it’s no mistake that this film opens in 1999, the same year as Columbine. The films writer-director, Brady Corbet, who just turned 30 this year, is among the first few filmmakers to explore the aftermath of such a tragedy. He is as well amongst the first to address the way it has crept its way into the lives of young people. Our heroine of the film, Celeste, has her career rocketed by a mournful ballad she composes after her near-death experience, and Vox Lux is way more concerned with her PTSD than her raging success on the charts, which separates this film from any typical pop-drama. Natalie Portman here is as well fantastic, going all in with her performance. Portman is fearless in how big she goes, going all out for a role that requires nothing less. The films narration though, by the great Willem Dafoe, is at times brilliantly sardonic, but as well sometimes tells you a little too much. But it does go as far to describe Celeste as a “prisoner of a gaudy and untenable present that had reached an extreme in its cycle”, but it as well suggests in the finale, that she possibly gained her talents from a deal with the devil, that was made during her moments between life and death. Which is undeniably some heavy stuff, and Corbet makes you feel it’s weight. Though the film isn’t always fully realized, Vox Lux is lavishly ambitious and completely its own experience in the way it shows such a unique look at the mourning process. It’s a song of a film that demands to be heard on full volume and not dismissed.