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After years toiling as a documentarian, Austrian director Ulrich Seidl received considerable acclaim on the festival circuit for this occasionally provocative but frequently wearying 2001 feature. Consistently sardonic in tone as it skewers both solid Viennese burghers and lumpen thugs, Dog Days is a free-form chronicle of an insufferably humid summer weekend that swerves vertiginously between a rabidly jealous young man's pursuit of his free-spirited girlfriend, the antics of a mentally unhinged female hitchhiker who gleefully insults drivers, an elderly man's poignant but slightly creepy efforts to seduce his loyal housekeeper, and the horrific gang rape of a teacher by her sadistic lover and his thuggish friends. At first, Seidl's visual flair manages to enliven the mordant proceedings—meticulously composed shots of Austrian sunbathers are eerily reminiscent of sculptor Duane Hanson's hyperrealistic re-creations of middle-class Americans. Yet as the film approaches its violent but banal conclusion, Seidl's talent for satirical invective is neutralized by his weakness for over-the-top narrative pyrotechnics—this is more warmed-over Quentin Tarantino than Georg Grosz. In German with subtitles. 127 min.

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