Manderlay | Chicago Reader

Manderlay

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. This Danish feature picks up where his brilliant Dogville left off, with the young heroine (Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing Nicole Kidman) and her gangster father (Willem Dafoe, no substitute for James Caan) driving across the Depression-era U.S. in a heavily fortified auto caravan. After they stumble on an Alabama plantation where blacks are still held as slaves, the daughter uses daddy's muscle to free them, then installs herself as a Great White Mother bringing the fruits of democracy. The stage-play artifice—black backdrops, floor markings, minimal sets and props—has less impact the second time around, and Manderlay's former slaves aren't characterized as forcefully as Dogville's townspeople were. But the story holds up well enough to deliver a pointed critique of establishing self-rule at gunpoint. With Isaach de BankolĂ©, Danny Glover, and Lauren Bacall. 139 min.

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