A couple of complex flicks
Taxi para tres is a thriller about the impossible moral complexities of life for the working, idling, robbing or just timidly persevering poor. Ulises (Alejandro Trejo), a taxi driver in a Santiago (Chile) slum, is kidnapped (so he will tell the police at the end of the adventure) by two young, reckless, stupid ruffians, who use his vehicle -- with Ulises as the driver -- to effect assaults on any available target, including other poor people. The knife- and pistol-wielding ruffians, childish moron Coto (Fernando Gómez ) and fast-talking Chavelo (Daniel Muñoz) later return to seek refuge in Ulises' house and ingratiate themselves with his family. Ulises is basically honest and protective but also -- like a lot of urban poor -- cautiously audacious. That is, he'll do very risky things when he calculates that the opportunities are right. There are no purely good guys in this movie, nor any purely bad ones -- even the brutal cop Padilla (Cristián Quezada) and the floozie who alternately betrays and protects Ulises (Elsa Poblete) just seem to be people doing the best they can in a twisted moral universe.

The other complex film is a movie about movies, and about art and the stimulus of formal restrictions. In The Five Obstructions (DE FEM BENSPÆND), young (b. 1956) Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier challenges a much admired senior (b. 1937) Danish journalist and filmmaker Jørgen Leth to remake Leth's 13-minute, 1967 film, "The Perfect Human" -- five times, each time under conditions (obstructions) imposed by von Trier. Leth is brilliantly up to all these challenges, the result being that we get to see Leth's six enormously diverse variations (the original plus the five remakes) on a theme within a film constructed by von Trier. And von Trier is himself a wonderfully inventive artist who relishes exploiting self-imposed "obstructions" (formal limitations) -- as you know if you've seen his disturbing recent movie, "Dogville" (for my blog on that movie, see Archive entry for 2004/05/03).

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