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Walker's Three to See: Melancholia

KCUR's Steve Walker shares his top movie picks of the week

By Steve Walker

Kansas City, MO – Director Lars von Trier's new movie may not be lovable, or even likable, but it's an extraordinary film. To the strains of Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde," it sets its ominous mood with a pre-title sequence of astonishing beauty and virtuosity that begins on an extreme close-up of Kirsten Dunst's heavy-lidded stare into the camera while birds drop from the sky behind her. Shot in an eerie, hypnotic kind of slow-motion that looks newly invented for this film (I don't recall ever seeing a similar technique), a few more scenes unfold - among them, a saddled horse dropping to its knees and Dunst running through a forest in a wedding dress wrapped in dark tendrils - before we see two planets collide. Thus begins a movie about what happens when personal and universal calamity overlap. Dunst (whose icepick-sharp performance won Best Actress at this year's Cannes Film Festival) plays Justine, a young woman who, in the first half, is attempting to get through her wedding reception and, in the second, is incapacitated by depression. She's living with her easily perturbed and equally damaged sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), her brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland), and nephew on a palatial estate during a week that a new planet that had been hiding behind the sun - also called Melancholia - is on a trajectory that might or might not hit the planet Earth. The movie is as dark as it sounds but there's such solid acting and gorgeous photography that it begs to not be ignored

Since 1998, Steve Walker has contributed stories and interviews about theater, visual arts, and music as an arts reporter at KCUR. He's also one of Up to Date's regular trio of critics who discuss the latest in art, independent and documentary films playing on area screens.
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