Saturday, April 25, 2009

Not Just Another Crime Thriller

By David Luhrssen
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The first thing you see in Just Another Love Story is the protagonist, Jonas, dead. “Here I lie, but I feel nothing,” he says, back against the rain swept streets, waiting to see what lies on the other side of life. It’s a tip of the hat to a great film noir, Sunset Boulevard, and a tip-off: the 2009 movie by Danish director Ole Bornedal (out now on DVD) is a genre picture.

But fortunately, it’s not just another dull retread, like most “neo-noirs” by Hollywood and American indie directors. Bornedal brings imagination and daring to a genre that peaked in the late ‘40s and has, in recent years, been largely a paint-by-numbers exercise by filmmakers without a clue. Even that stock old-time noir device, amnesia, is given a fresh angle by Bornedal.

At essence, JALS represents the mid-life crisis of Jonas, a bored police crime cameraman (who wanted to be a great nature photographer), living in a vanilla wafer apartment on the dull side of town, in a marriage grown routine with children he seems dutiful toward at best. Jonas is drawn into the family circle of Julia, a troubled young woman he encounters at a car crash site, daughter of one of Scandinavia's wealthiest moguls, who can no longer remember her recent sojourn in Asia. Mistaken for her missing boyfriend Sebastian, Jonas soon plays along, falling in love with Julia and finding in her a ticket to the exciting life he craves. No one knows Sebastian is dead or his shady past. And sometimes shadows return to life.

Like most classic noirs, JALS is acutely aware of itself as cinema, in love with the artifice of film as it probes troubled emotions and walks the razor’s edge of tension. Just Another Love Story is among the best movies of its kind in the last decade.

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