2 posts categorized "Genres"

November 02, 2016



Lars Von Trier has cast the always-terrific Matt Dillon in his 15th film "The House That Jack Built." Dillon will share leading man duties with Bruno Ganz. These two equally matched actors will film Von Trier's in Trollhättan, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark.

Von Trier describes the film as follows, "USA in the 1970s. We follow the highly intelligent Jack over a span of 12 years and are introduced to the murders that define Jack's development as a serial killer. We experience the story from Jack's point of view, while he postulates each murder is an artwork in itself. As the inevitable police intervention is drawing nearer, he is taking greater and greater risks in his attempt to create the ultimate artwork. Along the way we experience Jack's descriptions of his personal condition, problems and thoughts through a recurring conversation with the unknown Verge - a grotesque mixture of sophistry mixed with an almost childlike self-pity and psychopathic explanations. The House That Jack Built is a dark and sinister story, yet presented through a philosophical and occasional humorous tale."


Although unconfirmed, it seems likely that Ganz will play the serial killer, but it may very well be the younger Dillon who dons the mask of the '70s era psychopath. Jack the Ripper is getting some serious competition. 

June 20, 2016



Black comedy is one of the least mined of all film genres. Many audiences want nothing to do with its dark humor, which in most cases, is meant be disturbing if not disruptive. The codified genre makes visceral and intellectual demands that some viewers find themselves unwilling or unable to go along with. Taboo subjects involving all manner of murder and death frequently come into play. While there are exceptions to the rule (see “King of Comedy”), at least one death must occur (see “Dr. Strangelove”) to meet the transgressive demands of the genre. They don’t call it “Black” comedy without reason.

Monsieur Verdoux

It is a satirical form that arrived relatively late to cinema. Charlie Chaplin’s “Monsieur Verdoux” (1947) is one of the earliest, if not the first, filmic examples of Black Comedy. Robert Hamer’s “Kind Hearts and Coronets” (1949) followed just two years after Chaplin’s unpopular film. It’s telling that both films involve serial killers plying their trade for wealth, and social status.

More recent examples of Black Comedies include “Heathers” (1988), “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover” (1989), and “Starship Troopers” (1997).  

This revolutionary genre can be traced back to literary roots laid down by Jonathan Swift, whose scathing 18th century essays (especially “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick”) shocked many readers to their core. Many people missed the joke. Swift’s keen sense of gallows humor resonates against the 18th century work of the Marquis de Sade, who took fetishistic glee in putting the reader inside the mind, and body, of victimizers on a mission to defile, humiliate, and ruin their captives (see “The 120 Days of Sodom“). Modern authors, such as Vladimir Nabokov (“Lolita”), Joseph Heller (“Catch 22”), and Kurt Vonegut (“Slaughterhouse-Five”), used the darkly comedic form to stunning literary and popular success.

André Breton

The surrealist movement of the ‘20s and ‘30s contributed heartily to establishing an artistic perspective whose aim was to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality” in a revolutionary, anti-political (anarchistic) form in response to the horrors of World War I.

Andre Breton, the French writer and father of Surrealism (see his Surrealist Manifesto), contextualized black humor in his essential book “anthology of black humor” (originally published in 1940), in which Breton places side-by-side excerpts from such authors as Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry, Franz Kafka, Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali, and Lewis Carroll.

Black comedy has an intrinsically secular aspect to it because it contextualizes horrific events or experiences in a comic way. This unconventional point of view necessarily insults all organized religion on fundamental grounds.

A death row prisoner, who discovers Jesus after a lifetime spent as an atheist, is the diametric opposite of one who chooses to adopt the personality of his guard as a way of mocking his doomed fate. Both are using their imaginations, but one is taking a much more active role in the part that he plays. Gallows humor is, if nothing else, the ultimate defense mechanism against all form of physical or psychological abuse.  

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