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Lars von Trier's Zentropa Goes Co-Op; Following "The Idiots" Model?

by Anthony Kaufman
June 8, 2006 3:11 AM
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The other weekend, I re-watched Lars von Trier's "The Idiots," one of my favorite films from 1998-99, and it's still as shocking, funny, sad, ridiculous, offensive and provocative as ever. For von Trier's first Dogma 95 movie, he managed to tell a story that precisely dovetailed with Dogma's goals, about the impossible striving for a genuine truth. If you don't know the film, it starts with an outrageous premise -- a commune of noncomformists pretends to act mentally retarded in an attempt to find their "inner idiot," while also wreaking havoc on the status quo outside their gates. But it eventually reaches deeper places, excavating the contradictions of a bohemian idealism and the loneliness and isolation of the human soul.

The movie was never properly released in the U.S., but if you get a chance, there are some rare DVD imports available on the Internet (despite a very lame cover, the Alliance Atlantis Canadian version that I got was fine). I know the film has plenty of detractors, but I think it's one of the most original and emotional films of the last decade.

"The Idiots" came to mind when I read about Zentropa founders Lars von Trier and producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen deciding to sell 50% of their shares in the company to directors and other employees of the production company, according to trade reports. (The pair will keep the other half of the stock.)

"This deal means 50% communism," said Aalbaek Jensen, who admitted ito Daily Variety that it probably would have been more profitable to sell the company to a major player in the international film industry.

You've got to hand it to Zentropa -- they're perhaps the only private film company in the world dedicated to socialist impulses. I just hope their communal decision doesn't turn out the way it did for The Idiots.

Coming up for the Scandinavian studio: von Trier's Danish-language comedy "The Boss of It All" and Jacob Thuesen's comedy-drama "Erik Nietzsche -- The Early Years," written by von Trier. The company was also behind Cannes standout "Red Road," which was acquired for U.S. release by Tartan USA.

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