The Celebration ★★★

This was the first Dogma film, and I'm no fan of Dogma. Arbitrary rules for filmmaking is not how you make great movies. The rules need to come from the stories you're trying to tell. Plus, the Dogma rules seem to have little to do with telling great stories, and a lot more to do with making movies fast and cheap, and in the burgeoning digital age was probably why it sort of caught on. We're certainly plagued with drunkenly handheld, natural light cinema today, even from the Hollywood studios. Of course, The Celebration was made before digital. It was filmed on a Sony Handycam, and it looks like crap. In some ways, the crappy image is a counter to the upper class setting of the film, a visual commentary, but it really just makes the movie look like a poorly done television show. I nearly turned it off after ten minutes, but what saves the movie is that the sound is excellent despite being recorded live, and the actors are very good. Their performances shine through the pixelated image. The story is about a large, wealthy family gathering for the 60th birthday of the patriarch, but there is a surreal and genuinely nasty undercurrent to the proceedings that makes it a vicious commentary on class. I was reminded of other movies. First, I Am Love, whose beautifully glossy family gathering was the exact opposite of The Celebration, but with no real story to tell. But mainly I was reminded of Bunuel's Exterminating Angel, and The Celebration is garbage compared to that masterpiece. Then again, when was the last time Denmark got international attention for a film?