No two ways about it. May was serious cinema crunch time, wading knee-deep in an onslaught of awesome Scandanavian movies. No joke, a total of 21 out of the 32 films viewed were from either Sweden, Norway, The Netherlands, even Iceland and Finland. Unlike Russia, Sweden and their frosty bretheren are (for the most part) uninterested in producing bastardized Hollywood films and it makes for some really riveting cinema. Here are the highlights from this round. [edit: For the nitpickers, I realize that The Netherlands is not really part of Scandinavia, but their films and attitudes have a lot more in common with Scandinavian films than Germany or France - fair enough?]
MEN WHO HATE WOMEN (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, 2009): Yes, I finally got around to seeing this, prompted by some nudges from Will, the plethora of Swedish actors, the fact that it is completely unavoidable if talking about Scandanavian cinema, books or even just thrillers. That and the fact that NetFlix now offers the full-length, uncut versions with English subtitles for instant viewing. I'm not sure how they managed to cut over a half an hour to make the movie versions, but it must be some really tight editing! In case you have been living under a rock (or just have been ignoring the hype), aside from all of the window dressing involving rape, tattoos, piercings, bi-sexuality, and the politics of running a magazine with journalistic integrity, it is essentially a straight up Scandinavian murder mystery about a missing daughter and a serial killer who has been at large for half a century. It's a pretty good mystery at heart, but in the pantheon Scandinavian mystery thrillers, it's not exactly best in class. The cast (including a post-BECK Peter Haber) is great and best of all, sports ZERO TOLERANCE's Peter Andersson being sleazy as hell and looking disturbingly like Richard Harrison with that little mustache.
MURDER IN ECSTASY(1984): If you are looking for old-school detective yarns with a smidgen of updating, then this Dutch adaptation of A.C. Baantjer's 1982 entry in his series of 70 (yes, seventy) "De Cock" detective novels, is for you. "De Cock" is Dutch for "The Cook" which was amusingly changed to "DeKok" for US editions of the books. Inspector De Cock ("that's C-O-C-K" he says) finds himself investigating an armored car robbery in which one of the perps clearly got greedy and killed all of his accomplices and witnesses, except one. That one witness, the armored car driver, is sure of one thing: the robber-turned-killer was his boss! Things get complicated from there with homicidal junkies, over-sexed models, hospital assassinations, bodies in junkyards, hot headed police chiefs, drinking on the job and all the stuff that makes old-school crime fun. The disillusioned De Cock (Joop Doderer)is of the old guard and feels like his city was a playground for cops and criminals, and is now is just a violent jungle. When his young partner asks him why he doesn't carry a gun, he says "Two reasons: Because I use my brain, and because I'm not in America." If you want your cops to be under 30 (or at least pretending to be), wearing skinny suits with bed head haircuts and flashy cell phones, don't come knocking in this neighborhood. We've got gritty atmosphere, dry humor, real car stunts and girls who haven't known the indignity of a plastic surgeon. You wouldn't like that.