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The earnest tone of the opening chapter is deliberately, amusingly exaggerated: Seigelman’s busy cross-referencing of Joe’s every utterance to some piece of arcane piece of book-knowledge (citing everything from Mann and Poe, to Fibonacci Numbers and the history of Republican Rome) plays like a parody of a Tom Stoppard drama – showoff-y in its erudition, neurotically culturally omnivorous.An amateur fly fisherman, his attempts to match her carnal appetites to the finer details of the sport – complete with some extremely witty visual cutaways – prove endlessly entertaining. After one lengthy speech, she fixes him with a weary gaze: "I think that was your weakest digression yet," she sighs.) Manny Farber, the great American critic, once outlined the distinction between bloated, pretentious art movies (which he called ‘white elephant art’) and the smaller, more industrious and inventive ‘termite art’ he favoured.
(Okay, maybe just one, delivered with pitch-perfect mock-ingenuousness: ‘Might the children .Instead, he takes her inside, tends her wounds, and puts her to bed. Ceaselessly impelling her from one encounter to another.(The film opens with a bracing blast of Rammstein; it might have been better scored to Jay-Z’s ‘On to the Next One’.) Perhaps, she wonders, he would care to hear her story? And so, in a series of inventively-titled chapters – von Trier does like his formalist devices – she proceeds to relate her erotic history.In which we return once more to Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), still holed up in her new friend Seligman’s spare room, and still telling the long and detailed—but mostly just —story of her sex life.
Not much has changed from the first film: her voice is still a kind of throaty, broken whisper; her reminiscences remain mostly self-loathing in tone, though occasionally shade into the actively nihilistic.Von Trier is the white elephant filmmaker par excellence.