Michael Kohlhaas (France/Germany, 2013)

mads-mikkelsen-michael-kohlhaas-poster-skipDirected by: Arnaud des Pallières. I went with the French title, simply the protagonist’s name, rather than the anglo name, Age of Uprising: Michael Kohlhaas, because I thought it sounded puffed-up and stupid, and I kind of hate titles with a colon in it, especially when it’s not part of a stupid superhero franchise. Anyway, this was a pretty great little movie, one of those examples of a contemporary foreign film that makes me ask myself why I don’t watch more foreign films. It has a historical angle (apparently based on a true story I was unaware of) which I like, it’s a story told with beautiful scenery and restrained, subtle, muted characterization (hardly any dialogue), and it features my man Mads (who, after this movie, I realized is truly the Ferrero Rocher of leading man actors, compared to dear Liam Neeson’s Pot of Gold). Throw in a supporting role for Bruno Ganz and you’ve got yourself a great time. Mads’ performance is only more impressive when you consider that when he signed on he didn’t speak any French and couldn’t ride a horse, the two things that he basically spends the entire movie doing, if not one then the other. I’ve seen Mads do his thing a few times now, first, most likely, as the villain in Casino Royale, then I believe in the Pusher trilogy (of which I think Pusher 2 is his main role), and then another Nicolas Winding Refn jam Valhalla Rising (which is a pretty similar role to this), and then in a supporting role in the execrable King Arthur, not to mention a welcome cameo in the Rihanna video for “Bitch Better Have My Money”. I deliberately avoid TV that I suspect to be bad, but his presence sorely tempts me to check out Hannibal. So then, what is it about Mads? Immediately, his appearance is very striking, his face giving that mixture of handsome and kind of unconventional, skewed, not-quite-ugly, but odd and memorable quality that made Bogart a leading man (after, like Mads, stepping out of the shadow of being a villain). He just looks really striking, he has a face that you want to look at, and once you see it, you remember it. And I don’t want to downplay his considerable talents either, because he can do more with his eyes and his brow and so on that most actors. His foreign accent (it’s Danish, but to North Americans, it’s just “European”) only gives him more mystique, more of an aura, and he plays it up. He lends everything he does (witness, again, the Rihanna video) an extra layer of seriousness, of gravity, of real-world authenticity, and simultaneously, of sleek, polished, European stylistic sheen. What am I even talking about anymore? I’ll need to catch up on his Danish oeuvre, which I’m assuming isn’t as immediately gratifying (read: dumb) as Liam Neeson’s filmography, might just yield some very rewarding treasures. And yes, he’s a dreamboat. (Did I mention I’m not a real film critic?)

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