Review: ‘Bang Bang Orangutang’

Simon Staho's seriocomic "Bang Bang Orangutang" seems afraid of being thought dull. But this quirky, mostly enjoyable item about the endless humiliations of a businessman trying to pick up the pieces of his destroyed life is at its best when at it's quietest. Limited offshore play is likely.

Like a shy, well-mannered boy trying to get attention by donning a loud Hawaiian shirt, Simon Staho’s seriocomic “Bang Bang Orangutang” seems afraid of being thought dull. But this quirky, mostly enjoyable item about the endless humiliations of a businessman trying to pick up the pieces of his destroyed life is at its best when at it’s quietest. Featuring an energetic central perf by Mikael Persbrandt, stylistically brash pic is meandering and repetitive with unnecessarily strident visuals, but its faults are redeemed by its gentler, human moments. Limited offshore play is likely.

The outlandishly exaggerated opening sequence has power-drunk middle-aged businessman Ake (Persbrandt) ignoring the pleas of a man he just fired to put him back on the payroll. But what looks like a setup for a satire on modern business quickly changes when Ake, who is trying to drive and talk on his cell phone making a big money deal at the same time, hits and kills his youngest son in his driveway.

Within the space of 20 minutes, Ake losses his wife Nina (Lena Olin) and child Emma (cute tot Mimmi Benckert Claesson), the support of the rest of his family, and his job. He starts work as a cab driver, sleeping in his taxi outside his old house and picking up and having sex with younger Linda (Tuva Novotny).

Much of the remainder of the pic displays the humiliations to which Linda, and the script, subject Ake. There is an uneasy sense that the script is reveling in his punishment a little too much.

The only moments of brief redemption come in pic’s best, quietest moments — the nuanced late night conversations between Ake and Emma, which range from truly tender to outrageously comic.

Most of pic is shot inside Ake’s taxi, recording the conversations that take place there. To add visual interest, helmer does some weird and wonderful things with color: Pic’s stylistic hallmark is in its presentation of the surrounding city through a variety of mainly blue and orange filters.

This initially effective device, however, quickly starts to pall. In addition, at least 15 minutes could have been cut from the meandering, sometimes repetitive dialogues.

Persbrandt does good, energetic work as the gorilla-like, goofy-looking Ake. Other perfs, of mainly undeveloped roles, are fine. Music sounds like a personal selection from helmer’s home jukebox, with the likes of the Clash and Iggy Pop employed with little subtlety.

For the record, co-scripter Peter Asmussen also co-wrote Lars von Trier’s pioneering Dogma piece “Breaking the Waves.”

Bang Bang Orangutang

Denmark-Sweden

Production

A Cinevita Film Co.(Denmark)/Sonet Film (Sweden), Film i Vast, Viasat Broadcasting U.K., Zentropa Entertainment production. (International sales: Trust Film Sales, Hvidovre, Denmark.) Produced by Jonas Frederiksen. Directed by Simon Staho. Screenplay, Peter Asmussen, Staho.

Crew

Camera (color), Erik Kress, Kim Hogh; editor, Janus Billeskov Jansen; music, The Clash, Iggy Pop, Etta James; art director, Kia Nord; sound (Dolby Digital), Kristain Eidnes Andersen. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 22, 2005. Running time: 106 MIN.

With

Mikael Persbrandt, Lena Olin, Tuva Novotny, Michael Nyqvist, Jonas Karlsson, Fares Fares, Mimmi Benckert Claesson. (Swedish dialogue)

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