MIFUNE

3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 99 minutes
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The tip-off comes way before Kresten (Anders W. Berthelsen), in an interesting case of role reversal, is lying disinterestedly on his back on his honeymoon while his newlywed wife Claire rides, writhes, screams and moans herself to ecstasy. It arrives way, way before he receives word that his father has died, forcing him to interrupt the honeymoon to put affairs in order on his father’s farm; a bit awkward, since he’s already told Claire that his father died years ago. And it’s apparent way, way, WAY before Kresten lays his eyes on the lovely Liva (Iben Hjejle), the housekeeper he hires to look after both the decrepit homestead and his mentally challenged brother Rud (Jesper Asholt). The tip-off comes in the beginning of “Mifune,” when Kresten assures his new mother-in-law that, “It will last,” as he and Claire are pulling away from the Copenhagen church in their horse-drawn carriage. Kresten and Claire are both such shallow, yuppie schmucks, you can tell this marriage is doomed before the words are even out of his mouth. Although Kresten, essentially trapped now at his father-in-law’s company, finds the prospect of a simple life on the family farm with Liva especially appealing, it’s only when Claire arrives unannounced and finds her hubby and his helper in a compromising, but still innocent position, that her kept-man finds himself free to fall in love for real. Yet, there’s nothing Rockwellian about this situation. The only kind of housekeeping Liva has done up to this point is the kind where she showed up at a wealthy client’s house in a skimpy French maid’s costume. True, the pay was better and she didn’t have to do windows, but prostitution was taking an emotional toll on her. It’s only when she became spooked by a particularly creative and persistent obscene phone caller that she even answered Kresten’s newspaper ad. Factor in a smitten Rud’s delusional behavior — a staunch UFO believer, he’s convinced Liva’s a character from one of his comic books — and the arrival of Liva’s snobby juvenile delinquent brother Bjarke (Emil Tarding), and this screwy collection puts the “D” in Dysfunctional family. Oddly, the fact that “Mifune” is, at its core, more of a film about families than it is a conventional romantic comedy allows director Soren Kragh-Jacobsen to extract some life out of this otherwise worn “Pretty Woman”-like set-up. Hjejle is, if possible, even more lovely here than she is as John Cusack’s winsome flame in “High Fidelity” — and is easily more appealing in a similar role than Julia “Robo-Babe” Roberts…who, I hate to admit, did a nice job as Erin Brockovich. But I digress. Hollywood, of course, is always eager to satiate our seemingly never-ending appetite for romance. Yet, it’s “Mifune”‘s understated tone — odd to say that for a screwball comedy, but true — as well as the remarkably endearing performances of all concerned that separates this Danish film from the mainstream mire faster than Kresten and Claire call it quits.



Posted on April 29, 2000 in Reviews by
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