Cinema: Putting on the Dogme

This rigorous form of filmmaking is all the rage. First stop: Copenhagen. Next stop: Hollywood?

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Dogme might seem way too, well, dogmatic; a director who has filmed under its rules must sign a "confession" of any deviations. (Korine: "I confess that in the turkey-dinner scene, I made my grandmother go to the grocery store and buy a batch of raw cranberries ...") But Dogme is as much a game as it is a cult. Indeed, Korine broke nearly every commandment; like Rasputin, he wants to sin so he can repent. At the beginning he stages a violent death (Rule 6). At the end he credits himself (Rule 10). In between he uses slow motion, stop motion, superimposition, all kinds of optical tricks (Rule 5). And the vaunted Dogme "simplicity"? This is 1999's most mannered film. And, though smartly shot with digital video equipment, the most fakey: three actors mingling with the disabled and dispossessed. Nothing screams artifice so much as the collision of the reel and the real.

The danger of any innovation is that it quickly becomes calcified. But that may not happen with Dogme. The Danes who made the first four films under it are planning a millennial blast. Each will film part of a script written by the four, and each director's scenes will be shown live on a different TV channel on Dec. 31, with viewers doing their own editing by flicking the remote. And as U.S. auteurs, locked in stasis, consider the next century, the Danish challenge might look appealing. Who better than Spielberg to teach an old Dogme new tricks?

--Reported by Georgia Harbison/New York and Jeffrey Ressner/Los Angeles

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