Who is heartless enough to wish further despair on Lars von Trier? Last week, he announced—rather feelingly—that he suffers from a serious depression that has derailed his career. Not being Sigmund Freud, I can only hazard a guess that this might be an occupational hazard if your artistic specialty is picking the wings off flies (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville, etc.).
But an added irony comes in the form of The Boss of It All, which is not only Von Trier’s gentlest film, but a coolly funny one to boot. Gone are the Brechtian devices of late: the chalk lines, harsh lighting and withering stares of Lauren Bacall. Instead, as the director says himself in an intro voiceover, we get “a comedy, harmless as such,” with the camera gliding over the facade of a white corporate structure. Once inside, we meet Kristoffer (The Idiots’ Albinus), a pretentious out-of-work actor hired by shy company founder Ravn (Gantzler) to play CEO and close a deal. Complications ensue, and Kristoffer must stay on, bluffing his way through tech briefings, cubicle flings and the rude arrival of his knowing ex-wife (Grabol), an attorney for the other company.
Truthfully, these scenes are slightly beneath such a furious intellect; if Von Trier wants to play Office, he should at least shoot for one of the more dazzling episodes. But he’s definitely loosening up and rediscovering actors. So we’re pulling for you, Lars. You’re only one film away from a bright new career as a human being. (Now playing; IFC Center.) — Joshua Rothkopf