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Friday, November 5, 1999 Published at 18:06 GMT

Festival gripped by Dogme

Trainspotting's Ewan Bremner stars in the latest Dogme film

By BBC News Online Entertainment Correspondent Tom Brook

The New York Film Festival hasn't exactly turned its back on Hollywood product, but the range of films being screened this year indicates a definite preference for non-mainstream cinema.

Nowhere is this more clear than with the inclusion in the festival's lineup of Julien Donkey-Boy, a film made by Harmony Korine, the current enfant terrible of American cinema.

His film is the first picture to be made in the US according to the austere stipulations laid down by the mysterious Dogme 95 school of filmmaking.

[ image: Harmony Korine: American film's 'enfant terrible']
Harmony Korine: American film's 'enfant terrible'
Filmmakers who subscribe to the Dogme code are asked to make a "vow of chastity" in which they agree that all shooting must be done on location, the camera must be hand-held, no artificial lighting or background music should be used, and that the director must not be credited.

The Dogme guidelines were drawn up by a group of Danish filmmakers, including the acclaimed Lars von Trier, in 1995.

The American entertainment industry paper Variety has declared that Dogme is "more a clever marketing gimmick than a genuine film movement".

But its practitioners disagree, they view it as an attempt to purify cinema which the Dogme manifesto states has been "cosmeticised to death".

Harmony Korine is likely to attract as much attention for the content of Julien Donkey-Boy as he is for his Dogme connections.

[ image: Before he turned to Dogme: Korine's acclaimed film Gummo]
Before he turned to Dogme: Korine's acclaimed film Gummo
His last film, Gummo, dealt with alienated youths in a small American town who passed their time killing cats and, at one point, taking an elderly woman off life support.

It provoked outrage and the New York Times film critic Janet Maslin, who is usually quite restrained, called it "the worst film of the year" when it was released in 1997.

Julien Donkey-Boy, which stars the Scottish actor Ewen Bremner of Trainspotting fame as the paranoid schizophrenic title character, has already begun to generate some equally nasty heat.

True to Korine's style his new film lacks a linear structure and it is shot in shaky Dogma style with a hand-held digital camera. There is no story.

The camera just follows Bremner as he portrays the jabbering know-it-all Julien who kills a little boy, roams the streets and spends time in an institute for the blind.

Harrowing and disturbing as Korine's work may be, it is not without value. By ignoring the normal Hollywood rules of conduct, he does capture aspects of American culture and relationships seldom seen on screen.

But Korine remains an infuriating figure, because many find his eccentric brand of visual cinema is limited by a lack of real insight into the human condition.

[ image: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck star in Kevin Smith's Dogma]
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck star in Kevin Smith's Dogma
Other New York Film Festival off-beat offerings include the story of Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry, based on the true story of a girl masquerading as a boy in redneck Nebraska, as well as director Kevin Smith's controversial take on religion, called Dogma.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with the purist Danish school of filmmaking - it's an absurdist comedy in which Matt Damon and Ben Affleck portay rebel angels.

While New York has eschewed celebrity laden Hollywood offerings, it doesn't mean that well-known talent will be absent from the festival.

[ image: Minnie Driver's voice features in animated film Princess Mononoke]
Minnie Driver's voice features in animated film Princess Mononoke
Mike Leigh will be in town presenting his first musical film Topsy-Turvy. Bob Hoskins stars in the closing night picture, Felicia's Journey.

Kate Winslet will be seen in the new Jane Campion drama, Holy Smoke playing opposite Harvey Keitel and Minnie Driver will be heard as one of the voices in the animated Japanese hit, Princess Mononoke.

The festival opening night film comes from Spain, the critically acclaimed picture All About My Mother made by Pedro Almodovar.

[ image: Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother opens the festival]
Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother opens the festival
For foreign films the New York festival remains one of the few high-profile entry points into the US market, which in recent years has become increasingly conservative - and frighteningly resistant to non-Hollywood fare.

In fact, well over half of the 26 selected features being screened in New York this year come from non-English speaking countries, making the event a truly international celebration of cinema, as well as a refreshing antidote to the Hollywood machine.

The 37th New York Film Festival runs from 24 September to 10 October.

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