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Karlovy Vary II

 Nick Nolte is a no-show. He cancelled at the last minute to appear with his documentary, "Nick Nolte: No Exit," leaving the director, Thomas Thurman, holding the bag. So much for his opportunity to join the ranks of such celebrated Karlovy Vary visitors as Karl Marx, Kamal Ataturk, Anton Dvorak and, this year, Robert De Niro, Christopher Lee and Rita Tushingham.That's his decision. Far be it for me to judge.

Except when it comes to movies. And so, back to work. Our local Czech member of the jury, Jan, has already seen all the films in competition in order to preview them for television and he said that he thought the first film screened was the best. Which doesn't give you much motivation to watch the remaining 13. Then again, he might be wrong. So far, though, in my opinion, after 8 movies, he is not.

The film is Henrik Ruben Genz's "Terribly Happy," or as it's known in the original Danish, "Frygtelig Lykkelig." A cop from Copenhagen, reassigned for disciplinary reasons, pulls into a squalid hamlet in Denmark's South Jutland region. First off, if these festivals serve no other purpose at all, they at least provide tips to the unwary traveler, and if I were you I'd cross South Jutland off my list of future tourist destinations. If the Bates Motel were an entire community it would resemble this town. The local bully wears a cowboy hat and bolo tie and gets drunk and breaks people's arms. His wife is a schizo slut who tries to seduce the new cop, presumably so her husband will break his arm. Her feral daughter pushes a baby carriage with a squeaky wheel late at night whenever her husband beats her up. Then there's the Bog, where people, outsiders especially, disappear.Nonetheless, it's not long before the new cop feels right at home.

Genz's amoral, vaguely sadistic black comedy reminds me of the Coen Brothers' "Blood Simple" and John Dahl's "Red Rock West." More recently it calls to mind films I saw last year at Thessaloniki, "Jar City" and "Cargo 200" (the latter also screening here, and apparently consigned to the festival loop without ever finding a distributor). Good but not great is the general consensus. Six more, however, remain.

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