Monday, January 15, 2007

Gypo: Grade B


Gypo (2005)

Pauline McLynn, Chloe Sirene, Paul McGann, Rula Lenska, Tamzin Dunstone. Director cannot be revealed, but Jan Dunn has writing credits.

Gypo is a derogatory slang term for Gypsy, which is itself a slang term for the Romany people of central Europe. In this zero-budget British Indie, a low class English family meets a mother and daughter from the Czech Republic. They are hoping to get British passports soon, but fear being hunted and returned home by abusive husband and brothers. The big-hearted English housewife offers food, friendship, and comfort even while she struggles to care for her insolent and irresponsible daughter’s child. The boorish husband is ignorant, racist, and useless. The mean Romany husband and brother do show up and the women try to escape them. This basic story is told three times, once through the eyes of the housewife, again from the point of view of her husband, and finally as experienced by the Romany mother. Unfortunately, I did not catch on to that schema until the end of the movie so I was confused much of the time. It’s a much better movie the second time. The acting is so convincing that you squirm in your chair at the difficult interpersonal interactions portrayed. Sets and locations are perfect. The commentary on immigration, economics, and racism in Britain is acute. The main drawback is that the story line is very weak.

What gives this movie another dimension entirely is the fact that it is a Dogme film. “Dogme 95” is a collective of filmmakers founded in Copenhagen in 1995. The director Lars Von Trier is its best known ringleader. The Dogme filmmakers reject the Hollywood trend of using CGI, special effects, and other tricks to show unreal fantasies rather than genuine human drama. To this end, Dogme filmmakers must adhere to certain rules in order to produce a certified Dogme film (See the rules at These rules include, no special effects (not even music added on later), no sets or props, hand-held camera only, natural lighting, and so on. Another is that the director may not take credit for the work. I have enjoyed several Von Trier Dogme films before (such as Dogville) but this one is not so highly stylized as his. It has a very natural, believable feel which really makes me take the whole Dogme idea much more seriously.

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