Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Teddy Bear: the Big Hearted Sundance Award Winner
do single men visit Thailand? Right, but
not Dennis Petersen. He is there looking
for true love. It ought to be able to
find him. The Danish bodybuilder is
certainly conspicuous enough in Mads Matthiesen’s Teddy Bear (trailer
opens tomorrow at New York’s Film Forum.
takes about ten seconds to figure out why the gentle giant is so socially
awkward. His controlling mother Ingrid
is something else alright. However, when
his bachelor uncle Bent returns from Thailand with a surprise bride, Petersen
is persuaded to give it a try himself.
Of course, as far as Mother Ingrid knows, he is in Dusseldorf for a
competition—and even that cover story didn’t go over so well.
with Uncle Bent’s more or less procurer, Petersen is profoundly put off by the
realities of Thailand’s sex tourism trade.
He prefers the friendly environment of a local gym. It happens to be run by Toi, the relatively
young widow of the original proprietor. Once
the two meet, things should run their course, but Petersen remains painfully
shy and he still has mother dearest waiting back in Denmark.
on his well received short film, simply titled Dennis, Matthiesen snagged the directing award at this year’s Sundance
Film Festival. He certainly shows rare patience
and restraint in his feature debut. Foreswearing
big dramatic showiness, he is true to his protagonist’s introversion (as well
as the general Scandinavian reserve).
Instead, he focuses on small but telling moments that ultimately add up
nobody else in the world could have played Petersen quite as credibly Kim Kold,
reprising his role in the precursor short.
He certainly has the hulking physique, but he also projects a very real
sense there is a deeply sensitive soul buried beneath that muscle mass. Likewise, Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard is quite
endearing as the woman who can see Petersen for the man he is and also perhaps
the man he can still be. Yet, nobody makes
a greater impression than Elsebeth Steentoft, fiercely steely as the brazenly
Matthiesen has a nice visual sense, often making
the oversized Petersen look small amid the teeming vice-filled streets of
Pattaya. Though definitely unhurried,
his pacing is never slack or labored.
Rather, he takes viewers exactly where he intends to, in his own good
time. Recommended for mature viewers,
meaning those who have seen a bit of life and can appreciate Petersen’s halting
efforts to find his place in the world, Teddy
Bear opens tomorrow (8/22) in New York at Film Forum.
Labels: Scandinavian Cinema