Friday, 6 December 2013

A review: "Spies & Glistrup" [2013 Denmark]

Cristoffer Boe (of Reconstruction fame) originally wanted to dramatise the life of late airline tycoon Simon Spies, but upon discovering the extraordinary friendship he also had with lawyer-turned-politician Mogens Glistrup, Boe decided to make a film about their relationship instead through "Spies & Glistrup" [Eng. Title: Sex, Drugs & Taxation].

Based on and inspired by true events, this is the tale of an unlikely friendship between two larger-than-life public figures from the swinging sixties - both of them radical and perverse in their different ways. Simon (Pilou Asbæk), owner of a budget holiday travel company, is playboy extraordinaire who's also soaked in drugs-culture. Mogens (Nicolas Bro - a regular in Boe's films) is a corporate tax lawyer and family man, but with a distinctly libertarian streak - he wants to abolish taxes and the entire state system that it funds. Driven by his anarchic vision, Mogens employs his knowledge of tax law to mastermind takeovers on behalf of Simon, and exploits loopholes that won't require Simon's company to pay tax. Simon meanwhile, succeeds in making his name and company popular by exploiting his own addiction to sex, by organising stunts in public, and calling in tabloid press photographers to watch him have sex with a number of willing prostitutes, assembly line-style, and grading their vaginas based on his findings. The shrewd family-minded Mogens and a fiendishly whore-mongering Simon will compliment their skills in making Simon a billionaire airlines magnate.

Having achieved what he wanted, Simon retreats to a Mediterranean island to experiment with LSD, transcendental meditation, and of course - plenty of sex, with his retinue of 'morgenbolledamer' (morning fuck/bun ladies). But for Mogens, it's only the beginning - he wants to abolish the tax system altogether, and goes public with the fact that he had been helping companies avoid paying tax. This will draw the attention of the judiciary, that will stir old rivalries, test friendships, strain family relationships, and induce betrayals. While being investigated for tax evasion, Mogens will start a political party of his own and will also become member of parliament, even if that wouldn't protect him from being prosecuted. Simon Spies and Mogens Glistrup are but a product of their times - each hoping to start a revolution of their own. And they almost succeed...

The film is magnificently crafted despite its straightforward narrative. Cristoffer Boe's sharp direction combined with his collaboration with screenwriter Simon Pasternak has produced an engaging film with a depth in characterisation. It is not only rich in detail, but also entertaining. The protagonists' unbelievably outrageous behaviour shocks as much as it induces laughter - whether it is flashing an erect penis to pacify a gorilla, calling the very idea of tax and government immoral, or interviewing prospective brides by stripping them naked and even trying them out for sex. It is even more shocking when we learn that these are broadly based on actual events. Pilou Asbæk and Nicolas Bro vividly bring to life the outlandish characters that they play. We are endeared to their characters despite their maniacal qualities. Boe succeeds in pushing the boundaries on what can be acceptably shown to a mainstream audience - there is drama, comedy, irony, and also explicit nudity - it is imprudent, but tawdry it ain't. It is Highly Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Order Link [PAL] | Blu-ray Order Link


The Nudity: Pilou Asbæk, Sarahsita Lassen, Pia Lund, Camilla Lehmann, and many more
Pilou Asbæk is spectacular, to put it mildly, as he struts around as the libidinous Simon Spies, the dirty middle-aged man (he's only thirty one by the way). As for the women, there are too many of them appearing in the nude, so I'm restricting the names to those who also have speaking parts. Sarahsita Lassen is Lillian, one of the girls Simon singles out for praise after an assembly-line sex session. Pia Lund is Dorte, one of the many applicants interviewed by Simon in trying to choose a future wife - his male assistants join in the inspection too. Camilla Lehmann plays Inger, a cute blond who briefly becomes Simon's live-in girlfriend - she apparently also makes the best pickles in Copenhagen. She's seen wearing only an apron in a kitchen scene, followed by a post-coital tender moment in bed with Simon, when she's completely in the nude.

Pilou Asbæk, Sarahsita Lassen, Pia Lund, Camilla Lehmann and others nude in Spies & Glistrup aka Sex, Drugs & Taxation


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