The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, January 13-19

Willkommen im Tollhaus / Welcome to the Dollhouse USA 1996 Regie: Todd Solondz Darsteller: Heather Matarazzo Rollen: Dawn Wiener

Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)
Directed by Todd Solondz
When it comes to assessing the Solondz oeuvre to date, people seem to either find a tough-minded inner compassion to his misanthropy, or think it merely petty and ugly. His debut offers evidence for both positions. From the classy cursive font of its opening titles to the snarky use of Chopin, Saint-Saëns and Tchaikovsky on the soundtrack, skin-deep irony is everywhere in this poison-pen letter to the hell of suburban adolescence, evident especially in its mile-wide caricatures of ignorant or oblivious adults. But while Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo) may be subjected to unjustified cruelty from her junior high peers, she’s so caught up in the idea of popularity being the only possible deliverance from her troubles that she isn’t above reenacting some of that cruelty on her friends and family members, deserved or not. But then, in an environment that prizes conformity and status above all else, how else is a girl like Dawn to think? Solondz would flesh out these gestures at social satire with more depth and empathy in his subsequent pictures, but even in this still-scalding debut, there’s something bracing about the way he lets not even his ostensible heroine off the hook. Kenji Fujishima (January 14, 8:45pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center as part of the New York Jewish Film Festival; Q&A with Solondz follows, along with a screening of Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog)

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