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FoxNews, March 23rd 2004 - Nicole In Chains

Nicole Kidman's new, unusual film, "Dogville," won the night last night as far as star power and movie quality is concerned.

Kidman's three-hour Lars von Trier extravaganza screened in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan before Kidman, legendary actress Lauren Bacall, indie-movie star Patricia Clarkson and veteran actor Ben Gazzara, plus hot newcomers such as Gael García Bernal and Sam Rockwell, as well as artist-director Julian Schnabel.

Kidman, dressed in elegant black with silver cuffs, stole the night as usual, graciously working the press line and giving her all for what has to be the most psychedelic movie on her resumé.

I do know that she did it for von Trier — who does not travel from his native Denmark — but also for Interview magazine's Ingrid Sischy, who hosted the afterparty.

"Dogville" is the kind of film we used to love in the '70s, but now — with everyone checking box-office receipts every 10 seconds — is harder to get into theatres. Its length is daunting, and so is the concept. There are no real sets, and it looks like a theatrically staged play when it begins.

But this film — which every cinephile in the world will see, and then buy on DVD — is hugely involving, with a lot of drama and a real sense of humor.

It also boasts a terrific cast — Bacall, Gazzara, Clarkson, Chloe Sevigny, Stellan Skarsgård, Zeljko Ivanek and Blair Brown — with an unexpectedly great performance by Paul Bettany as the hero and maybe Nicole's love interest.

There's also a big payoff at the end with James Caan as Kidman's dad, a force to be reckoned with. After all these years, Caan is back. Who'da thunk it? With his TV show "Las Vegas" and this film, it's like he never went away.

"Dogville" has met with some criticism as being anti-American. It's not. It's an allegory, very much a rethinking of stories like "Our Town" and "The Lottery."

It also has one of the strongest scripts I can recall, with John Hurt narrating throughout the three hours. Kidman gives her best performance since "The Hours." If enough people see "Dogville," it's possible she will return to the Academy Awards next winter.

But it's to Kidman's and Bettany's credit that they pull this project off: They are never boring, always interesting, and make their characters — as well as the entire "Dogville" scenario — mesmerizing. You never take your eyes off of them.

And Kidman — well, you'll have to see it to understand — spends a great deal of the film with a kind of weird makeshift bear trap around her neck as she drags a weight. It's Nicole, in chains.

Today, Nicole is off to the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas with Glenn Close and Bette Midler, where they will show off scenes from their upcoming "The Stepford Wives." Then it's back to New York to continue shooting "The Interpreter."

Where are her children? On spring holiday with ex-husband Tom Cruise.

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