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This movie is an homage not only to the vocabulary of film noir , but
also to its social and political genesis. Film Noir developed after
World War II and was an outgrowth of both the cynicism that was
generated by WW II because it turned out to need another war to be the
war to end all wars.... and because of the enormous evil that World War
II revealed in contradistinction to the sunny idealism of the American
Film Noir of the 40's and 50's was a reaction to WW II, but those films themselves were always crime stories about naive men dragged into terrible circumstances through the lure of seductive, dangerous women. But they were never about the war itself or anything to do with the war itself. WWII movies were patriotic paeans to heroism like 30 Seconds over Tokyo or the common man like A Walk in the Sun or home front heroism like Mrs. Mininver. Indeed only Casablanca itself, as exemplified early on by Rick's character was suffused with some of the cynicism that we see in film noir, but the reason Casablance is beloved is because the cynicism melts away in the the understanding that there is something greater than one's own preservation.
What is wonderful about the Good German is that it is a Film Noir film about the War itself and also about war in general...then and now. The film and its concerns are not dated or meaningless, but very much of the moment.
The film also pays visual homage to other movies of the era, from the warm hearted cynicism of Billy Wilder's A Foreign Affair with Jean Arthur as the parochial Congressperson (like in this film) and Marlene Dietrich as the dangerous vamp with a dark past. Roberto Rossellini's Germany:Year Zero, shot in postwar Berlin, shows how fear, deprivation and terror destroy the soul as ell as the body.
The Congressman is not just a boob but a participant in the propagation of evil and the Good American General of Beau Bridges is anything but good. Indeed, as we know now Americans protected Nazis who could help us in terms of confronting the next evil--Communism and Russia. And the story they tell about the V-2 rocket is true. The Germans and Werner van Braun used up the lives and caused the deaths of Jewish and other POW's slave labor to create and launch them and we, in terms of the American occupation and the incipient CIA aka the OSS, helped mass murderers to safety.
Even the lawyer Teitel, the man researching the Nuremberg Trials, whose sole purpose is to pursue Justice, can be compromised. Tobey Maguire was chosen to play the vicious, venal Tully because to most American audiences he, as Peter Parker, typifies the best of America. He is meant to be jarring to the audience. Lena, indeed is the vamp, but unlike old film noir like Out of the Past, she doesn't lead Jake on, Jake misleads himself about her. She is just a desperate woman struggling to survive.
Some would say this is a movie about moral ambiguities, but I think it's not that ambiguous. The filmmakers have cast judgment on some of our post war behavior and found it wanting.
The only romanticism in this movie is in the style, a valentine to the look of old movies; there is no romanticism in its view of America at war.
Steven Soderberg is a hit-or-miss director. Either his films are
acclaimed and loved by most, or they're infamous and hated. Having read
the reviews, and having heard the negative buzz, I was expecting a
miss. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.
The film was mesmerizing. Say what you will about it, you have to commend Soderbergh on his cinematography skills. Black and white hasn't looked this good since "The Man Who Wasn't There". It was so rich, with so many textures. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. Definitely some of the best looking cinematography I've seen this year.
Also the score is great. It evokes just the right noir-ish atmosphere. The editing is crisp and clever. All of the technical elements of this movie are flawless.
I heard people complain about the story and the acting. I thought the acting was great. Clooney looks like he just came out of the 50's. He reminded me of Cary Grant. Cate Blanchett is perfect as the femme fatale. I can't think of any better casting choices for an old school film noir than these two.
I also thought the story was engaging, even though it was sometimes confusing. I loved the way the information was dispersed, and the fact that the film changes perspectives, and at different points it's narrated by different characters. Some of the revelations in the plot were really sophisticated.
Making this film the way it was made, using old school techniques, lighting, camera lenses, etc. was a gutsy move. I applaud Soderbergh for his experimentation. And I thin it's a successful one - it really feels like a 50's film noir classic. I wouldn't say it's Soderbergh's best film, but it's certainly one of his his most unique ones, and a return to form after a string of failures. I highly recommend it.
Soderbergh continues to experiment, but as with Solaris, it just
doesn't pay off.
Its clear that from the off that Soderbergh has set himself a strict mandate for this film, make it as much like a forties movie as possible. The music, the acting style, the lighting, the process shots and background paintings all give it a great look and feel.
However, everything is so low key and downbeat that it fails to deliver any suspense or menace. What is essentially a modern thriller dressed as classic noir just isn't thrilling. The plot twist and turns but the drama is never heightened, the pace never seems to increase, it just plods along to its conclusion.
Apart from the sex and swearing, the actors seem straight jacketed into their roles by the 40's styling seemingly because the script lacks any of the dry wit and charm you'd find in a genuine movie of this era. George Clooney for example has every little to do, his character has none of the snappy dialog you'd expect, given his Marlowe-esquire role in the plot. Soderbergh compounds matters by drawing an unfortunate comparison with Bogart. Though generally the acting was of the high quality you'd expect from such a sterling cast, it's difficult to empathise with their characters plights given the lack of suspense or melodrama.
Overall the experiment fails to deliver anything other than a beautifully shot but unengaging film.
I thought The Good German was a terrific, thought-provoking, movie, an
unsentimental view of what it costs to survive war, for nations and
individuals. The cast is excellent: George Clooney is the solid
American we know from old movies: not glamorous, not necessarily
heroic, but good; Tobey Maguire turns the boy soldier cliché upside
down. Cate Blanchett is delicate and beautiful, but colder than ice.
Reporter Clooney comes to Berlin just as the war ends to work, and to find former lover Blanchett. Covering the Potsdam Conference, he uncovers a murder, and the fierce post-war battles between Russia and the U.S. to win Germany's scientists. The movie is filled with people willing to betray any good inclination for their causes, which range from enhanced military strength to a better life away from war-ravaged Germany. What's the price for Clooney's reporter, and is it worth the cost?
I don't see how any thinking person can't find resonance in today's headlines!
A clever look: imitation vintage B-movie in black and white; Steven
Soderbergh's appropriate, artful gimmick for this film set in Berlin in
the immediate aftermath of WWII.
Cate Blanchett turns in an apt theatrical performance given "The Bad German's" archly retro conceit. As the film's mother/whore femme fatale, Cate is sphinx-like, world-weary and made up like a drag queen at Mardi Gras. George Clooney, meanwhile, turns in his routine performance that is altogether too modern and casual. Put him in scrubs and he's ready again for the ER. Together, they create no chemistry nor any other natural science. Toby McGuire, as a sleazy, black-marketing GI, is so painfully hammy you'll find yourself begging for him to stop.
The storyline is awkwardly developed and unnecessarily opaque, its characters cold and remote. There's really nobody to cheer for or identify with; no emotions to hook us into this world. When was the last time that international intrigue, on-screen, was so unintriguing? It's too bad we've been served such an exciting cinematic look -- an overly lit, noir-like one -- only as window dressing on a story as bleak and dreary as the blitzkrieged landscapes on view.
The best film to evoke the period in recent memory. Blanchett and Clooney lead a strong cast and make a better film than expected from the novel's source material. Archival newsreel footage of 1945 Berlin and black and white cinematography put to very effective use. Toby McGuire as a self-serving, mean spirited weasel shows another side of the usually boyish charmer. Beau Bridges well cast as the US army brass who bears a self-righteous similarity to contemporary military higher-ups who think they have a corner on deciding the right thing to do. Secrets, lies, love and intrigue woven together to form a provocative study of moral ambiguities and tough choices in wartime. Highly recommended.
Soderbergh is a director with a decent amount of guts but not a lot of talent. Here he attempts to make a classic Hollywood film, reminiscent of The Third Man and Casablanca, by mimicking, or at least trying to mimic, the classical style of cinematography, by scratching the negative, having the dialogue recorded on mono (I think), and having the actors deliver performances along the lines of the studio days. The gimmick honestly doesn't work all that well. Lovers of classic films will notice how different the film-making is from that of the '40s. How hazy the cinematography is compared to Casablanca or The Third Man (it looks like you're watching a movie on a black and white television). Or how much more swearing and sexual content there is in the film. Yes, the gimmick is a weak one and somewhat detrimental to the rest of the film. Otherwise, it's a pretty good mystery. Not a great one. The pacing lags in the middle, and the mystery only starts to make sense right near the end, when much of the audience has stopped caring. The film's strongest asset is Cate Blanchett, who channels Marlene Dietrich. She is easily one of today's best actresses, and the only cinematographic triumph of the film is the lighting of her face she's drop-dead beautiful. I'll probably be hung by the nostalgists, but I'd take her in both her acting skills and beauty over the lead actresses of Casablanca and The Third Man. George Clooney is decent, but his character is fairly two-dimensional. He's a pretty boring hero. I really liked Tobey Maguire, though. His character was much more interesting, and I wish he could have been in the movie more. I absolutely loved the climactic sequence, but the film continues on for too long after that. Blanchett's big revelation at the end feels rather anticlimactic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Once you get past the gimmick of black and white, about ten minutes into the film, I would say, the rest goes down hill. There is no explication as why characters act the way they do for most of the principal parts. Why for example is the Scottish bar keep so willing to do anything and everything for the Kate character? And, while we're at it, what is a Scot doing running a bar in post-war Berlin? Huh? What is Kate character's motivation for acting the way she does throughout the movie in terms of her husband? Practically everyone walks through his part and about an hour into the film, I was hoping I could make a fast exit but I was with friends. This movie goes absolutely no where, the plot is clichéd and trite and you would do better to feed the pigeons in the park for entertainment.
I was so aware of the attempted style of the film that I could hardly concentrate on anything else. The look, oh, the look. Clooney and Blanchet - Bergman, Bogart, shadows and fog. Pity. It could have been a tense war time thriller - Who is he? Where is he? What is it about? I was always mesmerized by questions like that on films that "The Good German" seems to want to emulate. Sodebergh is one my most recent favorites and one of the main reasons is because he is unafraid of taking chances. The question is, what are the chances taken for? I get more "Bubble" - sort of - than "The Good German" Blanchet is great to watch, she's Hildegarde Kneff and/or a lip-full Gloria Grahame but other than admire her right there on the screen I wasn't permitted to feel anything. George Clooney is just as solid in black and white as he is in color and Tobey McGuire - well, the best I can say is that his contribution is brief. What I took with me as the most valuable aspect of this experiment is/was Thomas Newman's classically colorful score.
I went in to see this movie with expectations relatively low . The
company I was in had dragged me to see INLAND EMPIRE which I am on
record as saying was the worst movie I have paid to see . It should
also be remembered that this movie had a very limited release both
sides of the pond which considering has an Oscar winning director and
three big names in the cast is not a good sign , so I went in with
fairly low expectations
Perhaps my low expectations worked in the film's favour because it's a very effective film noir/ political thriller . Soderberg has brought a metonym to the story . He directs in monochrome and has mixed his own filmed material with stock footage of a devastated Berlin . Remember all those old movies where someone is driving a car and it's painfully obvious that it's filmed on a studio set with back projection ? Well there's a scene featuring Toby McGuire and George Clooney in a jeep where the same technique is used . The film also contains a title sequence straight out of the 1940s and has scenes with an overlong shot duration same as film from yesteryear
Unfortunately by doing this Soderbergh draws attention to the fact that Paul Attanasio's screenplay wasn't written in the 40s because there's a sex scene and several uses of the F word . If you're making a film that's a homage to 1940s cinema shouldn't you go the whole hog and write a screenplay in the same manner ? Hasn't the producer shot himself in the foot ? You'll be left scratching your head wondering why sex and bad language has been included
Still it's a minor complaint and one that doesn't destroy the movie which has a plot and if you had no idea that Cate Blanchett has been cast as Lena Brandt then you'd genuinely believe that her character was played by a European actress . Blanchett is the best actress in the world today and the fact that she wasn't Oscar nominated is another symptom that the annual academy awards are becoming more and more worthless . Tobey McGuire as Tully is considered less effective mainly because he has a sex scene which brought the cry from a couple of my cinema companions " That under no circumstances should spidey be seen to have sex " but seeing as they were both females I'm sure they were upset that George Clooney didn't get the opportunity to do some on screen horizontal jogging . Students of film studies will know the term " Impact aesthetics " and there's a great example of this when Captain Geismer studies a hundred dollar bill which will have you jumping out of your seat in fright
This is a fairly good thriller which while it isn't a film for everyone did hold my attention through its running time and despite it's somewhat retro formalist technique has me asking why it didn't get a wider release in both Britain and America ?
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