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J. Steed

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337 reviews in total 
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The Bridge (1959)
24 out of 35 people found the following review useful:
WELCOME EXCEPTION TO OTHER 50'S GERMAN WW2 FILMS, 22 November 1999
7/10

Until recently I thought that the impact as "anti-war" film of Die Brücke was far greater than that of any other anti-war film. This was from memory, not having seen the film for over 15 years. Recent re-seeing of the film did not convince me entirely anymore, though it is still to be preferred to films like Stalingrad or Saving Private Ryan.

Situated within the German WW2 cinema of the 50's (starting with "08/15" to "Hunde wollt ihr ewig leben" of 1958) the film surely is an exception in its honesty and well-meant premise. But as Wicki said in interviews and what clearly is stressed in the film, not "war" itself is the subject, the propagandist influence on youth (and I say: from any regime/government for that matter) is the main subject. The influence of the older generation who believe in stupid ideals makes the youth stupid idealists. Wicki shows a number of precisely defined examples. The boy whose parents believe in Prussian (military) ideals: he believes what his father says.

All boys are military idealists even before they are drafted, indeed they can not wait to be drafted. As the film starts they are 16 years of age, but already they have undergone "Vormilitärische Erziehung" (pre-military education) in earlier years. Whether they have got this as member of the Hitler youth or otherwise is not clear, and may not be important. The fact is that from early youth on they are educated to be a soldier and thus can be employed as soldier from day one they are drafted. They are educated in the believe that all is well when done in the name of "Führer, Volk, Vaterland". Thus: not the young soldiers are to blame, but the parents, the older generation, the political system.

To wind up: this is the main "message" Wicki has to tell and he is good at it. War itself is never the main subject (and only takes about 1/3 of the film). Oh yes, he does show how horrible it can be in very impressive scenes. Wicki does show that war is not a game of "cowboys and indians" meant for boys of 16. But does he ever show that an offensive war is to be discarded at all? It seems to me that he only shows the ridiculousness of the last days of the war, when German HQ refused to give up and employed male youth as soldiers. I also wonder whether the film should have included the war scenes at all; would it not have been a stronger film if Wicki would have elaborated the 2/3 drama into a complete drama?

Wicki's direction of this his first feature is very good and in general he made a tight drama (and sad to say is still his only really good film). But the film is alas occasionally marred by some bad melodramatic acting by some of the young actors and also by some inappropriate (vis-a-vis the realism) melodramatic turns in the script. The reaction of Karl to the relationship of his father with Barbara is logic, but executed in a banal way. And whether an American soldier would be so kind to plea seize fire without carrying a weapon is very questionable; it probably should have been a dramatic turn, but it does not work at all.

Great cinematography by Gerd von Bonin who captures the right realistic atmosphere. Certainly the film is recommended viewing. One other unintended thing the film achieved was that after this one WW2 would not be a subject for the German cinema anymore for a long time. (7/10)

Faust (1960)
14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
EXTRAORDINARY ACTING, 22 November 1999
8/10

In 1957 Gustaf Gründgens staged a new production of Goethe's Faust in which he once again played Mephisto, a part he had played since 1932. The brilliant production was a huge success and ran for a couple of years. In 1959 Peter Gorski captured the performance on film in his directorial film debut. Basically it is a registration of the production, but Gorksi did manage to accentuate the details of the acting by using enough medium and close-up shots which give a view on the acting you normally would not able to see in a theater.

How fortunate it is and how happy we can be that at least this Mephisto of Gründgens is on film (I do not know of any other Faust production with Gründgens on film). Here we can see his brilliant, if not obsessive acting to the full. Here we can also see that, although Gründgens was know for not being in favour of "modernization" of classic plays, he was not entirely against it either. The stage set is simple and almost bare which gives the production a certain light touch. Faust himself is a young man (without long beard!) who is a nuclear physicist (an idea given to Gründgens by Will Quadflieg); a very clear reference to the then nuclear race. According to Heinz Reincke (interview on tv) the exploding of the atom bomb was more sensational on stage than in this film.

So, not only for Gründgens this is a fascinating film, the staging and interpretation of the play as well make it wonderful viewing; for the first time he included the prolog. While watching this production I hardly need to consult Goethe's text; the cast read their lines with a wonderful sense of rhythm and very, very clear; productions nowadays can learn something from this. Not only Gründgens' acting can be admired, under the supervision of Gründgens the complete cast is extraordinary.

Highly recommended and a must-see for all those studying or interested in German language and culture.(8/10)

0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
MAY BE HAZARDOUS FOR THE SOUL, 22 November 1999
3/10

A by Catholicism and false sentimentality inspired, by Franz Antel directed Heimatfilm: could the premise ever be less promising? At the start of the film Sabine Bethmann tries to commit suicide by jumping into a river, probably as she was already aware what kind of film she was getting involved in (it can not be that she had that much grieve over Rudolf Prack?).

She should have been left alone, but unfortunately priest Hans Holt comes along and saves her from drowning; now the film has to continue. For the next half hour she is mum, which is understandable as she has now to face the Vienna Boy's Choir that tries to help her in refusing to shut up; she also has to deal with the unavoidable Heimatfilm lover (that's a laugh) Rudolf Prack and with our priest who gets to close to her for Catholic comfort. But not to worry, the Franz Antel was assisted by an advisor from the Catholic Church, and thus the priest is never allowed to get too close.

The soul of Sabine Bethmann may have been saved, but did the makers ever think about the soul of the viewer? (3/10)

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
LUCKILY THE LAST PART OF THE IMMENHOF SERIES, 14 November 1999
6/10

This 5th and last part of the "Immenhof series" shows how limited the story subject of the series was: for this part the story material of the first 3 parts were combined into one. As part 4 this is a 50's film made in the 70's, but luckily the script at least has a decent story and due to Wolfgang Schleif's good routine direction the film is well-paced and amusing. If there had only been a better supporting cast, one thing the first 3 parts had no trouble with. As part 4 the film is carried by Heidi Brühl and the nice twin sisters Westhausen, but to bring life to the story they are on their own. Who can tell the difference between Horst Janson and one of the horses?

So, not bad, but what luck there have not been other sequels. (6/10)

Gabriela (1950)
6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
TYPICAL LEANDER VEHICLE, 14 November 1999
7/10

After WW2 Zarah Leander made her come-back in German cinema with this film. Whether on purpose or not director/writer Geza von Cziffra made a Leander vehicle in the old (UFA) style of her films of the 40's with Leander as an independent lady from the upper middle class. As it turned out this style was obsolete in 1950 and the film was a box-office failure (and Leander's return to the German cinema as well).

Seen in retrospect after almost 50 years (and not troubled by history) I consider this film as part of Leander's film career as a whole and the film as Leander vehicle indeed fits perfectly with her films during the Nazi period. Von Cziffra wrote an in general good melodrama with all the typical Leander ingredients and with all the story ideas building up to a good final. I say in general as towards the end the story material more or less runs dry.

Von Cziffra avoids the melodrama getting sentimental by adding little (visual) jokes to those scenes which could have drifted into sentimentality thus keeping the film in balance. The first part is very good melodrama, well-directed and well-paced (and good story telling), but Von Cziffra lets the film drag a bit from the flashback scenes onwards; these flashback scenes themselves are already disturbing for the film's balance and this is never fully recovered afterwards. As said, the finale is good melodrama ("everything comes together"), but the dramatic impact is undermined as the film's pacing and balance is disturbed.

Leander is great and sings three good songs (music by Michael Jary), with one of them a very odd, romantic song: "Wann willst du mich fragen?". Very good supporting cast in Carl Raddatz, Grethe Weiser (who else for the comedy relief?) and Vera Molnar. Siegfried Breuer is a bit disappointing, he acts purely on routine. The stage dresses for Leander are exquisite; the song and dance routines in the nightclub add to the fun.

Needless to say that this is a must-see for Leander aficionados? (7/10)

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
12 FILMS FOR THE PRICE OF 1, 13 November 1999
8/10

Ever had an idea for a film? Ever actually visualized this film in your mind? Or even already drawn some sketches of scenes and angles for the camera? I think every real film buff has; I certainly have. Documentary maker Michael Glawogger invited 12 of these individuals to tell about their film idea and not only that: he shot short fragments for them. He choose the participants carefully, thereby inviting 12 very different people and thus getting 12 very different film ideas, which range from an SM/Horror fantasy à la Jesus Franco to a Franz Kafka adaptation.

Glawogger made it into a very entertaining documentary in which you can see 12 films at the same time, that is: Glawogger luckily choose to make the whole thing into a continuous "show". The alternative would of course have been to show the individual films one after the other but that would have meant an obligatory documentary. In his treatment Glawogger very cleverly mixes all the 12 films into à documentary, but he never forgets that the 12 film ideas and 12 individuals are the most important. Glawogger did not only stage and film the fragments (and showing that at least on this small scale he can treat very different genres), he also perfectly staged the interviewees in a set-up and surroundings which match their films.

The documentary also reminds the viewer - well, at least this one - that his idea may be a good one to himself, but that when seeing it actually filmed the result could be disappointing. Ah, what a shame, I see all those beautiful long-legged girls dancing and then……. (8/10)

Stadtpark (1951)
NOT UNSYMPATHETIC, TALKATIVE DRAMA, 13 November 1999
5/10

Based on a "Volksstück" (popular play) this to me seems to be a typical, sentimental "feel good" comic drama for Austrian audiences after WW2. Ingredients of the story as the missing soldier, his mother looking for a new meaning in life, the divorced parents of 7 year Peter from the title etc. and the action itself are clearly aimed at a positive look at the future and at restoration of order.

Not unsympathetic and retrospect interesting for its social implications, the film is also too sentimental and vèry, vèry talkative. The script is so-so; the building up to the final solution, though unavoidable within the genre, is not very well done: it just happens. The supporting cast is just okay, but Annie Rosar - in one of the few films in which she had a leading part - is very good. (5/10)

Hin und weg (1999) (TV)
UNSURPRISING DRAMA, 13 November 1999
5/10

Mediocrely written and hardly surprising coming-of-age drama in which quite a few characters disappear from the story as the film goes on: what ever happened to the little brother Rico? The film is mainly carried by the two leading actors Daniel Brühl and Katharina Schlüter who make this film worth watching. A chauvinist as I am wants to point out this attractive feature: t a part of the film takes place in Amsterdam, though the makers could not avoid showing a couple of cliches. It is with this film as with so many 90' s films of this mainstream genre: a nice idea, but only average and playing on safe film making. (5/10)

5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
PREPOSTEROUS, 12 November 1999
2/10

Very silly if not outright preposterous film in which director/writer/actor Armin Müller Stahl shows us a 103 year old Adolf Hitler. The aim of the film is to demystify the man Adolf Hitler, but it is a good thing that Müller-Stahl explained this when it premiered as from the film itself it is never clear what Müller-Stahl tries to achieve. It is neither satirical nor thought-provoking (the film at any moment did not provoke any thought with me as I was trying to stay awake).

What is the viewer expected to do with a Hitler who shoots peas at his visitor, refuses to take his medicine and is simply annoying to the 2 people around him. Is this supposed to be funny? The conversations do not lead anywhere and certainly no laughs, also due to the fact that there is no chemistry between Muller Stahl and Robert Balaban. The film basically only concerns itself with the story idea of the 6 actors who doubled as Adolf Hitler during his life. So what? Did Müller-Stahl wanted to say that the acting of the real Hitler made the German people believe in him?

There is one moment that is is very hilarious: one of the doubles doing the Hamlet "To be or not to be" routine in Hitlerian fashion. This is a surreal moment and maybe the whole idea should have been executed in this fashion. On the other hand: where did I see this before? John Cleese as Hitler on the balcony of a house in an English suburb; Ernst Lubitsch and Jack Benny?

It seems to me that Müller-Stahl had a "hunch at a possible idea", but forgot to make it into a solid subject for a film that would have some meaning. In stead of demystifying Hitler he made a mystifying film that never is a contribution to the Hitler debate. The very good cinematography and superb set design - Hitler's Berlin bunker was duplicated in the studio - can not save this one. (2/10)

No Sex (1999) (TV)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
NO SEX MAKES NO COMEDY, 12 November 1999
1/10

Ah yes, another one of those German mainstream (made-for-tv) comedies with its main premise: how to start a family. This time it is an architect whose first designed house goes to pieces and his sex life at the same time; wow, what a great allegory. A lot of intrusive music must cover up a bunch of inexpressive scenes, Josh Broecker's sometimes poor direction that lacks any imagination and the terrible cast.

The comedy suffocates from PC ad nauseam and that never makes good comedy; oh what a fine modern, caring, sensitive and for all communicative (would he ever stop complaining about himself?) our architect is. No wonder he is impotent. After watching this comedy anyone's sex life will go to pieces. (2/10)


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