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Wolfi-10

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29 reviews in total 
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Zigeunerliebe (1974) (TV)
An impressive production of an enticing operetta marred by unintelligible lyrics., 29 June 2008
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a lavish staging of one of Franz Lehar's operettas and, like all of his creations, chock full of beguiling music and enchanting songs. A young girl of a better Hungarian homestead meets, on the morning of her planned engagement to a caring and well-to-do boy of the neighborhood, a gypsy man, and gets second thoughts about settling down so young to a life of bourgeois tranquillity. Sure, she loves the boy, but the "free and easy" life at the side of the dazzling gypsy looks mighty alluring. She does not go through with the engagement, but has in the following night a revealing dream about the reality of gypsy life. Of course, the operetta was written long before the age of "political correctness", when gypsies were thought of - probably befittingly - as wandering folk with loose morals who lived by begging, fortune telling, stealing and occasionally playing music. Hence, the following morning she is thoroughly cured of her gypsy temptation, and all is good for herself and her boy. Her widowed dad is less lucky ensnaring the sexy young widow of the neighboring castle.

That's a good operetta story, and it is presented here at a lively pace with lots of people moving in captivating scenery, rousing music impeccably recorded, and beautiful voices. Beautiful, but, alas, unintelligible. No, not a language barrier for this reviewer, rather the style of "operatic" singing where all consonants are dropped in favor of loudness to fill a 500-seat opera house. A singsong by vowels only may be suitable for Hawaiian, but renders a presentation in German impossible to understand. Why, oh why, didn't the director tell his singers: pipe down, pronounce the words properly - because much of the story is told by the lyrics, and nobody enjoys to just sit there and watch singing heads. It would have been a great movie.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Wrong signals from deceptively nice movie., 14 June 2008
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The boys of London toil in a cotton mill and are enthralled by Daniel Defoe's just published story "Robinson". Although the book was banned by King George II, it circulates underground; and scores of boys flock at night to Defoe's modest lodgings to hear him reveal more details and embellishments. The work in the "mill" (which is still a hand-operated factory) is boring, and the boys mull over nothing more than to go to sea and find Robinson's island for themselves. Yet they understand perfectly well that they need to work to make a living; and Defoe's remark that children should play instead of work is met with their hearty laughter.

This is shown at the beginning of the film, which soon, however, changes the course of its sociological underpinnings from the mores of the 18th century towards the apologetic permissibility of the late 20th. When little Ben is to be punished by 25 strokes with the belt for shooting an arrow into a courtier's back (while playing Robinson, of course), his father is most reluctant to carry it out and reiterates Ben's lame excuse that it was "just an accident". What remains unmentioned is the cause of this accident, namely Ben having pointed his bow towards said courtier. Why, my own father would have whipped me with conviction in the 1940s; and my mum would have nodded in agreement instead of covering her face in desperation like Ben's mother.

Three of the boys try to put their dream of finding Robinson's island to work and hire themselves onto a merchant ship to sail within a few days. After their last day at the mill (which hasn't "progressed" yet into the age of "free expression" to employ a night watchman), they ransack the establishment, braking what modest equipment there is and throwing the buckets of dye all over the walls. Since these boys are the heroes of the story, this act sends decidedly a wrong signal to a juvenile audience. It is not only utterly ungrateful towards the proprietor who gave them a job they definitely needed, as they knew themselves, it is also highly inconsiderate towards the other boys at the outfit, who must continue to work there without interruption. This bad signal is regrettably reinforced at the end of the movie, when they happen to meet the king and he assures them that he will take care of the rampage. So this is the lesson of the story: It is great to tear things up when you feel like it; you will not be punished; and the government will cover the damages - a lesson in contemporary children's education?

Teenagers are in for a treat too: Defoe's dashing young son Tom, much adored by his landlady's daughter Maud, has already squandered most of old Defoe's assets; and to avoid going to jail because of further debts, he steals and sells his father's most precious remaining possession: the Robinson manuscript. This literally breaks the old man's heart. Tom, when confronted by the king, regrets his last bad deed as well as his licentious life and agrees that he must be punished. But when love-stricken Maud objects to several forms of penalty, the king, as the "final and supreme punishment", hands him a bag of money to repurchase the manuscript and presumably pay his other debts. Some punishment! Dapper young Tom gets out scot-free. Lesson number two: Regardless how stupid and reprehensible you behave, the government will bail you out.

This film should be permitted only for children over 50 years of age.

Atonement (2007)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A sad story that one is relieved to recognize as not likely to be true., 14 May 2008
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Being loved by two girls at once, as for example by two sisters, does not seem to be as much of a neat thing as this reviewer always imagined, never having had the experience himself. That is, it's not if one of the sisters has a mean streak and disposes with the common object of desire rather than seeing it being swept up by the sisterly rival. In this case, the means of disposal presented itself by a case of rape that, too, provided new insights into a heretofore murky area of human relations. It took place at night in the park of the manor when all members and guests of that multitudinous household were searching for two run-away boys. So there were a number of possible perpetrators; but it's curious that the victim had no clue which one it was, although she, like everyone else of the search party, was presumably equipped with a flashlight (or a "torch", as the British might say). It is even more puzzling that said perpetrator was able to carry out his deed with one hand over the girl's eyes (to prevent her from seeing him) and the other hand over her mouth (to prevent her from crying for help) - a properly dressed girl of the English upper classes. It is true, pantyhose hadn't been invented yet, and, this being the middle of summer, even those famous British knickers had been dispensed with (as we observed gleefully when the older sister took a dip in the fountain) - but still, the dresses were long and cumbersome. What comes across as not less puzzling is the English criminal justice system that gives more weight to a 12-year old girl of a known fancy disposition than to a series of character witnesses (which were hopefully heard) plus the fact that the accused was at the time of the crime in another area of the grounds actually finding the missing boys. If taking the story seriously, one begins to wonder in light of these puzzles, (i) whether the claim of rape was actually a cover-up of an inopportunely caught dalliance; and (ii) whether the British class system's preferred way of dealing with an unpleasant incidence is the quick conviction of a middle-class patsy, rather than an earnest investigation that might lead to the unfortunate discovery of one of their own. However, the film does not give strong enough hints that the story's author had such possibilities in mind.

However, while the film placed all the guilt and remorse on the young girl's shoulders and showed how she suffered under it for the rest of her life, it should certainly have shed some light on the thoughts and feelings of the rapist or surprised lover; whatever he was, he was the really guilty party. One might be led to think that he was completely oblivious to the harm he caused to others; but displaying this contrast clearly would have rendered the movie more complete, and possibly ameliorated those slightly unconvincing events at the beginning.

Speaking of unconvincing events: That the British were not further tackled by the Germans when they scrambled from the continent at Dunkirk is wondrous but historically true; that some (or at least one) of them got, in the middle of that cacophony, his feet washed by a French woman, must be classified as utter piffle. Or was that to be taken allegorically? Oh, stupid me.

Once (2007)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The duration of the friendship as well as the movie's sound come up a little short., 10 March 2008
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Once is not enough", one might say when the budding friendship and musical partnership depicted in this movie is cut off cold turkey after one week. Of course, the movie aims at being realistic, and people do stupid things in life all the time. And, if one is sufficiently concerned about these characters, one might entertain the expectation that the protagonist will return from London in a jiffy when he realizes not only the high cost of living in this city, but also the fact that he left his musical adjunct behind who assisted him to possibly become a real success on the folk music scene. This music is nice to listen to, as modern popular music goes, although not quite in the same class as when Ann Sothern helped Robert Young to come up with "Lady Be Good".

Technically, a steadier camera would have been appreciated. Most American viewers will probably have to make use of the English subtitles. However, the producers should have chosen conventional subtitles rather than those for the hearing-impaired (which inform the listeners of happenings such as "music continues"); hearing-impaired people won't get much enjoyment out of the movie anyway since most of it comes from the music. While the producers were at it, they might as well have subtitled the occasional Czech conversations. Most astounding, however, is the fact that on a movie that has been heralded as possibly "the best music film of our generation", the sound has not only been robbed of much of its dynamic, but is monophonic to boot (at least on the DVD). To be sure, it has been encoded as "Dolby Surround", but all channels reproduce exactly the same sound at all times. The success that the movie nevertheless enjoyed, even among the professional film critics, offers the interesting cognizance that all the present-day zeal about sound reproduction with ever more channels is perhaps a tiny bit exaggerated?

Showgirls (1995)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Better than portrayed but not kind to Las Vegas, 22 November 2007
7/10

When it came out, the most striking feature of this movie was the unanimously devastating reaction of the professional movie critics, which caused most theater owners not to book it and resulted in most people not seeing it. While this film may not have manifested the highest artistic ambitions ever fixed on the proverbial celluloid and certainly did not glitter with the most profound dialogs, the almost hysterical trashing by the reviewers raises some curiosity as to their subconscious - or possibly very conscious - mental processes. As to the former, perhaps it's just the old hang-up about sex that has grown strong again with the aging baby boomers getting religion, after they sowed their wild oats in the 70s. When the NC-17 rating was created for movies with sexual themes this side of porn, what Hollywood may have had in mind was artsy sex, or health-care sex, but not frolicky sex where people actually have fun. In the view of those critics, the latter might still belong into the X-category - at least as far as their public pronouncements go.

But there could also be another, more sinister explanation. The film is not good for the image of Las Vegas. Presumably, Las Vegas likes to appear as just one step beyond "clean family fun" in the direction of risqué. This film places it quite a few steps towards the gutter; and this placement neither looks completely unrealistic nor without a certain allure. The powers that be in Las Vegas probably hated it; and one cannot help wonder how long an arm they have. Does the Las Vegas Visitors' Bureau direct millions of advertising money? No strong-arm tactics required - everyone writing for a publication knew precisely what was called for.

However, it must be said that while the sexy ramblings in the first part of the movie were a pleasure to watch, the violence towards the end went a little too far beyond good fun; and one must hope that it was added as a dramatic effect and is not really the custom of Las Vegas.

Yet overall, if "Showgirls" was such a bad movie, how come people still talk about it twelve years later? Except, of course, Blockbuster, who still doesn't carry it.

Saraband (2003) (TV)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Artful handiwork of puzzles and enigmas in a tragic vein., 21 September 2006
5/10

"Saraband" is another one of those Bergman movies which, it seems, could all be fittingly entitled like that other movie of his, "Through a Glass Darkly". Making things perfectly clear, once considered an essential element of a successful literary creation, is by Bergman intentionally and carefully avoided. The story is simple: An old, long-divorced couple (Marianne and Johan) meets again; and Johan's son Henrik from another marriage, recently widowed, and their daughter Karin live nearby. A simple story of essentially four people, but oh so dark and contradictory are the feelings between them. Johan hates his son, for reasons we never learn. Yes, cash-strapped Henrik needs to ask his rich father time and again for an "advance on his inheritance", but this could not quite explain the father's disdain. Henrik the musician drills Karin on the cello and loves her madly, but won't let her move to a decent music school for her further education. Now this may not be quite so puzzling as it first appears when we learn in passing that they both sleep in the same bed, an arrangement none of the other two people on hand seem to perceive as unusual. While this tidbit may further Sweden's alluring reputation, the casual acceptance of this matter is in fact quite unrealistic, as this reviewer was assured by a reliable Swedish source (who even mentioned "jail"!) Karin's mother Anna, on her deathbed, may have had a hunch that something like this was in the wings, but again, we don't learn for sure, since Karin won't read to Marianne (and hence to us) the last page of her mother's farewell letter (which masterful move, incidentally, spared Bergman the writing of it).

We can't quite figure out what Karin's notion is about her domestic setup - does she hate the sex but loves daddy otherwise (whom she calls "Henrik", isn't' that cool?), or does she really only hate the daily cello drills (since she just wants to play in an orchestra rather than train to be a soloist, as we hear in her great emotional outburst)? Well, when she finally tells the old man that she's going to split, he attempts suicide. Of course, we can't be sure if it's successful. But hold it - taking all clues, there is a finite probability that it was not. Ah, now, will that persuade Karin to come back? What do you think this is, a documentary? That's the final mystery!

No, wait, there is one more: Marianne lets us know that she has a definite opinion about this whole affair. But she won't tell.

Some tedious writing avoided again!

Surely, Bergman smiled all the way to the bank.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A missed opportunity for some sparkling mental acrobatics, 1 August 2006
2/10

The film shows Hitler and some of his cronies having survived the war and living in some subterranean hideaway, watching old movies of their heydays, contemplating their past as well as their philosophies, and generally working on their memoirs. The fundamental problem of the film is that the screen writers have Hitler repeatedly confess that all his public appearances were a great piece of acting, but they let him speak throughout the movie in the same bombastic voice as in those public appearances. They can't have it both ways; and it is well known that Hitler, when not in the public eye, used to speak like a normal person (and, reportedly, could even be witty at it).

Many of Hitler's post-mortem profundities the writers came up with aren't quite that profound, but some of his more basic observations do sound true; for example that Stalin ruled over the masses exclusively by terror, while he himself earned their honest support by stirring their enthusiasm. Perhaps this is the reason that the Russian people were never blamed for the countless murders committed by the Soviets in the same way the German people were held responsible for those committed by the Nazis; or perhaps this difference stems for the fact that the Soviets did it mostly to their own people and not to the Jews in particular.

Under the banner of political correctness, it cannot be expected that the producers give Hitler much credit for anything good. He is permitted to mention that he loved animals and initiated legal measures to prevent cruelty to animals; and that Germany fell apart in the early 1930s before he came to power - that he was in fact democratically elected was however not deemed noteworthy. And strange, that in all his ramblings he does not recall, and in the ceaseless old movies flashing at his cave walls it never comes up, that he invented and built the autobahns, on which those producers even nowadays enjoy their Fahrvergnügen.

One great mystery of the movie is how Sigmund Freud got caught up with Hitler in the underground bunker; and another even greater puzzle is how come he has nothing of the slightest substance to say to or about the Führer. As a matter of fact, the latter spurts out far more psychological babble about himself than the grand master. If Freud was supposed to be a moral counterpart to Hitler in the movie, he was not given a chance to pull his weight.

6 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Among the worst cinematic nonsense I've ever seen., 25 October 2005
1/10

I purchased this DVD because of its German star, the beautiful and soft-spoken Gudrun Landgrebe, who portrayed a tender and warm-hearted young woman so convincingly in the German TV series "Heimat". In the German version of this movie, she dubs her own part with near perfection and makes all the right faces all the time, but is condemned to play the silliest society woman one may ever encounter on the proverbial celluloid: falling "lesbianly" (so to speak) for a sour-faced, lying and manipulative Japanese woman, even though she is happily married to a successful diplomat in the German government. After the viewer becomes convinced to have seen the peak of cinematic stupidity, he is in for yet further astonishment when said happily married diplomat too falls for the Japanese and, in this state, becomes even jealous of his wife. Now, this male reviewer may not be able to judge correctly the authenticity of a lesbian infatuation, but he can assert that, as a man's sex object, the Japanese is so low on the totem pole to be below ground. Those fake sexual encounters, during which the participants never shed any of their clothing, do not exactly contribute to the credibility of the story either. Only Gudrun's 1930's Mercedes looks genuine.

1 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Regrettably deteriorated German customs in a slow movie., 11 October 2005
2/10

I was going to let this movie slip into oblivion without bothering to write about it, but the glowing comments of some other reviewers impel me to add my two cent's worth to present a different view.

The storyline has been described elsewhere in much detail: A young German woman who is the top-notch cook of a fancy restaurant is suddenly saddled with the headstrong 8-year old girl of her deceased sister, and a big-mouth Italian cook is put at her side in the restaurant - disasters in her life and on her job. She has my full sympathy; but the movie has her deal with these problems not in exactly the way I would have wished.

However, the movie shows, sadly, that the ethical conditions in Germany have deteriorated the same way as in America: It is totally acceptable to conceive a child out of wedlock, bring it up without a father, and spoil it without indoctrination of some respect for their elders.

The story moves slowly at times, with us sitting there and watching people think, and the ending is totally ambiguous - perhaps to placate viewers like myself?

21 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
realistic depiction of a slice of life, 16 August 2004
9/10

"Dancing at the Blue Iguana" shows the life of a number of strippers inside and outside of their place of work, a life the more sedate of us normally don't get to see. It appears to be a very realistic portrayal, almost a documentary, which I for one always find fascinating. A few events built in which probably don't happen quite so routinely in normal life, but still believable. I was left by the movie with very mixed emotions: depressed by the whole atmosphere of the club, feeling sorry for the girls, but nevertheless enamored by their beauty. First-class acting and directing - every scene, every move convinced. Recommended for all who have a taste for real life reflected in a movie (instead of fancy nonsense).


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