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Mädchen in Uniform (1958)
A monumental waste of talent
Like 'Immer wenn der Tag beginnt' this strange mix of drama and coming-of-age story deals with the tribulations of school teachers and stars a top box-office draw in the lead (Lilli Palmer vs. Ruth Leuwerik), but otherwise they differ widely. While 'Immer wenn der Tag beginnt' is sensitive, delicate and poignant this horrible remake of a classic masterpiece misses all the way.
Miss Palmer, who just wowed critics and public alike with her wonderful 'Anstasia - Die letzte Zarentochter', is much too young and much to elegant for the requirements of the part. Her scenes with Romy Schneider, desperate to escape the saccharine and schmaltzy 'Sissi' trilogy, miss sparkle and their heavily hyped 'kiss' is as shocking as a milk-shake. The chilling social comment, that made the original version in 1932 an all time classic is now completely passé and all that's left is just a beautifully photographed ante-bellum frou-frou about a gaggle of glamour girls. They laugh, they cry and after 90 minutes of tame misunderstandings the nonplussed viewer is left with a 'So what?' feeling.
La religieuse (1966)
Liselotte Pulver is STUNNING, nothing but STUNNING
Playing a role that few people thought would ever fit her and shadowed by vultures predicting disaster, Liselotte Pulver delivered the surprise coup of many a cinematic season in the icily directed 'La Religieuse'.
Ms. Pulver, the beloved eternal comedienne of the German cinema, has taken on that most daunting role: the lesbian Mother Superior, the ultimate debauched nun in the ultimate 'Why was the Revolution necessary?' tale, Denis Diderot's grand tale 'La Religieuse'. Working against type and expectation under the direction of Jaques Rivette, Ms. Pulver has created the most complex and compelling portrait of her long career, and she has done this in ways that deviate radically from her former screen roles.
Ms. Pulver's Mother Superior, emerges in this adaptation with her monumental weakness intact. But something new and affecting is simmering within the character, a damning glimpse of self-awareness. You get the sense that if her frantic movement stops for a second, she'll deflate into a small and bitter creature.
In films like 'Die Züricher Verlobung' and 'Das Wirtshaus I'm Spessart' Ms. Pulver's persona has always been that of a delectable waif, a vulnerable creature with a heart of gold. Here she was cast against type and rumors went that she did not get along with Mr. Rivette. And then, halfway through the film, there she was, and for the first time in her long career she didn't look remotely like an ingénue.
Ms. Pulver's portrait is so intimate and persuasive that you aren't allowed to step back and think, 'What a monster she is.' That's because, thanks to this actress's willingness to turn herself and her character inside out, you've been inside her mind. What a sad and fascinating place it is.
Where the Heart Is (1990)
Ravishing to the eye or as Suzy Amis put it: Menschen malen Illusionen
This film brought out the barracuda in most of the major critics. And did the public take one bit of notion? It did and flocked elsewhere.
But I still remember the overall impact this forgotten little gem had on me when I watched it some 14 odd years ago in one of these little arthouse cinemas that had all but vanished as multiplexes became the latest rage. 'Breathtaking' was the word for it. This reaction was caused by the picture's extraordinary visual beauty: cinematography as an art form has never been more ravishingly demonstrated as in the composition of light, shade and colour. I remember a series of scenes so beautiful I wanted to stop the moving pictures occasionally and just be a picture.
But like other visual masterpieces, its triumph did not extend to the screenplay and dialogues that were often boring, sometimes even downright foolish.
Das Haus in Montevideo (1963)
The star system of postwar German cinema was faltering badly but vehicles were still being manufactured for it. Heinz Rühmann and Ruth Leuwerik seemed a nice combination as yet untried, so both stars were rushed through this sluggish remake of a minor classic. Both weren't the fan raves they've been in the Fifties, but 'Das Haus in Montevideo' turned a nice profit and pleased all but the most critics. They savaged the movie for its tediousness, banality and overall humdrum.
In all fairness, the picture did have its antic moments and ingratiating characters. Miss Leuwerik took her required pratfalls with the grace and spirits of a seasoned pro, but Mister Rühmann played her comic foil in a smug, balmy fashion that robbed numerous scenes of their laughs. Likewise, director Helmut Käutner was not in top form; his over-emphatic handling soured several potentially charming situations.
Immer wenn der Tag beginnt (1957)
Like 'Mädchen in Uniform' this strange mix of drama and comedy dealt with the tribulations of school teachers, and starred a top box-office draw in the lead (Ruth Leuwerik vs. Lilli Palmer), but otherwise they differed widely. Both the star and the film were sensitive, delicate and poignant.
Miss Leuwerik gives perhaps the most subtle performance of her career. She is wise, womanly, compassionate, consummately eloquent in scene after scene. The picture is beautifully photographed, catching the overall atmosphere of the rigid school system and the small changes made by Miss Leuwerik as a modern and open-minded teacher in an enchanting bland of colors and shading. Among other things, this cinematic treasure is a mature study of the refusal to surrender the heart's deepest hopes to conformist, muddled life-patterns.
A perfect bland of fine, sympathetic acting and able craftsmanship, this film has the strange knack of looking fresh and new with each viewing.
Eine Frau fürs ganze Leben (1960)
Charming, heart-warming, highly enjoyable
Ruth Leuwerik's star was already on the wane when this charmingly episodic saga, produced on the lavish side, gave her the chance for an honest and tender portrayal of the indomitable matriarch of a German household.
Bright with human interest, congeniality and the quaint appeal of a bygone era, 'Eine Frau fürs ganze Leben' came close to duplicate the magic of her biggest hit 'Die Trapp Familie'. First rate support helped to create a nostalgic saga, photographed in the style of finely-etched ferrotypes. It was a triumph of the sweet and sentimental, a visual poem to the honest virtues of maternal life.
Despite glowing critical plaudits, it failed to turn a profit because of the excessive negative cost.
Auf Wiedersehen, Franziska! (1957)
Lilli Palmer wisely turned it down
Ruth Leuwerik brought something to the strait-laced 50's that was unique: a touch of class and independence. Usually cast in soap-operas, often disguised as historical romances, she never played helpless heroines (like Maria Schell, whose tearducts must have near her bladder) or girls, who just wanted a husband, no matter what the cost (Sonja Ziemann was a prime example and fared well at the box-office).
Here's she is seen a prim and proper artist, whose marriage with rugged Carlos Thompson is already on the rocks. After some tame misunderstandings she was in his strong arms. Carlos Thompson added some extra box-office to the already costly show. Mister Thompson was brought to the country a few years earlier in the wake of Lilli Palmer's triumphant return as Germany's Notorious Lady With a Dubious Past. His ruggedly handsome good looks threw lady customers for a loop and he went on to give so-so performances as romantic foil and Ersatz-O.W. Fischer.
Die goldene Brücke (1956)
Nothing but tears
Even in 1956, much of the storyline of 'Die Goldene Brücke' was considered outmoded lavender and old lace, with its contrived teary formula to propagate the virtues of TRUE LOVE.
Ruth Leuwerik, just voted Most Popular Star for the third year in a row managed to overcome much that was lachrymose in this account of trials and tribulations, not the least problem being immobile Paul Hubschmid's artificial characterization.
The glossy movie did benefit from a graceful direction, which geared the deluxe production qualities to the taste of female moviegoers, who helped to make 'Die Goldene Brücke' a huge moneymaker.
Auf Engel schießt man nicht (1960)
Almost as bad as the legendary "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's hung you in the Closet and I'm feeling so sad"
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for this resounding flop that finally brought the curtain down on Miss Leuwerik's amazing reign as post-war Germany's top-rated movie star.
It's a mishmash of half a dozen other scripts, exacerbated by amateurishly staged comic sequences and one of the worst performances ever given by the star. Usually a gifted comedienne, Miss Leuwerik's wide variety of grimaces, mugs, smirks and other expressions she used, killed any effort to create a character of any depth oder credibility. Judging from this disaster, you would have never guessed how wonderful Miss Leuwerik was in 'Die ideale Frau'.
The final product contained an occasional funny line, and even a gag or two that not been used before, but mostly it was déjà vu and bad déjà vu at that. All in all it represented a new all-time low in postwar Germany's cinema treatment of gifted and talented actresses.
Deservedly so the finished product was dismissed as gruel, crude and tasteless by critics, while theatre patrons avoided it like the plague. The picture was not so much released as allowed to escape.
Ein Alibi zerbricht (1963)
Sad ending for a glorious career
After a decade of success as Germany's most popular female star, elegant Ruth Leuwerik retired shortly after this out-and-out disaster, that ruined her remaining box-office lure.
Why she choose to film this knife-in-the-back story is known only to Miss Leuwerik, because the film is surely the most abysmal effort in what was a really lean year by any standards.
Once the star of lushly produced romantic extravaganzas opposite stalwart male co-stars of first magnitude like O.W. Fischer, she is relegated to B-film standards in this run-of-the-mill cheapie. The story is hackneyed, everybody is acting at fever's pitch and even the usually cool Miss Leuwerik is over-the-top, giving the only bad performance of her short but memorable career.
Hannelore Elsner in one of her earliest roles is in it, too, but when you glimpse, you miss her. Shot to fame later in the decade, the talented Miss Elsner enjoyed an even bigger vogue in the late 90's as the mature First Lady of German TV.