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Thirst (1949)
5/10
Törst
2 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I think Stefan Höltgen managed to aptly sum up the essence of „Törst" in his review first published in the magazine "Schnitt", "In the end the story lines stay fragmentary. However, the characters and the images are continuing to have an effect." Bergman already dealt with topics that he came back to frequently in his later pictures, but it seems as if Bergman wasn't able in this film (which was his third feature) to find the right form for providing the different stories, written by Birgit Tengroth (screenplay by Herbert Grevenius), with a coherent narrative structure. A lot of sequences left a strong impression with me, for example when Bertil thinks he killed Rut, or when the train crosses a railway station in Germany where they give bread to the people struck by war. And I also found the episode about Viola to be very interesting, although it was a bit confusing at first. The problem with "Törst" is that all those episodes don't form an impressing whole, but rather a puzzle with lost pieces.
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The Village (2004)
9/10
The Village
2 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is M. Night Shyamalan at the height of his game. "The Village" works on both important levels. Firstly, as a genre movie it is frightening. Shyamalan once again determines his reputation of being a master of suspense. But this time, unlike for example in "Signs", the film also works as a character drama. A very well told story hides behind all the scares. And a study about superstition, (religious) fundamentalism and courage. This was one of the worst reviewed movies in Shyamalan's career. I can't see any other reason for this than wrong expectations. I get the impression that many people disliked the movie, because they "knew" early that the monsters weren't real. But that's exactly my point, the film doesn't rely on the twist, because it's digging much deeper. Overall, I love the acting in this movie. But the standout in "The Village" has to be Bryce Dallas Howard as the blind Ivy Walker. I also love the music by John Newton Howard.
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Bad Santa (2003)
7/10
Bad Santa
2 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
That was the Christmas movie I have waited for a very long time. Absolutely not children friendly and not afraid of insulting anyone, yet with a very kind tone at its core. I don't laugh that often and loud at many movies, "Bad Santa" has just so many great scenes and almost all of them rely on the same funny fact, that this totally misanthropic guy, who hasn't one nice word for anyone, wears the Santa costume, a costume that has a huge amount of positive memories for so many people on its shoulders. Billy Bob Thornton carries the whole movie, he's just fabulous as Santa Willie, as is the little kid, played by Brett Kelly. Of the supporting cast John Ritter has some good laughs and of course Tony Cox, who is the perfect counterpart for Thornton. Whenever Bernie Mac is on screen the film drags and Lauren Graham's role of a Santa-horny Mrs. Santa Sister is funny, but that can't obscure the fact that her character is poorly written.
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Persepolis (2007)
8/10
Persepolis
19 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
With "Persepolis" Marjane Satrapi made an adaptation of her own comic. The story is very personal and tells us about how she grew up in a hostile environment to be a strong-minded and independent woman. Yet on the other side, "Persepolis" also tells the story of country that struggles in a time of uncertainty. No one had an overview about what was happening, even in a very political family like Marjane's. And when the revolution was over, people found out that the new system was even worse than the old one. The film is drawn very well and in a totally fitting way. Satrapi said, she didn't make a live action movie, because then audiences would have their preconceptions much more in mind as if it was animated. I don't know if that's the right motivation (even though it is the truth), but she's right in any case with the fact, that this story is universally applicable and deserves to be seen by the audience not just as something that happens far away in a country in the Middle East (uuhhh).
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Transit (2005 TV Movie)
6/10
Transit
19 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
„Transit" deals with Aids, a still cureless low immunity disease, but an audience that doesn't know this beforehand, won't discover this fact until the very last ten minutes. This is a very effective dramaturgic dodge, because it is also the way that Aids spreads. You might not notice it, you might be careless, but you still can be infected. At least in the rich countries, many people get infected because they think it won't happen to them anyway. I think, it was also a good decision from director Niall MacCormick and his co-writer Murilo Pasta not to focus on the so-called high risk groups like gays or drug users, because the important message is that everybody can get infected. And that is also what "Transit" is eventually, a message movie. From an artistic point of view I would say not everything is felicitous. Some of the story lines are just totally implausible and also the acting isn't top-notch. And sadly, too many filmmakers fall for the trick thinking, that this "Babel"-like structure adds any meaning to their work.
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True Romance (1993)
7/10
True Romance
19 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Here we have a movie that really had the chance to be great, and it even turned out great to some extent. First and foremost, the scene where Dennis Hopper explains Christopher Walken his cultural background. It is cited all the time, but that's just because it really is one of the best movie scenes of the Nineties, and definitely something among the best ever to flow out of Quentin Tarantino's pen. I think , Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette are perfect in their roles and their relationship, their falling-in-love is set up very well by the script. I also totally dig this idea of really going through hell for love. And for that matter, I think the title is chosen very wisely, it's a "True Romance". But as the movie goes on and introduces new characters, it loses. Those police officers, Dick Richie, they were just patterns of characters, not real characters. And some of the action sequences looked a bit too smooth to be really exciting.
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7/10
Reservoir Dogs
19 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Reservoir Dogs" was the kick-off to Quentin Tarantino's so far fabulous career. It is a very energetic heist movie, that already uses the style of non-linear time structure. For example, a thing that I find very interesting about it is the scene where all the gangsters get to know each other and get their new name – this scene is set nearly at the end of the film. Really great here is also the dialogue, Tarantino's trademark. It starts with the discussion about "Like a Virgin" and, my personal favourite, the discussion about giving tip. Endless discussions, all written really sharp, follow about who is the traitor. In those moments where no one is talking, more than once it gets violent, as in that classic scene where Michael Madsen cuts ear to "Stuck in the Middle with You". And there we have another Tarantino trademark, the soundtrack, that fits perfectly, like always. My problem with some of Tarantino's films, including this one, is that they are too cool, there is too few room for real characters with real emotions.
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Death Proof (2007)
6/10
Death Proof
19 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
So many filmmakers want to make stylish movies. Many of them end up making the one thousandth copy of "The Matrix" and that is really going on my nerves. To get to "Death Proof" now, if you can be sure about one thing in a movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, it's that it almost always is cooler than the rest of them. I'm talking about style here, because the rest of "Death Proof" couldn't convince me. I liked the first four girls, their dialogue was much sharper than from the second quartet. I also think that Kurt Russell was staged pretty well as this motor-psycho. But in the end, the film suffered from a lack of real characters, real dramaturgy. I mean I get it, Tarantino likes his references, but you can't make a movie built on that single column. Maybe there's a group of people who totally "get" this film, I'm not part of it. Evidence 1: I couldn't stop wondering during the big car chase, why the girl driving didn't just use the brakes.
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7/10
American Gangster
5 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Like a model student learns everything he is told to learn, "American Gangster" has all the elements a good gangster film should have (if you go by the book). On the one hand the gangster, Frank Lucas, a man who revolutionized drug dealing in the early Seventies, played outstandingly by Denzel Washington. He is someone for the audience to identify with his charisma, but at the same time this inhuman part of him works repellent. On the other hand there is the cop, played also very well by Russell Crowe. He, too, is a character to sympathize with, mainly because of his high moral standards and his human flaws. On a very personal level, however, "American Gangster" couldn't fully convince me. It's thrilling, dramatic and the material is very interesting, but I had the impression that it is done with a real fascination for the genre and not so much for the characters and the social network. All in all a good film with its share of minus points (amongst them Cuba Gooding Jr.'s character).
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Angel (2007)
7/10
Angel
28 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Watching "Angel" by French filmmaker François Ozon was a quite interesting experience. As often, when a film turns out to be different than I had thought, at first I didn't really like what I saw. I went into the cinema knowing practically nothing about what I had to expect and found myself in a movie with over the top acting, corny dialogue and a dislikeable main character. It was after some time in the movie that I realized, Ozon used the style of old Hollywood melodramas to enforce the pompous and passionate character of Angel's writing and to at the same time add ironic breaks to an otherwise fairy tale story. But still, Ozon shows a lot of love for Angel on screen and does not use the irony to demonstrate his superiority. Now, quite a while after watching "Angel", the film still sticks in my mind and crosses my thoughts now and then, which is a proof to me that I really saw an impressive work, that mixes an antique style with narrative intransigence unseen in melodramas of the old days.
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McLibel (2005)
5/10
McLibel
28 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Mr. Everyman and Mrs. Everymen, Dave Morris and Helen Steel distributed flyers, on which they criticized the fast food company McDonald's for their business practices, concerning environment, health risks and advertising amongst others. Because of UK law McDonald's could sue them and ultimately also win the case. However, long term results of Steel's and Morris' engagement were that in the year 2004 the law was changed and McDonald's image suffered an enormous loss. What they've done was important, but Franny Armstrong's documentary "McLibel" shows that an interesting story alone doesn't make a good film. First, the look of the film is held very conventional, meaning that it just looks like your usual TV documentary. The direction is not very imaginative, given that there are mostly the interviews, where I was missing counterweight. The re-enacted scenes were pointless for me, I mean, what should they prove? Just enforcing the emphasis on the David vs. Goliath story, rather than giving an unemotional and for that much more impressive view on this case.
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6/10
Tintenfischalarm
15 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This film by Austrian filmmaker Elisabeth Scharang is about Alex, who was born with ambiguous gender and shows his development into a person, who makes his own decisions. In the course of the film the audience can experience how Alex gets more and more confident to also talk about private things in front of the camera and how he begins to really choose what he does. It was very interesting for me, because I followed this story since the beginning, which was at the Austrian radio station FM4. In a weekly show Alex called in for the first time and it was in 2002 that Elisabeth Scharang, who also works at FM4, invited Alex for her show. After that Alex and Scharang developed a close relationship (at least as far as I can see it) and that is also the key to why a film, so small and private as "Tintenfischalarm", can tell us so much about our society. Maybe it's too long and it never really dragged me in totally, but it's interesting and important.
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6/10
The Interpreter
15 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Sydney Pollack's "The Interpreter" is a mixture of character drama and political thriller, but neither works really well, on both sides there are just bits of the pieces that work. Best working for me was how Pollack built up the actions that led to the terrorist attack on the bus. The confusion that the people on screen themselves suffered devolved to me, while you knew all along something was going to happen. The characterization of Kidman's character was hardly believable at times, although Kidman is playing very fine in her role. The character played by Sean Penn, who is good as usual here, was written much more coherent in his actions and reactions. However, it is also a very familiar pattern that the cop (or Secret Service agent in this case) shares similar inner demons with the person that he hunts (or protects in this case). What made me a bit angry was that once again in a Hollywood thriller with political content everything was kept mostly superficial just to not overstrain the audience.
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Shoppen (2006)
7/10
Shoppen
15 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It's not hard to imagine what the main problem for a screenwriter is who wants to have 18 equally well written characters with about the same amount of screen time in a movie that last around 90 minutes. It's almost impossible not to fall back on stereotypes and that is also what writer-director Ralf Westhoff does here. Very few of the characters can be recognized as people that you and me know in real life, many of them are just characterized with two or three attributes and stay vague. I am aware of that but still think that "Shoppen" is successful, namely that it accomplishes just what it wants to. It is a film with very well written dialogue, extremely good acting and a film that made me laugh out loud really often. I don't think that this film wants to make a deep going analysis of loneliness in our modern society, or that it wants to be moral commentary on speed-dating. It's a movie about something that exists and people and their motivation to use it. Funny and entertaining.
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8/10
State Legislature
6 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Frederick Wiseman's „State Legislature" reaches a length of about four hours, in which he deals with the day-to-day activities of the Idaho Legislature. He shows committee meetings, debates of the House and Senate, informal discussions, meetings with lobbyists, constituents, the public and the press. In between Wiseman cuts images of life in the parliament or of children performing songs there. What made "State Legislature" so impressive for me was the dedication and devotion of the legislators to the process of political work, because it's the effort people like these give, that is an essential key for a democratic process. The legislators work there voluntary and many of them without getting a financial gain from it. For the understanding of this film, it doesn't matter if you are agreeing with the arguments that are produced. I didn't in many cases. Much more interesting is the process of getting to a solution. Frederick Wiseman's "State Legislature" succeeds in showing the advantages and disadvantages of democratic processes.
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Berlin (2007)
7/10
Lou Reed's Berlin
6 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
„Lou Reed's Berlin", directed by Julian Schnabel, only shows the concert, filmed on five different evenings in St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York. There are no interviews or anything, just some text at the beginning of the movie informs the audience about the basic facts for "Berlin", Lou Reed's 1973 album, that is a prime example for misunderstood artistic intention. It was neither a commercial nor a critical success. Over the years, of course, things have changed and today "Berlin" is seen for what it is: A classic album with very dark atmosphere. Lola Schnabel, Julian's daughter, filmed abstract visuals fitting to the song lyrics (with Emmanuelle Seigner). These visuals are kept much brighter, also as a contradiction to the dark lyrics. Julian Schnabel leaves out the concert audience nearly completely and lets the camera concentrate on faces and hands on stage. If you like the film, you will like it for the music, as I did. The band obviously has fun playing together, Antony Hegarty has some perfect moments. A concert movie, amazing to relax.
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Blade Runner (1982)
Blade Runner
6 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
First I have to say the version I've seen is "Blade Runner: The Final Cut", and I'm eager to see the other versions of this film. I can't think of a better way to start a movie than it's done here. While the credits are shown ominous music resounds and then you see the first images of "Blade Runner": A sight of Los Angeles in the year 2019 that looks like something as close as it gets to hell. Furthermore this foreboding gets confirmed, this film shows a bleak place, where all humans live like robots and no joy seems to have space. Many films have a dark vision of the future for their topic, but on the visual side I think I've seen nothing better than this. It is a film made for the big screen. But also the story of the replicants is great because it's filled with so much subtle sadness. Do we have the right to create robots that are able to feel? There is more than a bit scepticism about progress in "Blade Runner".
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Import Export (2007)
8/10
Import Export
6 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is Austrian director Ulrich Seidl's second non-documentary feature film after "Hundstage", but it is still very likely that an attentive audience can see where he is coming from. Seidl's style is a mixture of harsh realism and stylization carried to an extreme. It's hard for me to criticize his films on a good-bad-scale. I just can give an idea of what reactions "Import Export" triggered in me. Olga's way is characterized by constant exploitation in every one of her jobs. Only in the geriatrics home she has a stabile work environment (!), but ironically it's then, that she is supposed to leave the country again. Paul seems rather likable, but also with him you never want to connect too much (in the end you know why, maybe). Like Olga he is a loser of the system and not given the chance for improvement. Neither by his employers, nor by the people he owes money to, nor by his stepfather. Seidl is one of those Austrian filmmakers that actually are a role model for artistic intransigence.
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7/10
The Rules of Attraction
6 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Roger Avary adapted the screenplay from a novel by Bret Easton Ellis and directed "The Rules of Attraction". He uses a very energetic style, voice-over, non-linear time structure and has some nice directorial ideas, like for example the scene where he uses split screen to show Sean and Lauren getting up in the morning until they ultimately meet in the hallway of the university. Great scene. The film is in general very funny and it is also a sociocritical commentary on youth in our society. There were also parts in "The Rules of Attraction" I rather disliked. The whole gangster storyline with Rupert seemed unfitting and a too cool. Going on my nerves was the preachy undertone in the final lines from Lauren and Paul. James van der Beek may have the best role of his life in this film, he is actually really great and far away from being Dawson. Fine acting also from the rest of the cast, but to be fair: for many it wasn't too hard to meet the standards (catchword: being sexy).
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8/10
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
6 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A very fine movie from Andrew Dominik, who directed it and also adapted the screenplay from a novel by Ron Hansen. The train robbery sequence is built up in a very unexcited way and executed very well. After that the film concentrates on James' gang and how fast trust can knock over in distrust. Men get killed, friendship is not possible – there is just too much past in between them. Woman and children have to do the hard work, while their men are carrying out duels. And they also have to deal with it, when from one second to the other they lose their husbands or fathers. Also the end was very good, it added the right tone to a visually rich and thoroughly told story. The film is dominated by the performances of Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck. While Pitt is really great as Jesse James, in comparison to Casey Affleck he has to pale. Affleck perfectly portrays this seemingly weak character with his conflicting behaviour.
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Nuovomondo (2006)
8/10
Nuovomondo
6 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Nuovomondo" was a great experience. Many filmmakers tell their stories to a big extent via dialogue. Emanuele Crialese directs his film very visually driven. For everything he wants to tell, he finds powerful images that are able to stand for themselves. Thus, he understands film as a medium that primarily tells its stories over the pictures on screen. Particularly European cinema is often very dialogue-driven (and many of the young US-American directors are strongly influenced by that). Crialese's opposite attitude was really the point, that made this film special for me. It has also a very interesting topic that is wrapped up in a quite unusual story and told with humour. Vincenzo Amato is outstanding as family head Salvatore, as well as the amazing Charlotte Gainsbourg, who I enjoy watching in every single one of her movies. There are many great sequences in this movie. Just to pick one: When the ship leaves Italy and the people just quietly stare. This scene is great, particularly if you consider the pop cultural references that go with it (Titanic!).
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8/10
Night of the Living Dead
6 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
With this film, George A. Romero basically invented the zombie genre as a sub-genre of horror. And it still is the straightedge in this genre, not even reached by himself. Why is it so special? The time it was made was during the US-engagement in Vietnam, the public opinion was on the edge of a turnaround. This was a good feed for young artists trying to convey their dark vision via motion pictures. The black and white and the locations appear cheap (for a movie). The effect of that is that the people and places also seem familiar, the audience doesn't get the chance to push it away on "them". And then suddenly this unexplainable horror breaks out. How do people react? Some found militant militia armies. Some can't bear the situation and take refuge in insanity. Others show boundless egoism, instead of helping others. Amazing analysis of society. Who are the ones that keep a level head? A black man (Ben) and a woman (Helen). Revolutionary.
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Cast Away (2000)
6/10
Cast Away
6 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The "Forrest Gump"-team tries another film together and it's not bad, what a surprise. In this first sentence I yet tried to include also the reason why it's not really good. This film takes no risk in nothing. I mean if you have Tom Hanks, you could at least take some risks in your story or in the way you shoot your movie or in the themes you choose to treat. You have Tom Hanks, people would still come and watch it. But instead, Zemeckis is satisfied with pure mediocrity, and delivers us a movie with a little bit of action, a dominating love story, a sad end, a whiny score, and… Tom Hanks. To cut it short: A little bit for everybody. I hope Zemeckis is not surprised if someone accuses him of making boring movies some day. Boring through their volitional mediocrity. I repeat: It's not bad what we get here, some parts (the first 20 minutes on the island) were actually good, but who cares? You won the predicate: Film for the whole family.
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Loren Cass (2006)
6/10
Loren Cass
25 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a prime example of what can result out of limited financial means and filmmakers trying to make the best of it. Chris Fuller produced, wrote, directed and edited his debut "Loren Cass" (which was shot on 16mm) and on top of that also took an acting part. And he accomplished the feat of making a movie, that (at least in parts) feels like something new. The world of small town teenagers who grow up without hope for improvement is a common topic, but hardly portrayed as energetic and extreme as in Fullers film. He repeatedly uses speeches and poems to overlap scenes, which creates a cool atmosphere (and I mean cool as in cold). The film works best when it concentrates on the three main characters. Always when Fuller loses them out of focus also the verve seems to decrease and scenes are emerging that end in itself. New also means not everything's working. Despite being far from perfect, this was the freshest film I've seen in quite a while.
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The Walker (2007)
6/10
The Walker
25 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Paul Schrader made a well staged thriller that lets the audience recognize a certain experience of its maker. Experience in this context isn't only meant positive. On the one hand it guarantees that "The Walker" doesn't end up as a total flop. Throughout the movie I felt there is a man behind the camera, that knows which buttons to push when, and there were some shots or short scenes I found really great. But on the other hand this routine makes the whole movie seem a bit dated. "The Walker" maybe would have had more relevance if made a few centuries earlier. But today a film that explicitly wants to be political but has nothing more to say than some often heard phrases or unmotivated side blows on targets like George Bush, where everybody will agree anyway, has to be considered a failure. What is just great about this movie, however, is Woody Harrelson. When he started talking I often thought I'm sitting in one of Schrader's great movies. "The Walker" is only okay.
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