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|210 reviews in total|
is probably the only adequate description for this movie whose main intellectual contribution is to portray Adolf Hitler as a bedwetter, impotent and depressive". Neither the glorious beginning the old joke based on the difference between the exclamation Hail" and the verb to heal" nor the end, when the Führer is obviously not realizing anymore what Grünbaum lays in his mouth in occasion of his Big Speech - are remotely funny. However, I would by no means say that the nauseating hopping-around of the Great Dictator" alias Chaplin was funnier. What I say, is: Put Herbert Achternbusch's The Last Hole" finally (after almost 20 years) on DVD and observe the Nile's journey from the physician who describes him one schnapps in order to forget one Jew until his suicide in the Vulcano Stromboli, equipped solely with a war helmet, a tennis-racket and an amulet in which Last Susn has admitted him her eternal love.
New Yorker Film Release is not a bad address. As a matter of fact, a
legion of fundamental European were made known to the American public
during decades solely by this company, and we have all reasons to be
grateful to them for their video-releases. With the DVD-releases,
however, they seem to have not the same good hand. The edition of
L'Atalante, uncontroversially one of the milestones of film history,
comes in horrible edition. But I do not speak about the film and sound
quality. What I mean are the translations on the one side and the
commentaries in the specials on the other hand.
It is true: Michel Simon's mumbling which he could do so well and which he also used, e.g. in "Boudu", is very hard to understand even for French native speakers. A special that came in addition, in his case, was his 1934 still audible Swiss accent, including at least one Swiss syntactic construction which I heard: "Ca Va Avec Moi" = "This goes (is fine) with me". However, whoever translated this movie, is far away from being a native speaker. Whole passages are simply wrongly translated. Only a nice pardonable little detail is there when the captain, Dasté, cries out: Hercule! - The translator heard "Père Jules" - Simon's character in the movie. Especially catastrophic are the translation of the "Language Parlé", for which the translator could have used one the first editions of Henri Bauche's standard work - but he didn't. Actually, for linguists, L'Atalante is an Eldorado for "vulgar" and "Argotic" words and expressions (which are practically all not known anymore today).
For Annette Insdorf, professor of film at the famous Columbia university, L'Atalante is an early talkie. As a matter of fact, it is silent movie which was post-dubbed. Jean Vigo started the filming already in 1929, but, due to his illness that lead finally to his death with 29 years, he was unable to finish it until 1934. Absence of sound does not make a movie silent - as presence of sound does not make a talking. For the latter case take Murnau's last movie "Tabu" which is a silent talkie (while L'Atalante is a talking silent movie). Murnau threw the sound-track out because he decided it would not fit to the movie's pictures. About the post-dubbed silent movies, there are many, cf. e.g. Dreyer's "Vampyr". This was done mainly in order to sell these movies better, and we are grateful that in this way we have the voices of persons which otherwise would be lost (cf. Greta Garbo). About the rest of the commentary I do not have the space here to show all the mistakes. I have no idea why Mrs. Insdorf shows up everywhere as an expert for early European film history. Simply the fact that she mispronounces all German names shows that she actually never heard them pronounced correctly. Mistakes for which in other places students would be kicked out of their first semesters.
I strongly suggest that L'Atalante, a groundbreaking highlight and milestone of film history, can go over to Criterion, simply the qualitatively best film series around the globe. May they exchange the translations and substitute the specials, and in this way we can hopefully soon throw the present US edition where is belongs: into the dumpster.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In most parts of Europe, St. Nicholas comes on the 6th of December,
together with Knecht Ruprecht/Krampus/Schmutzli and equipped with a
huge bag in order to throw the children therein who did not obey their
parents during the year past. For the other children, the strange
couple has nuts, oranges, apples, perhaps chocolate. But before St.
Nicholas decides what to do with the children, they must recite a
little poem, may it be self-made or learned by heart.
In the Northern Part of Europe, originating from England and in the whole USA, also originating from England, however, St. Nicholas appears on Christmas Day bringing the children their gifts. (In Europe the Christkind itself bring the parcels on the 24th of December ... .) According to what the children, when they become older, learn, is that St. Nicholas of Myra has been a historical figure, who lived in the 3./4. centuries. However, when you look how many Patrocinia of a Nicholas there are in the Christian world, then it is clear that we cannot speak about one single person. That St. Nicholas of Myra has not been thrown out of the lists of Saints during the 2. Vatican Council (like St. George, St. Michael, St. Christoph ...) is a wonder of itself.
Now, Lappland comes with a quite new, a modern and alternative interpretation: Little Nicholas became an orphan when his parents had a lethal accident on their way to seek the doctor for helping their little daughter. Since the place where Nicholas lived was a very poor fishermen's village, no family could afford to take the little boy to them. There, the priest had an idea: Each of the families should give him shelter, nourish him and care for him during one year. And always at Christmas time, in remembrance to the day when his parents died, he should change families. And so it happened. Until the boy had reached an age of about twelve years and already proved great talent in wood-carving. Then, the old and strange Isaac offered him to stay with him and learn to become a wood-craftsman. So, Nicholas grew up with the grumpy but goodhearted old man and lived with him until Isaac had do be picked up by his family because of his high age. And every year, Nicholas would carve his little wooden animals for all the children - steadily enlarging his area of distribution. And nobody know who the "Christmas-Man" was, until a nosy little girl found out Nicholas' secret. Not long after, it must have happened that God decided to take Nicholas amongst the Saints and give him his deserved place in heaven. While his closest friends stood sad on the frozen surface of the lake in which Nicholas parents and sister died, the little girl called her parents: Look up, there! And in the Heaven, St. Nicholas drove with a long carriage pulled by rein-deers through the skies, wishing every child and every parent Marry Christmas. --- An absolute highlight!
Amgonst the 66 movies that R.W. Fassbinder made in his only 37 years
long life (the single episodes, none of them less than 1 hour, counted
as singles), "Querelle", his last work (1982), seems to march to a
different drummer. This impression is reinforced because, except
Günther Kaufmann who plays Nono, none of the "Fassbinder family" is in
the leading roles (although one can see in the background, almost
reduced to extras, some of the Old Garde). Not only is the whole movie
set in a more artificial than artistic environment (a masterwork of
Oscar winner Rolf Zehetbauer), but especially the treatment of
homosexuality has nothing to do, f.ex. with that in "Fox and this
Nonetheless, the omnipresent mirrors suggest that there are points of contact with such movies like "The Stationmaster's Wife", "Chinese Roulette", and especially "Despair". The latter movie whose German subtitle is "A Trip into the Light" seems over big passages to be a preparatory work of some central issues in "Querelle": 1. The search of identity. 2. The Doppelgängers(Theo/Gil, Querelle/Robert?). 3. The problem of sexual might/force in relationships (cf. "Warum Läuft Herr R. Amok", "Martha", "Fear of Fear"). New is the strong mystic symbolism: Seblon as godfather (?), Lysiane as overthrown goddess (?). Then, again as a sequel of the last scene in "Despair": the landscape that looks as if the sun would rise constantly: In "Querelle", we are not anymore only in a Trip into the Light, we have reached the Light: it is a picture of hell.
It is a peculiarity of Germany that it produces, on the one side,
uninterruptedly movies about the time of the National Socialism with
the clear purpose of "explaining the unexplainable", but, on the other
side, it punishes and persecutes with the utmost severeness all those
who try to have their own opinion about national socialism or some of
their exponents. Exactly the latter happened to "Der Untergang" (2004):
Director Hirschbiegel was most heavily criticizes through weeks in the
boulevard tableaux because he did not dissociate himself from the
"benevolent and favorable" picture that Traudl Junge (on whose memories
the film is based) gave about her former boss Hitler. Indeed: Somebody
who watches this movies without the burden of allegedly commonly borne
(and "suffered") past, he or she may sense Hitler as a bearer of
sympathy: He does not drink nor smoke, eats only vegetarian and
small-sized meals, drinks herb-tea and no coffee, is not pro miscue and
loves animals and children over anything. Junge/Hirschbiegel also
clearly differentiate (at various places of the movie) between "the
human A.H." and "Der Führer".
It seems to be forbidden, at least in Germany, that also a dictator (who was by the way correctly elected Reichskanzler) is a human being and not a monster from outer space. When recently multi-Oscar winning director Oliver Stone called Hitler a "scapegoat" - whole Germany shook frightened its head. Had Stone been a German (or perhaps only in Germany to the time when he uttered that), the police would have arrested him because of "belittlement" of war-crimes. Of course: Only about two years ago, famous and popular TV moderator and writer Eva Herman lost her job because she was telling in one of her shows that the children's care had been much better in the NS-time than it is in present-day Germany. Nothing else. When, again some years earlier, a chemist offered a court house to show his chemical proof that cyclone B could not possibly have been used in cold Auschwitz - he was arrested and sentences without even having been given the possibility to show his scientific proof. The same happened to a meanwhile whole bunch of scientists who have tried to shade light on some of the innumerable inconsistencies and contradictions of what happened or not happened between 1933 and 1945. Speaking nicely about Hitler is strongly forbidden in Germany, one just wonders that this movie has not been banned in Germany. The more one has to praise its director, not only for his great and admirable achievement, but mostly for his courage in a land where only that is accepted as "truth" about the NS times which is accepted by Jewish historians.
The women-type Rut does exist, and it is so excellently portrayed in
this movie that I dare saying: In his later movies, Bergman was hardly
ever so honest. However, this is not the basic tenor of this movie, the
question is: What is this glue that holds a relationship together? At
the end, Bertil says to himself: Yes, I'm in hell with her, but being
alone would be much worse. - Hell is only one stadium before
self-abolishment, but not itself.
Rut is a drinker, and therefore, Bergman's title "Törst" is at least not exclusively metaphoric. As a very young girl, she had a relationship with a married and much older man. Her pregnancy would possibly be classified as due to rape in certain environments. During abort, she lost her fertility. By her lack of intelligence, she cannot cope with her second husband, a university professor. Thus, she is quite unclear about her function: She cannot be mother and neither partner (partner in what?). During her drinking she floods away her bad memories, but only with the result that they come back with even greater intensity. She is addicted to little signs of love. If he caresses her on the mistaken side of the face, the catastrophe is programmed. She is able to condemn him with an avalanche of the worst vocabulary, and to apologize begging and whining for what she just said two minutes later. Her husband also realizes that she flirts with death: f.ex. he follows her in the corridor of the train and listens when she is in the bathroom.
This early movie is already a typical "Bergman": existentialist down to its "pores", asking a lot of question and letting the answers to the watcher.
I cannot deny when many people think that "Pioniere Von Ingolstadt" (1971) was more of less an apprentice piece for Fassbinder, although he had already done a couple of feature films before. I have also no major arguments against those who criticize that both film and play (by Marielouise Fleisser) are basically content-less (why Brecht seriously recommended to perform it "not as whole, but in its parts"): "Pioneers" come into a small Southern German town, the girls, oppressed by the Bavarian patriarchs, are eager to escape with the next-best soldier who comes across them. However, they are disappointed, because they experience sex where they expect love. And the pioneers build a bridge -a really strange metaphor. Is this bridge, that probably never get finished, a connection between the oppressors and the oppressed, the rich (patriarchs) and the poor (servants, the two female lead-characters Alma and Berta or A and B)? The movie raises more question than it gives an answer why Fassbinder did it. Considering that social problems, especially such involved with women, will become central in Fassbinder's later work, we may speculate that here, he laid out all the topics to which he would come back in his following films.
It is a fantastic and poetic world which Marcel Carné has presented to his public in his limited number of movies, almost everyone a masterpiece on its own. A world, in which fantasy and poetry have magical power. There is no gesture, no mimics, no sign without a meaning, a little character can change a world. Insofar, Carné is a late heir of Novalis. According to him, the sign is necessarily bound to its object, there is no arbitrariness and no convention. There is a "sympathetic abyss" between sign and object, and at the beginning of the creation of every sign therefore stands the Great Sign Creator, God. So, every syllable, every twitch and flutter and flicker and bicker and flash is a message from Heaven. No wonder, that in such a world practically everything is possible. And no wonder, that the gigantic fairground which Carné presents in his epochal "Les Enfants Du Paradis" is a world in the world that is protected by the Sublime. I even think that Carné's typical style, which is the style of a merciful and enchanted marionette-player, shows that the sense of life does not consist in enforcing everyone's alleged free will, but to learn how to communicate, to interpret and to act in this highly artistic semiotic world. Nietzsche had written that he supports an anti-metaphysic world-view - as long it is artistic.
The idea that the human being is a Kosmos of his own, is know since the
times of Romantics, at last. The even stronger theory according to
which the human was been created after God has become a common feature
of Christian religion. However, it has taken almost two thousand years
before the philosopher Gotthard Gunther has stated that between an "I"
and and "Though" there is exactly the same qualitative difference as
between the human and God. On therefore has not to travel to the edges
of transcendence in order to experience what a con-texture border
means, it is sufficient to learn that insight into a Thou is excluded
on principal reasons. This turns out to be important in all those cases
where even close friends of a human become shocked and react in a way
similar to: we would never have thought that he could do that.
Another problem, perhaps in a certain perspective even more delicate, is the border between a deed in thought and a deed in fact. Many people kill others in their wishes, dreams, they even say it without meaning it. On the other hand, some people would never say it, but then there is a moment when they do it. What is it that causes the transgression between thought and deed? R.W. Fassbinder presents a fully uncommented, non-condemnatory approach in "Warum Läuft Herr R. Amok?" (1970). Up to a certain degree, the absolute free speech which gives the illusion of everyday-conversations observed by a candid camera, has the form of a Brechtian "Lehrstück", however, there is no wagging finger to sense in this movie. The spectator is elevated into the position of the judge - if he really still thinks that the deed of Herr R. can be judged after having watched and understood the movie. The spectator even becomes a part of the movie, without him the communication scheme is incomplete. He is the receiver of a message from whom not even an answer is expected, but a revision in thinking on the basis of which has been presented to him. "A good movie is a movie that does not stop when people come out of the cinema, but continues in their heads", Fassbinder said once.
The first "Pink Panther" movie, directed by Blake Edwards, with Peter
Sellers in the main role, came out in 1963. As practically everybody
knows, it was a wonderful spoof of the French police as seen through
British eyes. Although the exact relationships between the Pink Panther
movies on the one side and the totally 6 "Le Gendarme De
Saint-Tropez"-movies, directed by Jean Girault, has, as far as I know,
never been revealed or scrutinized, the latter ones, starting in 1964,
can surely be seen as an answer to make fun of the French provincial
police by some people from Paris.
A short comparison between Sellers (who has been considered widely as the best comedian of all times) and De Funes (who never got really famous in the US despite the release of such movies like "Rabbi Jacob" and the VHS release of "La Grande Vadrouille"), De Funes' comic is devastatingly different from the one of Sellers. De Funes, who was a trained pantomimic, used this special capacity of his in most of his films, his being-a-comedian has elements of vaudeville - yet not in the sense of the Marx brothers, of slapstick - yet not in the sense of the early American silent movies, - of horseplay, yet without striving tastelessness or primitiveness. However, his comic is never intellectual, Funes could never have played Dr. Strangelove - as Seller could never have been Balduin or Oskar.
Nevertheless, the characters of Cruchot and Cluseau are closer than one would expect, yet still radically different in their basics. While Clouzeau never seems to be ridiculous when he hunts criminals, Cruchot does, because he is more interested in chicken-stealing than in felonies. How Cruchot treats his caught thieves, reveals that he is not to much different from them. On the other side, Clouseau is different from everybody, he would be too clumsy to associate with his "victims". Clouzeau is much more the French guy as he is seen by foreigners than Cruchot: Quiet, with a tendency to be elegant, womanizing, polite. But now quite the opposite is Cruchot: He walks around with his uniform even at home, he is loud, rude, slaps and hits and beats his "subservients", has mostly a daughter (in later "Gendarm"-sequels a wife), but does not come in flirting contact with any other women. He uses politeness and respect strictly to get to his purpose - as he uses otherwise rudeness and disrespect. However, both Cluseau and Cruchot are behaving strictly against police rules, but in their "anticyclic" behavior they reach the goal where probably everyone else would fail.
Louis De Funes has often being criticized for having played the allegedly primitive, but funny "Gendarm"-movies, after having been for decades a revered, but outside of France completely unnoticed stage actor. It is true that especially his work that he did with Gerard Oury belongs probably to the best that French comedy of the 60ies and 70ies had to offer, but without the "Gendarm"-movies he possibly would never have reached his enormous popularity. It is time that these 6 movies are edited for the international audience, too.
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