Berlin, July, 1945. Journalist Jake Geismer arrives to cover the Potsdam conference, issued a captain's uniform for easier passage. He also wants to find Lena, an old flame who's now a prostitute desperate to get out of Berlin. He discovers that the driver he's assigned, a cheerful down-home sadist named Corporal Tully, is Lena's keeper. When the body of a murdered man washes up in Potsdam (within the Russian sector), Jake may be the only person who wants to solve the crime: U.S. personnel are busy finding Nazis to bring to trial, the Russians and the Americans are looking for German rocket scientists, and Lena has her own secrets.Written by
Steven Soderbergh, wishing to shoot this film the old Hollywood way, banned the use of sophisticated zoom lenses used by today's cinematographers, returning to the fixed focal-length lenses used in the past. Furthermore, only incandescent lights were used which provided harsh, unnatural lighting. There were also no wireless body microphones, which would allow the faintest whispers to be heard, on set. Sound was recorded the old-fashioned way, with a hand-operated boom mike held above the actors head, which consequently forced the actors to speak in loud, crisp English. See more »
Camera shadow on the prosecutors' uniform at 57:59 into the film. See more »
I went in to see this movie with expectations relatively low . The company I was in had dragged me to see INLAND EMPIRE which I am on record as saying was the worst movie I have paid to see . It should also be remembered that this movie had a very limited release both sides of the pond which considering has an Oscar winning director and three big names in the cast is not a good sign , so I went in with fairly low expectations
Perhaps my low expectations worked in the film's favour because it's a very effective film noir/ political thriller . Soderberg has brought a metonym to the story . He directs in monochrome and has mixed his own filmed material with stock footage of a devastated Berlin . Remember all those old movies where someone is driving a car and it's painfully obvious that it's filmed on a studio set with back projection ? Well there's a scene featuring Toby McGuire and George Clooney in a jeep where the same technique is used . The film also contains a title sequence straight out of the 1940s and has scenes with an overlong shot duration same as film from yesteryear
Unfortunately by doing this Soderbergh draws attention to the fact that Paul Attanasio's screenplay wasn't written in the 40s because there's a sex scene and several uses of the F word . If you're making a film that's a homage to 1940s cinema shouldn't you go the whole hog and write a screenplay in the same manner ? Hasn't the producer shot himself in the foot ? You'll be left scratching your head wondering why sex and bad language has been included
Still it's a minor complaint and one that doesn't destroy the movie which has a plot and if you had no idea that Cate Blanchett has been cast as Lena Brandt then you'd genuinely believe that her character was played by a European actress . Blanchett is the best actress in the world today and the fact that she wasn't Oscar nominated is another symptom that the annual academy awards are becoming more and more worthless . Tobey McGuire as Tully is considered less effective mainly because he has a sex scene which brought the cry from a couple of my cinema companions " That under no circumstances should spidey be seen to have sex " but seeing as they were both females I'm sure they were upset that George Clooney didn't get the opportunity to do some on screen horizontal jogging . Students of film studies will know the term " Impact aesthetics " and there's a great example of this when Captain Geismer studies a hundred dollar bill which will have you jumping out of your seat in fright
This is a fairly good thriller which while it isn't a film for everyone did hold my attention through its running time and despite it's somewhat retro formalist technique has me asking why it didn't get a wider release in both Britain and America ?
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