Four queer and trans youth in New York City struggle to maintain their proto-utopian community against the outside world as their lives curiously merge with the 1980s German novel So Schön by Ronald M. Schernikau.
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After a failed attempt at working on a foreign film set, 26 year-old Ana returns to her hometown of Strasbourg. Over the scorching summer that follows, she decides to replace her grandmother's bathtub with a walk-in shower, eat peas and carrots with ketchup, drive a Porsche, harvest plums, lose her driver's license, sleep with her best friend and get back together with her ex. In short, over this particular summer, Ana tries to get her life together.
"Baden Baden" follows the story of Ana (Salomé Richard) in her mid-20s figuring out life. She looks like Dakota Johnson in a pixie cut. Ana gets yelled at by her boss, sings and literally drives her frustration away and shortly after, gets ticketed. She makes new friends, rekindles past romance, and meets potential lovers. She also bonds with her parents, occasionally.
In what could be considered the film's conflict, Ana's softspoken and witty grandmother (Claude Gensac) was kept for hospital treatment after she slipped in the bathroom. Remaking her toilet, she seeks help from Grégoire (Lazare Gousseau), an awkward store assistant who has a crush on her. In a humorous scene, they both grunt and hump and yank the bathtub out of the tiles the camera made them look like they're clumsily copulating.
"Funny parts were funny, boring parts were boring" was my off-the-cuff reply when a colleague asked my thoughts about it, to the her laughter. But I stand by what I said. With a good soundtrack, this dramedy film has moments of hilarity and hints of realism but unluckily overshadowed by bland and dull sequences.
Dramatic bits, involving family conversations, hinted somber themes. Like light seedheads moving through the blows of the wind, Ana navigates her pathless journey through people she meets.
As a whole, however, it looks like a failed attempt on the slice of life genre. Its lack of structure and ambiguous dreams scenes worked against it. Life's tediousness instead of innocent mundanity was unintentionally mirrored.
The dream-like imagery involves Ana wandering in the misty woods naked, perhaps reflecting how she is free and lost in the wilderness. But it's insertion was ambitious enough it felt shoehorned and detached from the groundedness of the film.
It could be that I just didn't get it, as the guy who enjoyed only the amusing parts. But if that's true I'm not the one to blame for I tried my best to get it--and I tried hard--and in experiencing films of this kind, one should not.
Original unrevised review first appeared on Atenews (08/03/2019)
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