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In 1957 Gustaf Gründgens staged a new production of Goethe's Faust in which he once again played Mephisto, a part he had played since 1932. The brilliant production was a huge success and ran for a couple of years. In 1959 Peter Gorski captured the performance on film in his directorial film debut. Basically it is a registration of the production, but Gorksi did manage to accentuate the details of the acting by using enough medium and close-up shots which give a view on the acting you normally would not able to see in a theater.
How fortunate it is and how happy we can be that at least this Mephisto of Gründgens is on film (I do not know of any other Faust production with Gründgens on film). Here we can see his brilliant, if not obsessive acting to the full. Here we can also see that, although Gründgens was know for not being in favour of "modernization" of classic plays, he was not entirely against it either. The stage set is simple and almost bare which gives the production a certain light touch. Faust himself is a young man (without long beard!) who is a nuclear physicist (an idea given to Gründgens by Will Quadflieg); a very clear reference to the then nuclear race. According to Heinz Reincke (interview on tv) the exploding of the atom bomb was more sensational on stage than in this film.
So, not only for Gründgens this is a fascinating film, the staging and interpretation of the play as well make it wonderful viewing; for the first time he included the prolog. While watching this production I hardly need to consult Goethe's text; the cast read their lines with a wonderful sense of rhythm and very, very clear; productions nowadays can learn something from this. Not only Gründgens' acting can be admired, under the supervision of Gründgens the complete cast is extraordinary.
Highly recommended and a must-see for all those studying or interested in German language and culture.(8/10)
Die Brücke (1959)
WELCOME EXCEPTION TO OTHER 50'S GERMAN WW2 FILMS
Until recently I thought that the impact as "anti-war" film of Die Brücke was far greater than that of any other anti-war film. This was from memory, not having seen the film for over 15 years. Recent re-seeing of the film did not convince me entirely anymore, though it is still to be preferred to films like Stalingrad or Saving Private Ryan.
Situated within the German WW2 cinema of the 50's (starting with "08/15" to "Hunde wollt ihr ewig leben" of 1958) the film surely is an exception in its honesty and well-meant premise. But as Wicki said in interviews and what clearly is stressed in the film, not "war" itself is the subject, the propagandist influence on youth (and I say: from any regime/government for that matter) is the main subject. The influence of the older generation who believe in stupid ideals makes the youth stupid idealists. Wicki shows a number of precisely defined examples. The boy whose parents believe in Prussian (military) ideals: he believes what his father says.
All boys are military idealists even before they are drafted, indeed they can not wait to be drafted. As the film starts they are 16 years of age, but already they have undergone "Vormilitärische Erziehung" (pre-military education) in earlier years. Whether they have got this as member of the Hitler youth or otherwise is not clear, and may not be important. The fact is that from early youth on they are educated to be a soldier and thus can be employed as soldier from day one they are drafted. They are educated in the believe that all is well when done in the name of "Führer, Volk, Vaterland". Thus: not the young soldiers are to blame, but the parents, the older generation, the political system.
To wind up: this is the main "message" Wicki has to tell and he is good at it. War itself is never the main subject (and only takes about 1/3 of the film). Oh yes, he does show how horrible it can be in very impressive scenes. Wicki does show that war is not a game of "cowboys and indians" meant for boys of 16. But does he ever show that an offensive war is to be discarded at all? It seems to me that he only shows the ridiculousness of the last days of the war, when German HQ refused to give up and employed male youth as soldiers. I also wonder whether the film should have included the war scenes at all; would it not have been a stronger film if Wicki would have elaborated the 2/3 drama into a complete drama?
Wicki's direction of this his first feature is very good and in general he made a tight drama (and sad to say is still his only really good film). But the film is alas occasionally marred by some bad melodramatic acting by some of the young actors and also by some inappropriate (vis-a-vis the realism) melodramatic turns in the script. The reaction of Karl to the relationship of his father with Barbara is logic, but executed in a banal way. And whether an American soldier would be so kind to plea seize fire without carrying a weapon is very questionable; it probably should have been a dramatic turn, but it does not work at all.
Great cinematography by Gerd von Bonin who captures the right realistic atmosphere. Certainly the film is recommended viewing. One other unintended thing the film achieved was that after this one WW2 would not be a subject for the German cinema anymore for a long time. (7/10)
MAY BE HAZARDOUS FOR THE SOUL
A by Catholicism and false sentimentality inspired, by Franz Antel directed Heimatfilm: could the premise ever be less promising? At the start of the film Sabine Bethmann tries to commit suicide by jumping into a river, probably as she was already aware what kind of film she was getting involved in (it can not be that she had that much grieve over Rudolf Prack?).
She should have been left alone, but unfortunately priest Hans Holt comes along and saves her from drowning; now the film has to continue. For the next half hour she is mum, which is understandable as she has now to face the Vienna Boy's Choir that tries to help her in refusing to shut up; she also has to deal with the unavoidable Heimatfilm lover (that's a laugh) Rudolf Prack and with our priest who gets to close to her for Catholic comfort. But not to worry, the Franz Antel was assisted by an advisor from the Catholic Church, and thus the priest is never allowed to get too close.
The soul of Sabine Bethmann may have been saved, but did the makers ever think about the soul of the viewer? (3/10)
Frühling auf Immenhof (1974)
LUCKILY THE LAST PART OF THE IMMENHOF SERIES
This 5th and last part of the "Immenhof series" shows how limited the story subject of the series was: for this part the story material of the first 3 parts were combined into one. As part 4 this is a 50's film made in the 70's, but luckily the script at least has a decent story and due to Wolfgang Schleif's good routine direction the film is well-paced and amusing. If there had only been a better supporting cast, one thing the first 3 parts had no trouble with. As part 4 the film is carried by Heidi Brühl and the nice twin sisters Westhausen, but to bring life to the story they are on their own. Who can tell the difference between Horst Janson and one of the horses?
So, not bad, but what luck there have not been other sequels. (6/10)
TYPICAL LEANDER VEHICLE
After WW2 Zarah Leander made her come-back in German cinema with this film. Whether on purpose or not director/writer Geza von Cziffra made a Leander vehicle in the old (UFA) style of her films of the 40's with Leander as an independent lady from the upper middle class. As it turned out this style was obsolete in 1950 and the film was a box-office failure (and Leander's return to the German cinema as well).
Seen in retrospect after almost 50 years (and not troubled by history) I consider this film as part of Leander's film career as a whole and the film as Leander vehicle indeed fits perfectly with her films during the Nazi period. Von Cziffra wrote an in general good melodrama with all the typical Leander ingredients and with all the story ideas building up to a good final. I say in general as towards the end the story material more or less runs dry.
Von Cziffra avoids the melodrama getting sentimental by adding little (visual) jokes to those scenes which could have drifted into sentimentality thus keeping the film in balance. The first part is very good melodrama, well-directed and well-paced (and good story telling), but Von Cziffra lets the film drag a bit from the flashback scenes onwards; these flashback scenes themselves are already disturbing for the film's balance and this is never fully recovered afterwards. As said, the finale is good melodrama ("everything comes together"), but the dramatic impact is undermined as the film's pacing and balance is disturbed.
Leander is great and sings three good songs (music by Michael Jary), with one of them a very odd, romantic song: "Wann willst du mich fragen?". Very good supporting cast in Carl Raddatz, Grethe Weiser (who else for the comedy relief?) and Vera Molnar. Siegfried Breuer is a bit disappointing, he acts purely on routine. The stage dresses for Leander are exquisite; the song and dance routines in the nightclub add to the fun.
Needless to say that this is a must-see for Leander aficionados? (7/10)
NOT UNSYMPATHETIC, TALKATIVE DRAMA
Based on a "Volksstück" (popular play) this to me seems to be a typical, sentimental "feel good" comic drama for Austrian audiences after WW2. Ingredients of the story as the missing soldier, his mother looking for a new meaning in life, the divorced parents of 7 year Peter from the title etc. and the action itself are clearly aimed at a positive look at the future and at restoration of order.
Not unsympathetic and retrospect interesting for its social implications, the film is also too sentimental and vèry, vèry talkative. The script is so-so; the building up to the final solution, though unavoidable within the genre, is not very well done: it just happens. The supporting cast is just okay, but Annie Rosar - in one of the few films in which she had a leading part - is very good. (5/10)
Hin und weg (1999)
Mediocrely written and hardly surprising coming-of-age drama in which quite a few characters disappear from the story as the film goes on: what ever happened to the little brother Rico? The film is mainly carried by the two leading actors Daniel Brühl and Katharina Schlüter who make this film worth watching. A chauvinist as I am wants to point out this attractive feature: t a part of the film takes place in Amsterdam, though the makers could not avoid showing a couple of cliches. It is with this film as with so many 90' s films of this mainstream genre: a nice idea, but only average and playing on safe film making. (5/10)
Kino im Kopf (1996)
12 FILMS FOR THE PRICE OF 1
Ever had an idea for a film? Ever actually visualized this film in your mind? Or even already drawn some sketches of scenes and angles for the camera? I think every real film buff has; I certainly have. Documentary maker Michael Glawogger invited 12 of these individuals to tell about their film idea and not only that: he shot short fragments for them. He choose the participants carefully, thereby inviting 12 very different people and thus getting 12 very different film ideas, which range from an SM/Horror fantasy à la Jesus Franco to a Franz Kafka adaptation.
Glawogger made it into a very entertaining documentary in which you can see 12 films at the same time, that is: Glawogger luckily choose to make the whole thing into a continuous "show". The alternative would of course have been to show the individual films one after the other but that would have meant an obligatory documentary. In his treatment Glawogger very cleverly mixes all the 12 films into à documentary, but he never forgets that the 12 film ideas and 12 individuals are the most important. Glawogger did not only stage and film the fragments (and showing that at least on this small scale he can treat very different genres), he also perfectly staged the interviewees in a set-up and surroundings which match their films.
The documentary also reminds the viewer - well, at least this one - that his idea may be a good one to himself, but that when seeing it actually filmed the result could be disappointing. Ah, what a shame, I see all those beautiful long-legged girls dancing and then . (8/10)
No Sex (1999)
NO SEX MAKES NO COMEDY
Ah yes, another one of those German mainstream (made-for-tv) comedies with its main premise: how to start a family. This time it is an architect whose first designed house goes to pieces and his sex life at the same time; wow, what a great allegory. A lot of intrusive music must cover up a bunch of inexpressive scenes, Josh Broecker's sometimes poor direction that lacks any imagination and the terrible cast.
The comedy suffocates from PC ad nauseam and that never makes good comedy; oh what a fine modern, caring, sensitive and for all communicative (would he ever stop complaining about himself?) our architect is. No wonder he is impotent. After watching this comedy anyone's sex life will go to pieces. (2/10)
Die Superbullen (1997)
FAILED SLAPSTICK COMEDY
Mediocrely scripted and directed run-of-the-mill comedy that very much would like to be a great slapstick comedy. The couple of plagiarized bars from the music of the Pink Panther films indicate very clearly what kind of comedy the makers had in mind , but they miserablely fail. Ottfried Fischer may have been enthusiastic about his part as the cop to whom every slapstick happens and he tries hard, Retzer's direction is to matter of fact to make it work. Rezter should have studied Blake Edwards' films first.
The supporting cast does not help much to keep the interest, but Wolfgang Fierek and the cute Rebecca Horner make it bearable viewing and have some nice scenes together. (5/10)
Conversation with the Beast (1996)
Very silly if not outright preposterous film in which director/writer/actor Armin Müller Stahl shows us a 103 year old Adolf Hitler. The aim of the film is to demystify the man Adolf Hitler, but it is a good thing that Müller-Stahl explained this when it premiered as from the film itself it is never clear what Müller-Stahl tries to achieve. It is neither satirical nor thought-provoking (the film at any moment did not provoke any thought with me as I was trying to stay awake).
What is the viewer expected to do with a Hitler who shoots peas at his visitor, refuses to take his medicine and is simply annoying to the 2 people around him. Is this supposed to be funny? The conversations do not lead anywhere and certainly no laughs, also due to the fact that there is no chemistry between Muller Stahl and Robert Balaban. The film basically only concerns itself with the story idea of the 6 actors who doubled as Adolf Hitler during his life. So what? Did Müller-Stahl wanted to say that the acting of the real Hitler made the German people believe in him?
There is one moment that is is very hilarious: one of the doubles doing the Hamlet "To be or not to be" routine in Hitlerian fashion. This is a surreal moment and maybe the whole idea should have been executed in this fashion. On the other hand: where did I see this before? John Cleese as Hitler on the balcony of a house in an English suburb; Ernst Lubitsch and Jack Benny?
It seems to me that Müller-Stahl had a "hunch at a possible idea", but forgot to make it into a solid subject for a film that would have some meaning. In stead of demystifying Hitler he made a mystifying film that never is a contribution to the Hitler debate. The very good cinematography and superb set design - Hitler's Berlin bunker was duplicated in the studio - can not save this one. (2/10)
Das Versprechen (1995)
UNEASY POLITICAL DRAMA
In an interview at the time of the release of this film Margarete von Trotta rather bragged about the fact that this was the first German (after unification) film after the fall of the Berlin wall that dealt with the 28 years of history on the East side of the wall. This remains to be seen, but if so, is that a good reason to come up with this dim, tepid and obligatory romantic drama that is predictable from scene 1? A drama in which the viewer no cliche spared?
The film looks more a kaleidoscope of political events in which the two main characters just happened to be a part of. The film never is a real drama and lacks every dramatic tension. The two main characters are simply boring people (not helped much by the casting); all other characters are one-dimensional. Some bad writing is also present: some characters, like the aunt, simply disappear from the story. As to direction and filmmaking there are plenty of uneasy moments as well. In the Prague scene the girl waits on the wrong spot for her friend; well, they just wait, but then "pop" a short scene in which she asks where this or that place is and then "pop": yes, there he is! The scene of the father in hospital also just seems to come from nowhere.
It all looks like as Von Trotta really wanted to show how very, very concerned she was about the 28 years of history and by that overplaying her hand. She should either have elaborated the drama more, or have taken the trouble for a more thorough interpretation of the political situation. As it is now it is a "everything political happens to poor us" drama. (5/10)
Rot ist die Liebe (1957)
LÖNS' LIFE EXCUSE FOR A HEIMATFILM
The life of German journalist/writer/poet Hermann Löns is supposed to be the subject of the film; well, to be honest, the credits already warn that the film is based on "ideas taken from the biography by Dr. Wilhelm Deimann". The life of Löns is a poor excuse for a slightly above average Heimatfilm with the standard ingredients of plenty of landscape, sentimental love stories and a couple of folklore songs and dances and very little of the life, let alone an insight in the literature, of Löns. One wonders how much time Löns could have had for writing his prose, poetry and being a journalist if so much of his time is used for keeping his marriage intact.
There are some enormous discrepancies between this Löns and the real Löns. I can not think of any other reason than the average conventional German mentality of the 50's that made the makers decide to let him keep his marriage until 1914. In fact his wife Lisa left him in 1910 after which Löns had a nervous breakdown and traveled through Europe for about 2 years. In this film he never leaves the moor and only has a slight attack of fever. From 1912 he lived together with Ernestin Sassenberg in Hannover, that is: without being married and that would have been a problem in a mainstream German film in the 50's.
This is still an entertaining film though. The cast is fine and director Karl Hartl has good control over the material and avoids it resulting into exaggerated sentimentality. Good cinematography, ditto music and pacing. (6/10)
Die Zwillinge vom Immenhof (1973)
A 50'S FILM MADE IN THE 70'S
Part 4 of the so-called "Immenhof series" had to wait 16 years after part 3. Well, I think that at the time of part 3 (1958) no one had the slightest notion that in the 70's the German mainstream cinema would be thàt in decline and thàt desperate that the producer and the director only could think of a follow-up on 50's material. Because that what this film is: a 50's film made in the 70's.
The makers did not even bother to come up with some new ideas to the standard format: again an elderly veterinary courting the elderly lady of Immenhof. In fact there is hardly a story at all. The makers also do not bother to explain why the Immenhof is not the same house anymore.
Original cast member of the first three parts Heidi Brühl can be seen as the owner; she and the twin sisters (nice girls) make it at least bearable. (4/10)
Er kanns nicht lassen (1962)
ANOTHER FAILED CHESTERTON ADAPTATION
This second film with Heinz Rühmann as G.K. Chesterton's creation Father Brown at least tries to tell a comprehensive detective story, but the writers forgot to make it into a logical plot, let alone into an interesting and amusing one. Maybe they had a good idea, but that never surfaces. The film just moves from A to B. A good director could have made it into a passable film, director Von Ambesser seemed to have been glad he was able to shoot more or less adequately each scene. It is as with the first Rühmann as Father Brown film (Das schwarze Schaf 1960): it may look all very English, but it desperately lacks the charm of Chesterton's stories.(5/10)
Kinderland ist abgebrannt (1998)
Revealing and tranquil if conventional documentary in which 12 women from a South German town, who are now well into their seventies, talk about how they perceived the Nazi period from 1933 onwards, that is: from the time they were around 12 years old and in still in school. Much is told about the day-to-day life and how the Nazi ideology step by step got a hold of the youth (which was always the main aim of Nazi propaganda), which is a good achievement of the makers.
Problem with the film is that the women are never properly introduced; from the interviews the viewer has to understand who the 3 Jewish women are. Nor is it explained what the relationship between the girls was: who was friend of whom? The women are all interviewed separately and there is never a confrontation. I would have liked to see the reaction of the women to the lady whose father (a social-democrat) was arrested: she has not so happy memories. One Jewish lady tells that she was spit in the face by Anneliese; the credits tell that one of the women is Anneliese,but is this the same one? And if so, would it not have been interesting to hear her reaction?
It is conventional in that the maker restricted herself in filming the interviews. This interview material is augmented by some fascinating archive material from the 30's and 40's (some of it in colour), including material that to me seems to be propaganda films for the BDM (Bond of German Girls). But again the same problem: non of this archive material is identified.
All in all: interesting and certainly worth a look (7/10)
Das schwarze Schaf (1960)
DEATHLY CHESTERTON ADAPTATION
Maybe I am spoiled by Alec Guiness as G.K Chesterton's creation Father Brown, but though Heinz Rühmann tries hard he does not make a very convincing one. Rühmann is not helped much by a so-so script that hardly captures the atmosphere, let alone the intelligent and complicated plots of the Chesterton's stories. Emphasis in this adaptation is very much on Father Brown himself rather than on a good detective story. It takes quite a while for this Father Brown to find out what solution to the murder case is; the viewer is way ahead of him.(5/10)
Helmut Ashley's direction is only adequate, as is the cast, which all amounts to a very deathly film.
Charleys Tante (1956)
HEINZ RÜHMANN SAVES THIS ONE
Brandon Thomas classic comedy gets the average German 50's cinema treatment here: mediocre production values and uninspired direction of a routinist without any guts. But we may be glad that Heinz Rühmann was given the opportunity to play the aunt as it he and both Paul Hörbiger and Hans Leibelt who make the film worth watching: when they are on the scene there is something to laugh about. Any other moment the film is dreary and makes the viewer long for a next scene with the three mentioned gentlemen.
Hans Quest did not really know what to do with the material to make the whole thing into a fast-paced comedy that will not let the viewer have time to think about what he is seeing; and that is what "Charley's Aunt" needs. Dull supporting cast (very disappointing Hertha Feiler and Ruth Stephan, but were their parts written well enough?). Hans Olden has a repeated one-liner that must have been very funny on paper, but neither he nor Quest knew how to make the repeated joke work.
But enjoy Heinz Rühmann as the aunt, and surely when he does the "Amazonas-Mambo". (5/10)
This film on the live of the famous and brilliant German surgeon Ferdinand Sauerbruch is fairly entertaining, but it is rather a hagiography than a biography: the Sauerbruch we see here is not a man of flesh and blood, but a real saint. Embedded in a rather sentimental story that takes place in 1948 (what luck for suicide Heidemarie Hatheyer that Sauerbruch happens to be passing by), in 5 flashbacks episodes of Sauerbruch's live are told; the choice of these episodes are one sided to say the least, which make Sauerbruch a man of no faults.
As said, the frame story takes place in 1948. That is one year after Sauerbruch was reinstated as manager of the Berlin Charité Hospital, that is: after having been suspended from that post in 1945 for having openly collaborated with the Nazis from 1933 onward. This period is conveniently forgotten by the makers, it would have undermined the film's purpose. The only mentioning of that period is in the 1934 episode, in which Sauerbruch takes care of president Hindenburg on his death bed; this is a very dubious scene in which Hindenburg says that he worries about Germany now it is in the hands of "that man", so, it is not really the fault of the old guard! Obviously referring to the situation of the Sauerbruch himself after the war, the makers let Sauerbruch say that "the history that later judges, knows more than we do". According to the makers Sauerbruch could be excused.
I recently saw a 2 minute fragment from a 1943 educational film, in which Sauerbruch gives a lecture to students. Compared to this fragment Ewald Balser makes a very good Sauerbruch in movement and voice; I suspect that he either must have known the man personally or must have studied Sauerbruch carefully on film. In any case, Ewald Balser gives a great performance here, which is more than can be said of the great actress Heidemarie Hatheyer as she is not convincing in any scene.
All in all: an entertaining, but unreliable biopic. (6/10)
VERY TENSE POETRY
A film with the simple story subject of a man who wants to oppose the ever present muzak in a hamburger restaurant and other places deserves any credit it can get, surely if it has been made into this remarkable and very stylistic German cult films of the 80's. Inspired by W.S. Burroughs, who also has a cameo, the makers came up with a very tense, very good edited and very rhythmic film that invites the viewer not only to watch, but also to feel the poetry of the film.
There is the wonderful cinematography by Johanna Heer, giving in general the film a steal blue colour. Variations are made for the different characters and different situations. In an interview producer Klaus Maeck may have said that to him this style seemed to be exaggerated, I think that the film could not have done without this cinematographic style.
Then there is the very good music that accompanies the film, and adding to the rhythm of the film. The script, simple as it may be, is well written, although there are a couple of flaws, the main being that it takes too long. But do not expect a linear told story, this is not that kind of a film; you have to carefully study and interpret every image to know what is going on. This does not mean that the makers were not able to tell a story, it is part of the overall poetic style: the viewer has to go through this film.
Though the acting may not be of greatest importance as the filmed image is main story teller, some of the acting should have been much better. With all due respect to Christiane F., she never comes further than saying her lines. Bill Rice as the undercover agent is the best and seems to have walked out of a Raymond Chandler novel.
The riots you see are actual riots the makers made use of. The riots accompanied President Reagan's visit to Berlin. After seeing this film you probably will not enter any hamburger restaurant again, which to me may be the strongest reason to watch the film. I recommend this to the discriminating film buff. What a pity that this team never produced another one. (8/10)
San Salvatore (1956)
LOW ENTERTAINMENT VALUE
Much to his own chagrin in the 50's Dieter Borsche was cast time and time again as the serious, honest and honourable man without many laughs, preferably in a part as doctor of medicine. With his rather plain face he was one of the icons the German (ladies) audiences fell for. This film, a doctor's drama, is good example of this kind of film.
Not badly made, certainly considering who sat in the director's chair,and well acted, but the viewer has to go through a lot of exaggerated sentimentality, one-dimensional characters, firmness, honour and small-mindedness combined with a serious lack of passion and excitement: this is not a quiet drama, it is without any emotion. As such interesting viewing: the film fits perfectly within the socio-political situation of Germany in the 50's, but the entertainment value is low and the viewer will need a shot of adrenalin after watching the film. (5/10)
Buena Vista Social Club (1999)
UPBEAT TO THE CD?
One may be carried away by the great music of the elderly Cuban gentlemen, by their charm, by their vivacity and their general attitude towards live, I would gladly defy anyone to inform me about the history of the Buena Vista Social Club as such and their place in Havana society before and during the Fidel Castro regime after watching this documentary. I think the information would be very slight. What did Wim Wenders had in mind conceiving this documentary? He lets the members of the Club introducing themselves extensively (there is no disturbing interviewer), but this is limited to the 4 main members of the club and takes already one hour!. With all due respect to the gentlemen it must be said that these introductions have a high percentage of meaningless anecdote. It seems that Wenders started the documentary without the faintest notion what the Buena Vista Social Club was.
The artist within Wim Wenders could not refrain from an extensive iconoclastic view of Havana, during day time, night time and any other time of the day. This may have worked if Wenders would have limited himself; but after 60 minutes of another drive through the town, the ploy begins to bore and the point Wenders wants to make becomes repetitious. Moreover, Wenders is not the first documentary maker to show the poorness of Havana and the American 50's oldtimer cars.
I was carried away by the music (who wouldn't?), but I felt betrayed by Wenders that not with one song he could be patient enough to let the viewer hear and see the complete performance. No one with real love for the music would have done this, unless the whole venture is aimed at letting us buy the by Ry Cooder produced cd's. I know that that is a strong thing to say, but I can remember another venture by Ry Cooder in the 70's, when he suddenly introduced the "forgotten" Hawaiian musician Gabby Pahinui; what ever became of him? (anyone out there who knows?)
What in the end the documentary does is to give the gentlemen and the lady singer their long awaited 15 minutes of world fame; both Ry Cooder and Wim Wenders can have a good feeling about this. In two years time no one will remember anymore what the Buena Vista Social Club was and both Cooder and Wenders will be busy on other projects. (6/10)
Marianne de ma jeunesse (1955)
VERY STRANGE FILM
This is one of the strangest films I ever saw: Horst Buchholz as a young man from Argentine finds first love in the Bavarian forests! But is his loved one either crazy or a ghost, or is she neither? The aim of the film is to give a very poetic and dreamlike rendering of how the Argentinian (as he is called by his friends) goes through this stage. The strangeness of the film is caused by Duvivier trying hard to achieve this, but most of the times he missing the right tone; he can not sweep the viewer off his feet to accept all he is seeing. There are scenes though that are successful and the best scene (and a very compelling one indeed) is the first encounter between the Argentinian and the girl.
Unavoidably the film heavily relies on poetic symbolism. When the Argentinian first realizes that he is in love, he rushes into the castle accompanied by a storm and heavy rain that shakes the castle. This is still acceptable (but also one of the scenes that should have deserved a better treatment in the direction), but why his love for nature, his natural innocence have to be illustrated by countless deer, is beyond me; this is getting almost satirical. Another aspect of the story that is not elaborated too well, is the presence of the other young girl Liselotte. Okay it is clear that she wants him, but she is never established as a real character, she pops in and out.
Two of the main features of the film and without which the film would probably not have survived are the cinematography and set design that give the most strength to the film. Just look at that openings shot or that extremely well done shot with the Argentinian and the girl in close up and the painting of the girl on the left behind her. Just see how the set designer in his design of the girl's house knew how to convey the dark and tense atmosphere. Music is good too.
The cast has a couple of names who need mentioning. First of course Horst Buchholz in his 2nd feature film; he is good but in his scenes with Marianne Hold (the girl from the castle) he does not stand a change! Until now I knew Marianne Hold only as the eternal virgin in Heimatfilms, but in this film she shows that she was a great actress: whenever she is on screen the complete film is raised a couple of levels in quality and atmosphere. Other noteworthy names (not always for their acting) are: Michael Verhoeven - the later director; Adi Berber - a heavy weight wrestler from Austria here playing a servant who would be very much at home with the Addams Family!; Peter Vogel in one of his first parts.
This is the German language version of a French film with the same name. According to some sources the French language version is better than this one, but alas I can not check. All in all: strange, not always successful, but certainly worth a look. (7/10)
La bourse et la vie (1966)
Shameful, awful and miserable comedy (that is what it is supposed to be) in which the talents of both Heinz Rühmann and Fernandel are wasted; one feels pity for them. Badly directed with no timing of the already poor and crude "jokes", poor acting by anyone involved, poor cinematography, in fact poor everything. Rühmann already played in the 1931 adaptation of the play the film is based on: "Der brave Sünder"; the less said about thìs film, the better. (1/10)
Der Greifer (1958)
LAST REALLY GOOD PART OF HANS ALBERS
For Hans Albers the part of the retiring police superintendant is a repeat of the same part he played in the first version in 1930 (!). It seems to me that in this 2nd version Albers is better cast, though I never saw the 1930 version. Albers easily dominates the film and plays his part with a lot of joy and irony. The makers gave him the chance to render a song from his standard repertoire in at the same time the best scene in the film: during the underworld part Albers sings "Beim ersten Mal da tut's noch Weh", the song he sang for the first time in Helmut Käutner's "Grosse Freiheit Nr 7" of 1943. This is also the last film in which Hans Albers had a really good part. After this film came the only passable "Der Mann im Strom" (q.v.) and two others with Albers I would not care to mention.
Though the film can be considered a Hans Albers vehicle in retrospect, York surely did not aim for it. His aim was to make a psychological thriller. As such it is good entertainment, but the psychological element (the women killer who loves his mother too much) is on the simple side to say the least and is also taken to seriously, that is: a bit more tongue-in-cheek would have helped to make it acceptable. There are some big problems with the continuity of the script: at at least two occasions the action jumps without any logic. Watch how the film jumps from the bar to the arrest of Albers; someone forgot to bridge the two scenes.