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La chiave (1983)
Don't throw away The Key
Just from the opening scene it's evident that Tinto Brass is in a class of his own as a filmmaker. A beautifully shot period piece in which an ageing husband gets aroused by his wife falling for her daughter's boyfriend (kind of a ménage a quatre), simply because it arouses him to see his wife aroused. I'm not into cuckolding, but it's actually a sweet, romantic film in a way, just with a lot of visual fawning over women's exposed buttocks. Tinto Brass is like that. I've heard about him but not really seen much so far. I'm glad this is beginning to change.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
Black as day
First of, you have to hand it to Samuel Jackson. He could make my tax statement sound captivating. Next, director Raoul Peck manages to back him up with a stunning visual collage of archive footage.
So "I Am Not Your Negro" is a surprisingly easy watch, despite the fact that it is based on an unfinished script by James Baldwin So why is this movie called "I Am Not Your Negro"? I don't know. And in any case, I don't want "you" to be my negro. Baldwin's text is called, equally obliquely, but less catchily, "Remember This House".
What I got from this movie was that James Baldwin was a trained preacher, who tried to be an acolyte to far more charismatic civil rights activists (in the case case of Malcolm X, black racist) Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., who were murdered before they were 40 years old (and in Malcolm's case, by black henchmen of his own cult). The film has to pussyfoot around the fact that two other protagonists of the era, the Kennedy brothers, were also murdered, despite the fact that they were not downtrodden and as white as the cliffs of Dover.
Baldwin is seen trying to convince liberal white Americans, who were all for civil rights in the first place, that fighting racism was somehow not an act of altruism but somehow would contribute to their own betterment.
And also that the white sheriff in "In The Heat Of The Night" and "Mr. Tibbs" have an erotic tension going on between them.
Holy Hell (2016)
The song remains the same
The filmmaker of this documentary (Will Allen) used to be the official filmmaker of the cult for more than twenty years, so he had a lot of video material to work with, which provided a uniquely in-depth and colourful insight into the strange workings and trappings of this group. This movie can serve up a lot more than just the usual newspaper clippings and filmed retrospective interviews.
The guru of this cult is an incredibly odd and camp former / failed bit part actor and dancer (nothing wrong with that, by the way, there's a lot of those around) who apparently had a unique talent for conducting meditation session. And for recruiting some of the best looking acolytes ever. Even his disgruntled former members looked back upon those initial "shaktis" fondly, and the way they described those sessions made me wonder whether those sessions had not been spiked with psychedelic drugs.
Some members then became totally devoted to Michel, one member describes how his life centered around creating incredibly elaborate fruit salads for his master. To me, that was already the point when the sexual abuse that followed became almost inevitable. Those people have to face up to the fact that they pulled out the stops themselves.
Michel must have been very patient and sly to wait until his followers had severed all ties with the real world before he started to profit from them sexually. Unsurprisingly, and despite his public denigrations of sexuality which he used to isolate his followers from each other, he eventually started to sexually abuse his attractive male disciples.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
The most amazing thing just happened to me. I was visiting a city and came by this amazing-looking cinema. So I decided to watch a flick there that evening. I settled on the late show, which turned out to be Atomic Blonde on its opening night. I didn't even realize the film played in Berlin at all. As it turned out, a major action scene actually took place (and had been shot) at the cinema I was watching it in, the Kino International on Karl Marx Allee in East Berlin. It was a totally weird feeling to watch Charlize Theron battle it out with two KGB henchmen between the seats which I sat on, watching ... you get the point.
Actually, while I can testify that the outside shots are authentic, I can reveal that the inside of the foyer had been FXed (a socialist mural had been added to the wall), and the auditorium was not that of the Kino International.
OK, enough of that. Atomic Blonde is a showcase for Charlize Theron who gets to waste lots of KGB henchmen in high heels (Theron, not the henchmen). Oh yes, and getting more French skirt than James Bond on a skirt-getting mission in France. It's really a pre-feminism Bond movie with a female lead. Never mind the plot, really. If you really believed that Percival was a trouper and that Lorraine (Theron) wouldn't come out trumps in the end ... well, I saw it coming.
They caught the atmosphere of Berlin in the late 1980ies pretty truthfully for a fiction film.
This is for you if you enjoy wachting arses getting well and truly kicked. With a bit of girl-on-girl action on the side.
Dear Albania (2015)
Make a movie about your mother (... tu nonen)
It would seem that few are less suited for making an intriguing documentary about an entire country and an entire people than a US-American actress who is shooting a docu pic on her first voyage there whilst trying to "rediscover her roots" on her "Albanian pilgrimage". Albania is a fascinating country, but anyone who has ever been to Durres would be hard pressed to call its beaches "untouched by tourism". And if you're describing the kanun as "vigilante justice", it just means that ou have a lot to learn. And you may end up regurgitating trite fluff about Albania being one of the "oldest Western civilisations". Portraying an entire country, it turns out, is no trivial task.
PS: And I've never before heard Prishtina described as "vibrant".
Departure (from the cinema)
I just watched the original "Alien" movie, which was made in 1979. Incredible. And then this botched remake of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". And then I had to take in the stellar reviews here on IMDb. Wow.
Where did it all go wrong? When was the collective decision made that movies are great just because they have an uplifting message? "Arrival" starts with an interesting premise, twelve spaceships suddenly appear all over the globe, and in the USA a linguist is dispatched to communicate with the aliens. And they always take along a canary bird for some reason. OK, that's great so far. I guess the big payoff is that the aliens look like octopi buuuuuuuuuut they have only seven legs and are caring-sharing-karma-believing hippies who want to help us out so that we will help them out in, like, three millenia. By talking in whalesong.
All over the world, the greatest minds are trying to establish some sort of understanding with the spacefreaks, but then Amy Adams, or the scientist she's playing, has the wonderful idea to write down the sentence "Hi, I'm Amy" on a piece of paper, and the aliens are like: Wow, we traveled over hundred of lightyears, and wanted to communicate with you in writing, but we wanted YOU to initiate it. And now you did! Let me throw some circles at you! And Amy's like: Oh finally, CIRCLES! Why, that's so much easier to decode than the whalesong you did before, let me draw some scientificy-looking vectors, and there! I've solved it! And by the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis I can now look into the future! And that totally explains all the weird flashbacks throughout the movie! But most of all: OMG, the protagonist is a woman scientist! I still have to see one convincing, let alone great movie, by Denis Villeneuve. The critics may love you, Denis. But they don't pay for their movie tickets.
It all seems a bit French to me
I was certainly very excited, and from the get-go, at the prospect of Atkinson playing Maigret. At least to me, it seemed like a perfect match. And at last, here was a chance to see a Maigret of my generation.
Certainly, they've put a lot of effort into this production, it's beautifully shot and acted. But maybe they've tried to hard to impress with the stories. There's certainly always another twist and turn, but my credulity was always stretched very quickly beyond breaking point.
And it certainly was a challenge for the thespian of usually hyperactive, hyperverbal and hyperphysical role to turn out a pokerfaced observer of the human theatre, but I often had the Impression that Maigret was somehow recovering from a debilitating stroke: "Tell her ... that ... in this country ..." It reminded me less of Maigret and more of that wheezy wheelchair kid in Malcolm In The Middle.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Like being tailgated by Mario Andretti
Doris Day in a Hitchcock movie where she sings "Que sera, sera" -- twice? Yes, it really did happen. And what's more, it was Hitchcock's remake of one of his own, earlier, British films. You'd expect him to have phoned this one home, or at least to have ironed out the snags of his first version -- but, amazingly, the remake is a complete dud. At least the concept is interesting -- an average guy becomes a peon -- and ultimately, hero -- in a spy story. A bit like in Die Hard, but without the explosions. But the story is ludicrous, a spy gives him a vital bit of information for no reason whatsoever, except to kickstart the story. And, equally for no discernible reason, except for the exotic scenery, the first part of the film takes place in Marrakesh. Unfortunately, the hammy scriptwriting continues all through the film. I had to check the box to make sure this really was an Alfred Hitchcock film.
Smrt u Sarajevu (2016)
Although I thought "No Man's Land" was way overrated, and even though I was skeptical about "Smrt u Sarajevu" being based on a play by French philosophy superstar BHL (Bernard-Henri Lévy), I found this movie to be captivating, surprising, poignant and insightful.
Inside the (really existing) Hotel Europa in Sarajevo, several narrative strings unfold simultaneously. While preparations are underway to commemorate the shooting of Franz Ferdinand and his wife in 1914, which triggered the First World War, on the roof there are talking head interviews by a TV station, an important French actor arrives to rehearse his role, the hotel manager has to deal with an impending strike which would push his house into certain bankruptcy, while in the cellar a mafia figure is running a seedy but profitable night club, and he is making the hotel manager an offer he can't refuse.
This is ultimately a movie about the Yugoslaw wars and the siege of Sarajevo, a subject which surprisingly many films have failed to deal with. "Death in Sarajevo" is a rare exception.
Never trust a hippie (reloaded)
Anarchism is Greek for "whatever", apparently. This documentary displays several incongruent people and groups, who are attributed as "anarchists". There is a group in Athens who have turned a parking lot, which used to be frequented by drug dealers, into a park or public garden. There is a trade union in Barcelona, which calls its system "anarchosyndicalism", even though I couldn't really make out the difference to representative democracy. There is a professional protester in Germany, who leaves jail after having vandalized army property, and who later chains herself to a railroad track in order to obstruct the transportation of nuclear waste.
This movie left me with the feeling that "anarchism" is the vaguest of political labels on the market.
Berlin Rebel High School (2016)
School's out for ... actually, it's still on for these kids. Sorry.
This is a well-made fly-on-the-wall documentary that follows the lives of a bunch of young reprobates living in Berlin. Their common denominator is that they attend the private school SFE (Schule für Erwachsenenbildung, "school for adult education"), referred to in this movie by its way cooler moniker, "Berlin Rebel School". There are several schools like this, offering a second chance to those who dropped out of the state school system and are over the age for secondary education. The others are probably not as cool as this one, which looks like it's set inside an occupied bunker, decorated by Keith Haring on LSD, and run by the Doobie Brothers. The movie narrates the story of the kids in a sympathetic and easy to follow manner.
Unfortunately, we get to know relatively little about the school itself. The students have to pay a moderate tuition of 148 per month, while the staff have to scrape by on the meagre (and uniform) minimal wage of 12,50 per hour. Decisions are made by the school parliament, i. e. by students and employees together. Since it is a school for adults, attendance is voluntary, we see students and faculty consume copious amounts of cigarettes, beer and oftentimes joints, and there are no grades -- EXCEPT for when you want to leave the school with more than a warm handshake, in which case the students need to pass regular state examinations in a dreaded regular school.
There are many interesting questions which the film doesn't address. First and foremost, why do students, who managed to get themselves kicked out of sometimes 10 schools in a row, cope so much better in this school? Is it really just the laid-back attitude? And how do the students get by financially -- do they have to rely on wealthy parents to subsidise their tuition, room and board in Berlin?
The Business of Recovery (2015)
Amy Winehouse was right
This is one of the best documentaries I have seen recently, after a great number of duds. Before I saw it, I used to think that checking into a rehab was the natural thing to do for somebody having a serious addiction. Apparently many rehabs in the United States, including the famous Betty Ford Center, are glorified (but very expensive) care homes which do little more in terms of therapy than taking you to an AA meeting in the evening. In other words, you could get the same therapy for free, while Alcoholics Anonymous and their 12 step program are a lot less effective than is widely believed.
By the way, at one point a woman claims that defibrillators (which she pronounces somewhat like "defibulator") cost a mere US$200. Just for the record, they cost upwards of US$1400.
I had a close relative with addiction, and I can confirm that, even when profit is not an issue, it's the dark ages. It really is faith- based rather than "what works". So many people will throw their little spiel at you, whether it's something they're doing for a business or whether it's a show they've seen on TV. A shocking number of people will put the blame on you for not being willing to set up a "hot chair" type of "intervention". You sort of have to become an instant wizard.
Other than what this documentary propagates, I think it is of little consequence whether addiction is seen as a disease or not.
Broken Flowers (2005)
I'm trying to unsee this
I just rewatched Down By Law and Stranger Than Paradise, which are simply awesome movies. Fast forward twenty years on, and Jim Jarmusch came up with Broken Flowers, which feels like it was directed by the artistically-inclined nephew of the owner of the movie studio. Jarmusch, bless him, apparently wanted to do another "Lost In Translation"-type flick with Bill Murray. In "Lost In Translation", the unlikely pair of average shmoe Murray and American sweetheart Scarlett Johansson are stranded in a faceless hotel and gradually form an emotional bond. In Broken Flowers, average shmoe Murray revisits his girlfriends from 20 years ago, and their sultry daughters and receptionists, all of which turn out to be foxes. Quite a challenge to make us believe that twenty years ago, Murray set their little hearts on fire, stayed with them for a few short months, sodded off and moved on to the next girlfriend, dropped off the horizon, and now they're like "oh, you're back, how nice, do come in". How is this amazing feat mastered? Brilliantly, by Murray not getting a word out. It's a bit like "act like you don't care, this will make the girl try anything to get your attention". And he's giving each of them a bouquet of pink flowers. Oh man, this is bad.
Jarmusch apparently wanted to do a movie with Murray, didn't have a script, and this was exacerbated by the fact he had the most beautiful actresses in the world at his beck and call.
And typically for the wicked ways of the movie industry, this cinematic trainwreck garnered a Palme d'Or at Cannes. Kudos, they managed to give it to Jarmusch for the one terrible movie he made.
About small minds, not small houses
"He never asked me for anything. I wish I had that kind of relationship with everybody."
"Very early on, someone took a huge crap right next to the house. That was pretty unpleasant."
"Have you learned anything unique about me through this process?"
"I'm trying really hard not to let the lack of permanence and rootedness influence my experience of tiny house living."
Congratulations, documentary. You've made me hate tiny houses, and the tiny-minded souls that live in them. And Portland.
Apparently tiny houses full of obnoxious, self-centered people, who think they're special and better than normal people.
I wonder whether the hippies in the 1960ies and 1970ies were like that? So supercilious?
Actually, the documentary is technically well made. They probably could have pulled off an insightful documentary about tiny houses, but chose instead to focus on the self-absorbed people who apparently dwell in them, based on thefar-fetched assumption that people who live in or build a trailer (let's face it, that's what they are) must somehow all have fascinating stories to tell.
By the way, tiny houses, usually going by the name of "Bauwagen" ("construction Trailer"), have been a microtrend in Germany since at least the 1980ies. I know people who have lived in them, in most larger cities there are projects where people dwell their tiny houses in public spaces ("Wagenburgen"), only there has never been such a media hype about it. That would have been an interesting angle for the documentary to explore, though.
I've noted the trend in documentaries to pretend to be on a subject, only to then refuse to give you any solid information but to turn it entirely into a people story.
Kundschafter des Friedens (2017)
They Trying' To Make Me Return From Rehab
Like the agents in this movie, many of the actors in this movie were reactivated. Roles for OAP thespians are pretty thin on the ground -- and have always been. In the case of Jürgen Prochnow, this is practically the first time I have seen him since Das Boot.
The plot idea is brilliant -- Germany's secret service has a serious problem in far-away "Kadschikistan" and has to reactivate a troupe of former East German agents for their "contacts in the field".
Like in so many German comedies, they sort of forgot about a small but esssential ingredient -- a good script, ideally one containing witty dialogues. So off they fly into some former Soviet boondocks where everybody speaks with excessively guttural accents, and women are treated like in a Channel 4 documentary. The former nemeses (plural of Nemesis, I looked it up) eventually rally together against a common foe, roll credits. Frankly, I suspect that German movies suffer from too much benevolent public financing, and not enough I-want-my-money-back investors.
Deep Web (2015)
Dealin' drugs, doin' good
Well, it's been pointed out before, but: This is not a movie about the deep web, not about the dark net, not about TOR, not really about Silk Road either, but about Ross Ulbricht aka Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), who was allegedly the man who set up a trade platform called Silk Road on the dark web, which was mostly used for trading (illegal) drugs. Using DPR's account, several murders were ordered and paid for, and there is some controversy whether this done by Ulbricht or by someone else using the same account. If it was, Ulbricht has failed to identify them.
For about 30 minutes, this documentary does a good job of narrating the story of Silk Road and Ulbricht, and was pretty informative to me as I didn't know the particulars of this story. For the rest of its running time, the movie turns into an emotional plea for Ulbricht because Silk Road was somehow a tool for eliminating drug-related crime, because TOR could potentially be a tool for promoting democracy in dictatorships (although, in reality, all it seems to be used for is trading drugs), and because his mum and dad don't think their boy could have done such a nefarious thing.
The movie is fair enough to admit to the fact that, despite Ulbricht claiming that he was framed and that he was not the chief Operator behind Silk Road, he had kept a detailed log about his activies with Silk Road.
Should be called "Free Ross Ulbricht".
I particularly didn't enjoy self-styled cypherpunk Amir Taaki spouting pseudorevolutionary BS.
Fontane Effi Briest (1974)
I consider Rainer Werner Fassbinder to be the single most overrated director of all times. I have desperately tried to understand what all the fuss is about when most of his movies seem like movie Experiments gone badly wrong. Effi Briest is at least an accomplished movie with a unique style, although at 2 hours 15 minutes it's pretty slow and overly long.
Fassbinder being an eccentric artiste, couldn't just use the title of the novel but came up with a monstrous title (which the IMDb spellchecker doesn't allow me to quote here) that doesn't make much sense in German, but seems to give the movie a Marxist twist (it alludes to "many know their possibilities and requirements but chose to support the ruling system"). The title is usually mercifully shortened to just "Fontane Effi Briest".
At the time, the sound recording of films was still a considerable technical problem, so that the entire film was dubbed (the voices and partially also the background noises were re-recorded in a studio and added to the film in post-production). The dubbing was done very meticulously so that the voices are in perfect synchronicity with the lip movements. The voices are in several cases not of the actual actors, for example Eva Mathes was dubbed by another actress, and voiced yet another actress). This gives the film a touch of artificiality and a sense of heightened reality, which goes well with the slow pace of the story.
So, for a Fassbinder, it's a surprisingly watchable movie. At the same time, there is no narration, no tension, nothing is building up to anything. It's love it and sit through it, or switch off the video.
Interestingly, Fassbinder also has no intention of putting a new angle on the jaded story of the romantic girl falling victim to an uncaring world. I would love to see Effi as a competent woman trying to make her own rules, or even as a femme fatale for a change.
Milou en mai (1990)
Strangest nickname ever
This is a movie about the romantic awakening of an open-minded, freckle-faced ingénue named ... hold on, Milou turns out to be a gentle and wizened giant of a man, played by Michel Piccoli, who has apparently learned to live with an inappropriately cute nickname. He is living on his mother's country estate, and generally enjoying the decelerated life of landed gentry. Then his mother dies and his siblings descend on the mansion, threatening his casual existence (or maybe just questioning Milou's privilege of doing FA for a living). At the same time, the riots of 1968 are unfolding in far-away Paris.
The small group represent the different attitudes of French society at the time, we have the idealistic student who is overly anxious to see the arrival of a new world order, alongside the bourgeois reactionary who is somewhat less enthusiastic about horde of bearded baba cools putting up barricades, a housemaid who just wants to get her share of the inheritance, as well as a woman who feels impelled to take her top off for some reason. At one point, the group flee into the woods, and return the next morning. Somehow, the biggest bourgeois of all, Milou, is untouched by the quarrels around him and ends up continuing to live his placid mansion life, seemingly because he is so quaint and affable.
This movie had a few good ideas and moments, but it kind of runs out of ideas and plot after the family is assembled and their individual positions are established. In the end it's more or less a showcase for Michel Piccoli.
Silly doesn't equal funny
What could possibly go wrong?
The director of Napoleon Dynamite, Jared Hess, teams up with the A-list of Hollywood's comedians in a film based on the largest robbery in US history.
Sounds to good to be true, doesn't it.
What we get, kind of, is like two solid hours of Zach Galifianakis doing his Alan shtick from Hangover. It's bad taste and hijinks and unbelievably bad Texan accents and the neon-coloured Eighties. It's silly, but never acquires enough momentum to be funny.
A classic case of too much of a good thing, really. Maybe Jared and Zach are too much alike in their love of wackiness.
Rogue One (2016)
When I was fourteen years old
I saw the first Star Wars movie when I was around 14 years old at a friend's birthday party, his father owned the first VCR far and wide. The tape was probably rented from a video store. Thirty years later, it seems that they have nailed the concept. There's a lot of soap opera, a surprising amount of Holocaust movie tropes (families being torn apart and genocide by crazy dictator), and there is a strange fixation on daddy (he will make it right, but he's the incarnation of evil, but they made him to do it).
Rogue One is the umpteenth part of the franchise, and in no way a "stand alone" as Disney would have us believe (maybe in order to prepare us for the fact that they'll be churning out more "episodes" annually.
Hold on, I've just googled it, actually the studio has ANNOUNCED that the next episodes will appear annually.
In brief, I liked the spectacular effects in the last third of the movie. Storywise, it's a wild rehash of tropes from all genres. The combat scenes are pretty much "Platoon" with lasers (the rebels even wear GI-style helmets all of a sudden), the intrusion to the VCR storage tower are lifted directly from "2001".
I actually wouldn't have seen Rogue One at the cinema, but the town I was in has one of the biggest screens in the country, and Rogue One was what was on. I've just had my fill with Star Wars. You kids enjoy.
Radio Heimat (2016)
Terrible teenage tropes!
Radio Heimat started out as a compilation of short stories about the -- mostly unspectacular -- childhood of author Frank Goosen in the Ruhrgebiet (Bochum, specifically) in the 1980ies, although this movie makes it look like the 1970ies -- and sound way cooler than the 1980ies really were, with only the hits and none of the shite which was as abundant as ever back then.
By the way, although they often only have minuscule parts, this movie features a plethora of the famous actors from the West Germany's Wild West.
The first third of the movie features a pastiche of absurd and funny scenes that are a surprisingly convincing cinematic rendition of the book. Then the movie wanders off into teenage trope territory and narrates the entirely predictable story of how young Frank first got his tops and fingers. He falls for the beautiful queen bee of the school, Carola, but when he finally gets close to her, in a scene that makes many porn movie look like cinéma vérité, he realizes that she's beautiful, but bland! Not that that would've stopped me or anyone else I know. Later, during a booze-filled field trip, an equally beautiful chick pops out of nowhere, but this time she has PERSONALITY (signified by her not wearing neon earrings nor jerry headbands) and the two proceed to have meaningful sex with the approval of all of his friends.
It's an unoffensive movie that you can watch on TV with a beer at hand. But we've all been young, we should all know what it feels like to have been 16 and inadequate, why are most of the movies about this topic so generic? The charm of the book was rendered fairly successfully in the beginning of the movie, then the producers must have been like: Sod it, let's just make another teenage flick.
Vier gegen die Bank (2016)
Creativity is overrated
It should be good -- director Wolfgang Petersen has already directed the same movie exactly 40 years ago! I'm looking forward to seeing the original from 1976. The story, at least, is as fresh as ever. Three Average Joes lose all their hard-earned savings when their bank needs to find a reason to fire nerdy accountant Tobias. Initially, the three band together to avenge themselves. Then they decide to get even, to steal from the rich (the bank) and give to the poor (themselves), with Tobias as their inside man. The joke here is that four hasbeens stumble into their new careers as criminal masterminds.
I'm usually not a big fan of German movie heavyweights Til Schweiger and Matthias Schweighöfer, in fact I hate the sights of them, but here they are actually quite good. Schweiger can carry off the role of an ageing palooka who is used by ageing trophy wives as their bit on the side, whereas I hate the unironical superman roles he usually plays in his own movies. But I particularly liked Jan Josef Liefers as the semi-successful actor (he once had a popular TV series going, but that was ages ago) and Michael Herbig as the rain-man-type accountant.
As far as I care, the movie industry can rehash old formulas as long as they like, as long as enjoyable movies come out of it.
Tour de Ruhr (1981)
Hey ho, let's go
This series from the early 1980ies was recommended to me by a friend, but I almost didn't make it through the first episode. Initially it's just young seamstress Ines (Elfi Eschke) who plans to explore the Ruhrpott, Germany's rust belt, on bike. Her beau, Harald (Eckhard Heise), insists on joining her, and tells his workmate, fellow railway clerk Karlheinz (Herny van Lyck), about his planned sojourn. Since "Kalle" is has failed to plan the impending family holiday for wife Lisbet (Marie-Luise Marjan) and precocious teenage daughter Martina (Klaudia Schunck), he arbitrarily decides to join in. The ragtag, and mostly unwilling, band of five set off with incredibly makeshift equipment into the great, wild, and highly urbanized yonder from Dortmund to Hünxe (a direct route of about 80 kilometers).
Written by Elke Heidenreich, this TV series is really a cinematisation and expansion of her fictional soliloquies of "Else Stratmann", a middle-aged meddling working-class wife, which was a popular radio feature at the time. But while the "Else Stratmann" rants rely on the witty and verbose description of everyday events in Ruhrpott vernacular, this charm is completely lost in the TV series. "Mother Stratmann" (Marie-Luise Marjan) in the TV series actually talks very little and is almost an innocent bystander to the struggle for independence between father and daughter. And conflicts abound during the tour, which lasts for roughly a week: Martina strives for independence from her oppressive father, who in turn struggles to keep up with his wayward daughter, Ines is unsure whether to get intimate with Harald, Harald has to deal with being kept at an arm's length by Ines, Karlheinz plans to hook up with his erstwhile paramour Klärchen, the whole region is in upheaval with mines being closed and miners being driven out of their homes.
The music by Austrian Arthur Labuer is a bizarre crossover of Kraftwerk and Gehorghe Zamfir, the production values are often somewhat lackluster, but eventually I was sucked in by the anachronistic charms of Tour de Ruhr.
Café Society (2016)
East vs. West
Woody Allen's aversion against the West Coast in general, and Hollywood (and all it stands for) in particular, is legendary. On its release, Café Society was billed to be Woody Allen's final reckoning with his personal Babylon. So we could expect to be in for a sarcastic hayride.
Turns out that in old age, Woody Allen has become mild and mellow and simply forgotten about the purported pet hates of his younger years. Instead, he serves up one of his old love triangles which just so happens to be located (partially) in LA. Jesse Eisenberg is kind of a younger incarnation of the neurotic New Yorker and his surprisingly active love life.
Maybe Woody Allen's intention was to serve up a next-generation Manhattan with a change of location. But things didn't go to plan. Nex-gen city slicker Jesse Eisenberg is a wimpy New Yorker who is sent to the West Coast to garner a job from his uncle, who happens to be a Hollywood tycoon. Surprisingly, this big cheese, mogul, kahuna, honcho and nabob can't even land him a job in his own mail room, but instead he asks his secretary (Veronica aka Vonnie, played by sultry Kristen Stewart) to "look after him", despite the fact that she happens to be his youthful and illicit love affair, whom he'd want to keep out of reach of his family and younger men. Eisenberg inevitably falls for her. She marries the other guy, Bobby runs back to New York, instantly becomes this big-time speakeasy owner slash mobster (the name of the joint is the eponymous "Café Society"), and marries a stunning blonde (Blake Lively) who has his babies and is also called "Veronica". But when the original Vonnie comes to New York to visit, they still have romantic dates.
East Coast vs. West Coast in Woody Allen's view? Sultry dames in a yellow-tinged Hollywood, mobsters and blondes in a blueish New York, apparently.
This is simply an unaccomplished and plainly failed Woody Allen movie. It's a pity that the critiques which I read failed to tell me so.
I, Daniel Blake (2016)
It's like day and night
Ken Loach proves that an entirely bleak and dysmal story about unexceptional people, and in Newcastle, for Christ's sake, can still be captivating and, yes, entertaining. No mean feat. Also, unlike previous offerings by Ken Loach, "I, Daniel Blake" isn't preachy. At the same time, it still is black-and-white poverty porn. Daniel and Katie are like Christian martyrs, with the dole office taking the role of sadistic Roman legionaries. Do I find it objectionable that the system is unhelpful, maybe that it was even designed to be hostile? Yes. But a fictional movie doesn't do anything more than to increase my prejudices. What if the real people on the dole are maybe more human, more flawed, don't have that die-hard "I just want to put in an honest day's work"-attitude?
I was watching this movie in a special presentation for teachers, and throughout the movie you could hear sobbing in sighing in the theatre.