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Tatort: Vergeltung (2011)
Season 1, Episode 793
10/10
Tatort Austria
10 March 2011
It seems to come in fashion to criticize every single Tatort episode. Recently, an already post-produced Swiss Tatort has been revoked by a newly engaged commission member of Swiss TV - the Tatort has not been broadcast and she appeared in two subsequent numbers of the Swiss newspapers, photo included. The newest German Tatort with Mehmet Kurtulus has been praised by all female critics (faqlling for the masculinity of "Batu" which is sufficient perhaps for aftershave-advertisements), although not one Tatort episode of the last years has reached such a low percentage of audience. The problem is not, as suggested, the overall-use of stereotypes: it was simply superficial, stupid and boring. As for the Austrian Tatort - No. 3 in the community of the 3-nations-cooperative work -, the alleged use of stereotypes was again underlined. Since it is well known that Germans like to laugh about Austrians, the question rises who it is here who uses stereotypes. Austrian Tatorts are part of this gigantic series since the beginning (1971), when one could enjoy the unforgettable Oberinspektor Marek. Leading other Krimis have come from Austria, Commissar Rex and Kottan, to mention only the most famous ones. But, more important, Austria has since a long time surpassed both Switzerland and Germany in producing high-level non-Hollywood-style movies. As it is well known: in Switzerland, movies which attract international attention don't exist anymore since a very long time. Almost as deplorable is that the German output of high-quality movies has almost reached the zero-point in the last years. Connoisseurs know thus since a long time that good German speaking movies come from Austria. That this is not only like that since yesterday, the huge Hoanzl-collection of several hundred high-top Austrian movies since the silent time proves in splendor. I am not an Austrian, but when Austrian movies are falsely criticized, then I diagnose Sour Grapes.
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10/10
Where the heaven is human
24 February 2011
According to the very wide-spread Communist Swiss film history by Wider and Aeppli ("Der Schweizer Film 1929-1964", 2 vols. Zurich: Limmat Verlag 1981), "(Kurt) Früh's work merged soon into clumsy goofing-off (Unbeholfene Blödeleien)", vol. 1, p. 21. According to the same authors, "The 42nd Heaven" is characterized by "dilettante use of the film language" (p. 25). The final verdict stands on p. 511: The 42nd Heaven be "one of the worst movies that have surely ever been made".

In reality, this first Swiss musical is a wild Pot-Pourri that subsumes elements from Vaudeville to Dadaism, and from Surrealism to the early phase of Concretism. It has been made in two different versions, a Swiss and a German one, and in both there is a cast of the best actors of this genre that Früh could wish and for him even later generations envied him. Many songs have become independent, e.g. the Butcher-Song of Margrit Rainer. The idea that Wendelin Pfannenstiel has won a fortune from an uncle in Australia who became rich by breeding kangaroos strives the genial. Clearly surrealist episodes like Pfannenstiel walking with his bear "August" along the shores of Lake Zürich have become as famous as certain paintings of Salvador Dali. Had Früh already his earlier movies ("Hinter Den Sieben Gleisen", "Es Dach Über Em Chopf") clearly declared as fairy-tales, he takes in "The 42nd Heaven" the last consequences and abolished every social angles by which his forms stories were still bound in "reality". The typical old-town-Zürich background shrinks into a mere decor (the episodes could be played everywhere), there is no homogeneous use of Swiss dialects anymore (Margrit Rainer speaks Zürich German, her "husband" Peter W. Staub,like Roderer, broad St. Galler German. The Bürgermeister (mayor) of Zürich speaks Bernese dialect (!),and Wendelins best friend Alfons speaks Basel German. Moreover, most parts of the narration are dissolved into songs which renders the story a specific lightness that we find back perhaps only in Jacques Demy's wonderful and miraculous works. A whole new genre for the Swiss movie has been invented by Kurt Früh.
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10/10
"A face like a landscape" (K. Gloor)
24 February 2011
This movie is in at least two ways extraordinary for a Swiss movie: First, there is Sigfrit Steiner (1906-1988) in the main role. After having had a big number of smaller, albeit characteristic roles in Swiss movies (e.g. in "It happened in broad daylight", 1958), Steiner worked mostly in German and international movies, e.g. together with Richard Burton, Vanessa Redgrave or Max Von Sydow, and it was not before 1976, when Kurt Gloor cast him for the Swiss movie "Die Plötzliche Einsamkeit Des Konrad Steiner", when Swiss film makers started to remember him: the man with the face like a landscape and the characteristic St. Gallen dialect accent in foreign films.

Second, Kurt Gloor. Bad tongues say that Switzerland had since 1897 only two great film makers, the first names of both are "Kurt" (Kurt Früh: 1915-1979; Kurt Gloor: 1942-1997). In addition, Kurt Gloor studied with Kurt Früh directing and dramaturgy. However, while Früh sublimated mental processes into spiritual processes, Gloor was a type who had to go to the bitter end of everything that seemed unjust to him. And many things did. Besides the heart-braking story of the 75 years old shoemaker at Froschaugasse in Zurich who looses first his wife and then his workshop, Gloor treated various controversial subjects in his films, e.g. "The first days in the life of a Methadon-baby", "With one foot in the Beyond", or he showed the life of right-less foreign laborers in Switzerland who dwell 6 persons in 2 rooms. Very famous became his action during which he appeared one nice day with his whole film crew before the Federal Parliament Building. Gloor was a man of extraordinary talent and outstanding courage, but I also remember that day in 1997, shortly before my birthday, when the casket with him inside was carried out of my neighboring house. As it appeared, Gloor could not stand the enormous pressure on him anymore, he, who had believed in the revolutionary force of film. At that day, I thought: By filming only people who stand in the shadow-side of life, you cannot yourself stand in the sun; and nobody can stand his whole life in the shadow. Quite differently, "Konrad Steiner" is not a depressing movie, but rather a movie with an astonishing portion of hope, and it is full of unexpected non-schoolbook wisdom, like f.ex. when Steiner says to his half a century younger social working girlfriend: "Now, I understand, why we cannot life together: because we don't have the same future". However, if one listens very attentively, the movie is also full of bitter irony - and stands so in the best tradition of that strange crossing of Tragedy and Farce that is so characteristic for Swiss movies (and not only for the movies).
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De grotzepuur (1975)
A movie that had caused a real earthquake
16 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"Who keeps or looks for animals, has to nourish them adequately, to care for them, to give them the possibility to keep themselves busy and to move around and to provide them the necessary shelter", so it stands written in the Swiss Law For The Protection Of Animals (SR 455, Art. 6). Although this passage is cited from the revision in 1978, which has been caused by the earthquake that the movie "De Grotzepuur" had triggered, the wording is still today so fuzzy that In Praxi every farmer can interpret it in his way. The biggest problem (which stands in the center of the movie) is the so-called Factory Farming or Mass Husbandry. A reckless capitalist fodder merchant convinces the old farmer Jokab Keller (Schaggi Streuli in his last role) to change his farm from a well, but not extraordinary profitable enterprise into this "modern" kind of farming. He had already to rent a big part of his farm to his sun, and still his finances are running backward. Would there not be the young animal-loving wife of the sun, the old man and his sun would have continued with their horrible abuse: The movie shows naked and dying chicken, crowded a dozen into a space that measures perhaps the space of 4 show-boxes. We see pig-mothers unable to reach their babies, separated one from the other, lying on concrete without straw and every animal muzzled (in order to prevent them to bite their ears off). Even the separation of the young wife from her husband does not change anything. The Big Change, however, comes, when the rain causes a short-circuit and hundreds of pigs agonizingly die. Then, everything starts to fall apart, the fate takes over (amongst others in the person of Walter Morath who at least twice had already played the devil). And the vengeance of the fate goes to the bitter end, to the bitter end of the old farmer, to be exact. I remember the audience's reaction to this movie in a St. Gallen cinema in 1975 when it came out. Women were crying, men were shouting one should shoot the director (the engaged American-Swiss animal protector Mark R. Rissi). Children uttered their wish to go to the next farm and liberate the animals. The movie's reaction was so strong that in only a few days several hundreds of thousands of signatures could be gathered by which the Swiss Government was forced to abolish the central points of the Animal Protection Law. The biggest food-chain, Migros, let eggs from non free-land-chicken disappear from one day to the next and massively lowered the prices for organic, vegan-fee free-land eggs). The sales for pork almost stopped for months. However, almost as disturbing as the pictures (which include Streuli taking a dying hen out of her catacomb, laying her onto a wooden trunk and separating her head and body with an ax) is the fact that this movie has the form of a Moritat (according to the dictionary: Murder Ballad, but that is nonsense), to a Moritat like, f.ex. the Mackie-Messer-Song in Bert Brecht's "Three penny's opera". This and a specific style of shooting with seems to be the dynamical counterpart of the static pictures in "populist" newspapers almost give "The Grotzepuur" a comedy-like touch.
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10/10
In the heaven, to the right
15 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Basically filmed in the stage-style, but as an "underplay", almost the whole story takes place in a side-street of Seefeldstrasse in Zurich, not far away from Tiefenbrunnen where the terminal station and the depot for the Zürich tramway of Line 4 is. One of the drivers is father Wieser who has to nourish three children (Helen, Eva, and Herbert). While Helen has changed Europe with America in order to follow a rich US-millionaire, Evi seems to be the only one to have resisted successfully her bossy mother who "only wants the best for their children". But things change quickly. The first big "disappointment" for mother Wieser is Evi (played by a tremendously attractive Bella Neri), who instead of pursuing her career as an opera singer, prefers her freedom as a tea-room server and enters a relationship to a Yougoslavian bar-pianist. The second "diappointment" happens when Herbert, ongoing physician who regularly faints while seeing blood, discloses to his mother that he wants to leave the university. But not enough with "so much sadness", suddenly, the "American" daughter rings the bell, accompanied by her little son. While the mother still believes that Helen just makes a short visit in order to introduce the child to his grand'ma, Helen confesses her younger sister Evi that her American millionaire never married her, that the child is a Bastard (so the official term in 1962's Switzerland), and that she had to labor three years in cheap coffee shops and bars in order to collect the money for the air-plane ticket. When the mother finally learns about the true story concerning Helen - out of the mouth of the plumber Erich to whom Helen was engaged before the mother destroyed their relationship - she throws her children out of the house telling them that she won't open her door even when they come kneeling and begging. The Fate with slightly religious background always being present in Kurt Früh's movies, the Big Remedy comes when father Wieser tries to commit suicide. He was originally elected for the great honor to drive the jubilee's tramway through Zurich when suddenly a malign glaucoma is detected in his eyes. Incapable of telling his wife the truth, he decides to drive the tram anyway and --- jumps the rails. His son Herbert who happens to be In Loco, is able to save the life of a car driver which the father hit with his tramway. This experience confirms Herbert to still going on with his studies of medicine. After the father's recovering from attempted suicide - he confused the similarly looking Valium tablets with laxative - mother Wieser finally awakes to be a better human being (people can change - a fundamental message from Kurt Früh, although mostly they must go through hell for the sake of the clearing). Freedom enters the family, and even the new boyfriend Sandro of Helen dares visiting his future step-parents. (The sudden appearance of his shadow before the door, playing his clarinet, and the performance of "balance" belongs to the high-lights of film history.) "Im Parterre Links" (1963) which marks the end of Früh's career in "classical style" Swiss movies, is an extremely underrated, consistently falsely judged and in general misunderstood gem that belongs to be restored and engraved in DVD. It is a true highlight with a star crew including Paul Bühlmann and Valerie Steinmann as the parents, Rene Scheibli, Bella Neri and Ursula Kopp as the children and Joseph Scheidegger as the plumber.
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De Tod uf em Oepfelbaum (1966 TV Movie)
10/10
A poetry of Danse Macabre
15 February 2011
In the first letter to the Corinthians (15, 26-27), we read: "The last enemy who will be dis-empowered, is Death". The consequences of this apocalyptic idea are extraordinary, since there will be no longer the two-valued alternative between Life and Death, but there will a Life without Death - and hence a third possibility in order to escape one's fate. This is the basic idea behind Paul Osborn's play "Death on the Apple Tree" which has been played on stages and in film throughout the times and places since it has first appeared, in 1966, and thus in the same year in which the Swiss TV film was made, under the title "On Borrowed Time". With Heinrich Gretler, the greatest Swiss actor of all times, and Swiss film director Kurt Früh's older daughter Jessica alias "Jess" as "Flori" in the main roles, on can hardly find one more touching movie concerning the struggle to escape death and living in the borderland between the Here and the Beyond. The idea to structure this film as a Danse Macabre is a stroke of genius which goes back to Kurt Früh. (The idea was copied years later in "Der Tod Zu Basel", one of the first AIDS-movies.) The present TV movie, like at least 11 more (cf. Kurt Früh, Rückblenden. Zürich 1975, p. 192), has been made during Früh's engagement as Department Manager of the Statal Swiss TV and Professor for Dramaturgy and Directing at the University of Applied Arts in Zürich. It is sad that these movies are never shown and never have appeared on VHS or DVD, while the 12 cinema movies of Früh are at least once a year broadcast by the Statal Television and the about a dozen short movies of his early work have been released meanwhile on DVD. It is said (in Werner Wollenberger's biography of Heiri Gretler) that Gretler has watched this movie with himself in the night before he died (the night before this 80st birthday) and said to his wife: "I wasn't so bad after all, was I?"
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10/10
The good spirit from Bauma
20 January 2011
Taxichauffeur Bänz is undoubtedly Schaggi Streuli's (1899-1980) best role. For once, he is not the independent ruler in profession and family as he is in "Polizischt Wäckerli" and as Postman Jucker in "Oberstadtgass", but a hard-working widower in a low position, a cab driver pressured by his younger colleagues, saving every penny of tips in order to enable his daughter, the only child, her studies of medicine. Even in the household, it is Oskar Bänz who cleans and cooks, except on Sundays where his daughter prepares the regular "meat soup". Streuli also wrote the scenario (as he also did in his other films where he played the mains roles, but never directed a movie).

Therefore, some rather amazing contents in these movies from the later Fifties, are to be ascribed to himself as well. For example, both in "Oberstadtgass" (directed by Kurt Früh) and in "Taxichauffeur Bänz" (directed by Hermann Haller and Werner Düggelin), there is a case of attempted suicide. In "Oberstadtgass", it is the girl which just before had asked Postman Jucker desperately for a letter she was expecting from her boyfriend. In "Bänz", it is the character of Maxi Schell in one of his first roles (with amazing Zürich German) who plans to throw himself before the train in Kreuzlingen, after he had lost the rest of his money gambling in Konstanz, which belonged to a customer of his. While in "Oberstadtgass", it is Jucker who invites the suicidal girl to his quiet place with the rabbits in order to distract her from her bad thoughts and by the way conducts the marriage between her and a friend of him, in "Bänz", it is Bänz who comes like a Deus Ex Machina driven along the street with his taxi when Toni Schellenberg (Schell) walks into the night after having given up his self-killing plan. Whenever there is recently the critique of Streuli as a one-role actor, one has therefore not only to consider his last movie, "Der Grotzepuur" (directed by Mark M. Rissi), but also "Taxichauffeur Bänz" in order to qualify this judgment. In the latter film, we see e.g. a consternated Streuli alias Bänz seeking with tears in his eyes and drunk for help from his long-lasting girlfriend (Marianne Hediger) after he has accidentally hurt a bicycling child with his cab on Rämistrasse in Zürich. This is far away from the rumbling and jangling and nagging and accusing tyrant Wäckerli for which role Streuli is criticized so heavily nowadays.
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10/10
A genial travesty of a road movie
2 December 2010
"Les Aventures De Rabbi Jacob" (1973) is actually based on two very different plot lines: The movie starts in New York, showing children playing in a street somewhere in Lower East Side and waiting to say good-bye to their revered Rabbi Jacob, who, after more then thirty years, returns to his native France in occasion of the Bar-Mitzwah of his nephew David. However, before the Rabbi and a good dozen of his friends make it - all together in one single taxi can - to the airport, the movie starts, so-to-say a second time, showing the industrial Mr. Pivert (Louis De Funes) and his chauffeur Salomon rushing home to Paris for the wedding of Pivert's daughter. But not enough with these two main lines: There is a third one interwoven: The trip of Mohammed Larbi Slimane (Claude Giraud) on the flight of his henchmen under the lead of the Colonel Fares (Renzo Montagnani). Now, the second plot-line with Pivert and Salomon breaks insofar apart, as Pivert fires his chauffeur Salomon because he is refusing to help his boss out of a misery that he (Salomon) caused, driving their car into a lake - because it is Shabbes. However, again, the fact that Salomon is Jewish, is a little side-line again to the real Rabbi Jacob, who turns out to be his uncle. Therefore, from the second plot-line, only Pivert remains, and he soon meets Slimane, so that the second and the third plot-line merge. After a long and funny trip, they arrive just at Orly Airport where the real Rabbi Jacob and his assistant arrive (merging of the second and third with the first plot-line). And at this point, the road-movie goes over into a screwball comedy, because the Jewish grand-mother, the sister-in-law of the real Rabbi Jacob, takes Pivert and Slimane for the real couple, because they had themselves to disguise as rabbis on their flight from the Colonel Fares and his henchmen and are at that time in Orly, when the real Rabbi and his assistant are scheduled to arrive. Thus, Pivert and Slimane, neither Rabbis nor even familiar with basic Jewish customs, have to play their newly overtaken roles as good as it gets in order to escape Fares and the henchmen. Furthermore, another confusion is caused by the jealous wife of Pivert, Germaine (Suzy Delair), and her trial to get to her husband whom she suspects to have left her at the day of the marriage of their daughter with a "Therese Leduc", is also conceived in the form of road-trip, thus here we have a forth plot-line. One really has to watch this movie several times - not because it is so complicated, but because in order to scoop out the tremendous potential of truly effective humor that is in it. This film is doubtlessly De Funes greatest performance ever, he pulls out all the stops which he commands, there are even people saying that "Rabbi Jacob" remains to be the greatest French comedy made ever.
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10/10
The Streulianism
23 November 2010
Schaggi Streuli (1899-1980) was one of the most popular Swiss actors in the 50ies: He embodied the then typical Swiss husband and Pater Familias: "Beneath his rough exterior there beats a heart from gold". The reality, however, is different: Everything around him suffers, he abuses both his wife and his daughter, but in his reflection-less world view "this is how life is". Hervé Dumont, the author of the Swiss Film Compendium from 1896 to 1987, wrote about "Zum Goldenen Ochsen": "Nobody wants to remember this movie". Fact is: Although school-kids were still taught in the 50ies and 60ies that alleged ideal of a "severe, but just father", the Swiss public had enough from Schaggi Streuli in his one and always the same role up to nausea. Not only was this film one the biggest financial disasters in Swiss history, there was not one good critic published. As we learn from Dumont's fine book, the original script, written by the giant Werner Wollenberger, was rewritten totally by Streuli, so that the original satirical-ironical basis line of the story was completely destroyed. Since neither Dumont nor Wyder/Aeppli nor any other reference-work commentary has mentioned it, I still want point to the fact that "Zum Goldenen Ochsen" appears like a parody to Jean Vigo's "L'Atalante" (1928/34). However - Schaggi Streuli is not Pere Jules, Paul Bösiger is not Jean Dasté, and, last but not least, Ursula Kopp (who was not to bad one year ago in Kurt Früh's "Bäckerei Zürrer") is not Dita Parlo: her acting is so miserable that she never got a film role afterward. The story-line so one-dimensional: also here, everything is centered to Streuli, everyone else is a side-kick. Streuli repeats his not so brilliant jokes from "Polizischt Wäckerli" (1955): "So young as he is, I have never been"
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10/10
Murderer and Method (to catch him)
4 November 2010
We stand here before one of the most important German speaking movies of the second half of the 20st century, one of the first explicit series (child-) killer movies and one of the most frightful ones. It contains a creme De la creme of the best German actors of the fifties. However, although the movie plays in Switzerland, all Swiss actors speak High-German and are without exception in side roles. The male main role of Kommissar Dr. Matthäi is played by Heinz Rühmann, who was the most popular German actor of the 20st century. The female main role was given by the Hungarian-Catalan director László Vajda to his girlfriend María Rosa Salgado who was dubbed. The fact that not one example of Bündner German is heard in this movie, although the series killer lives obviously in Chur, the capital of the Grisons, is strange. Even stranger is that the only used Bündner German Name "Huonder" is constantly mispronounced (by Max Haufler who should have known it better). However, two questions arise: First, why did the director agree to Rühmann and his scenario-writer to change dramatically the end? In Dürrenmatts novel "Der Verdacht", Schrott is not caught, and the movie has therefore a completely different face. Second, and more important (and hanging together with the first question): What is this movie about, really? Several times, we hear from the mouth of Dr, Matthäi about the importance of using "intution" in clearing a criminal case. But why, then, is it Matthäi who, in the end, is responsible for the suicide of the chap-man? Matthäi is even fully unable to see his guilt: To the question, on the next day, why the innocent chap-man is found hung up in his cell, he laconically answers: Because he was old, sick, did not want to go on anymore ... . What is it then, that drives Matthäi to catch the real killer? Really his pity with the children? - Hardly, because his character does know or at least not admit such feelings. As a proof, he does not doubt one second about the legitimation of his "method" when he engages Mrs. Haller and her daughter, because he intends to (mis-)use the blond little girl as a guinea-pig in order to attract Schrott. Not even then, when he realizes that the little girl has already escaped several times without him knowing it and when he speaks himself about a "miracle" that nothing has yet happened, he stops his action. This means, that Matthäi rather accepts the death of the little girl as long as he is just capable of catching the murderer. This is an idea about police work which is practically identical with the idea of the criminal. Admittedly, the serious killer stands on the other side of Good and Bad than Matthäi, but somebody who is intending to take the loss of the girl in order to solve his case is so-to-say the twin of the criminal, the line between Good and Bad getting almost non-existent.
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10/10
Questionable version of a Swiss highlight
30 October 2010
Although the basic story of the HD-Soldat Läppli is Jaroslav Hasek's "Schwejk" and had been filmed even with Heinz Rühmann in the main role, it was Alfred Rasser's idea that the cooperative defense against military can be turned into a water-proof Swiss story. Läppli who had already served in an auxiliary troop of the Swiss army before, because of the controversial state of his mind, is fully going through all mental institutions after having shown up at the first day of the "Generalmobilmachung", i.e. the start of the military defense because of sub-acute war-alarm, with a Plumeau, a broom and a shovel "because it is always so dirty in those "soldier-barrackers (!)", Basle-German original: "Wels Immer So Draeckig Isch In Dene Kantenamenter". What happens from this point on, is a series of more or less continuous stories that have brought generations to laugh. Rasser and his troop (with varying actors) have played the play of "HD Läppli" and his other stories thousands of times in TV, cinema, on stage, on LP's and on radio. However, the only available version, expensive but well done (and even sub-titled, but not in English), is by far not the best of the available versions. For the few points of critique that I would like to grab out I refer to a version that I had seen in the early 70ies myself in Rasser's "Theater at the Spalenberg" in Basle (other points of critique could be added): 1. The episode where Corporal Mathys and Läppli walk uphill, is fully unmotivated: Neither is it clear where and why they go. Läppli then disappears, is considered to be dead and reappears - as the alleged German spy "Adalbert Lübke". The whole story is without any coherence to what happened before and later. 2. The end is the most deplorable victim of truncation (why?). We hear towards the end, when Läppli has to leave the stockade, that he makes a meeting with Mathys and Myslin for "6 o'clock after the war in the (restaurant) Mug", but at the end of the movie we see Läppli, Mathys and Myslin at the marriage of Clermont and Alice Brodbeck. The whole scene of the meeting in the "Mug" at the Bläsiring in Basle has been cut out in the present film version. 3. Almost more deplorable: In the stage version, Clermont, Alice, Läppli and his friends are sitting on the round-table, and Clermont and Alice are giving Läppli credit for having initiated their marriage by his chaotic, but in the end almost genial ways of being. Also a shorter dialog with Mathys (who has meanwhile gotten his medical doctor-title) has been fallen off the film version.
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Der Kommissar (1969–1976)
10/10
The fatherly investigator
25 October 2010
With "Der Kommissar" it all started, in 1969, remarkably at the same time when the young R.W. Fassbinder started to clear out the Augias Stables from the Sex-, Lederhosen, Heimat- and Edgar Wallace movies. However, the Kommissar remained during 97 episodes, until 1977, and it was followed by similar individual-based series such as "Derrick" and "Der Alte". As old as "The Kommissar" is only "Tatort" which in these days can celebrate its 40th birthday with a total of 777 episodes.

Herbert Keller, the "Kommissar" is never alone but always encompassed by his 3 male and 2 female assistant. However, they are side-kicks. Although couples consisting of protagonist + side-kick were known a long time specially from British and American comedy in Europe, it obviously took a while until the reduction from 5 to 1 was established: So, Derrick has his Harry Klein (originally one of the 3 males of the "Kommissar"), and Der Alte has 1-2 (which are also known from different roles in "The Kommissar".

Kommissar Keller is a fatherly type, he smokes a lot and drinks even during work and in his office, the same is true for his collaborators, specially for one of the women. Nothing was aseptic like in a hospital these times, and in America, one can shed tears nowadays. While Keller's method is strongly instinct-based, his successor Derrick's method is first rather rude and unmotivated and grows to psychological analysis during the years. "Der Alte" is similar rather to Keller, but a lonely wolf - and he found his adequate end.

While "The Kommissar", "Derrick", and "Der Alte" nowadays rear their heads again, it is to deplore that the fourth series in the "club", "Die Unsterblichen Methoden Des Franz Josef Wanninger"/"The eternal methods of Franz Josef Wanninger" with the full-fledged Bavarian giant Beppo Brem in the main role, has been almost fully forgotten. All the four series together build a "Quadrumvirate" which testifies of German TV on the level of its best.
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Oberstadtgass (1956)
10/10
The quarter as a family
24 October 2010
Kurt Früh's "Oberstadtgass" - in reality the alleys and little streets around St. Peterhofstatt in central downtown Zürich - are a quarter of the Middle Ages. In 1956, most apartments are still non-renovated, have hardly any comfortable infrastructure, so that many poor people live here, while the other houses are inhabited by hand-workers. In the restaurant "Veltliner Keller" - today one of the priciest Zurich restaurants that serves exclusively high-style cuisine - the neighbors gather for a mug beer or cold Fleischkäse with mustard. From the movie it gets clear that only one family can be counted to the better-situated ones (Winterhalter). There is hardly circulation, the narrow streets are from cobblestone, people walk along steep stair-houses up to the roofs where they beat carpets and enjoy a little rest. Everybody knows everybody, the postman Jucker being naturally a central person. The old women gossip. When something extraordinary happens, the whole quarter knows it in no time. It is clear: Nobody is alone here, and even the nosiness of the neighbors testifies that everybody is part in a social network - qua social control. However, there are two exceptions. First the girl whom the postman does not know. This is explicitly said. She tries to commit suicide, but the sledge-hammer noise of the street prevent the old women from blowing up the story into a state occasion. Second, and mainly, there is Mäni Brändli, a half-orphan whose sick mother has to clean aborts in order to make a miserable living. The boy is tormented psychologically and physically by the other children, but he always manages to give them back - and unfortunately is as the only one perceived as being aggressive.

Postman Jucker and his wife had lost her one and only child, a boy, when he was 7 years old. When the sadistic Mr. Winterhalter intends to get Mäni's guardian, Mr. Jucker keeps the boy with him. However, this leads to big problems with his wife who connect overcome the loss of her own child. While this movie is a typical Schaggi-Streuli-movie (cf. "Polizischt Wäckerli"), its value, half a century after it was made, is mainly that it shows the enormous changing that Zurich has undergone in this decades. Where the lower-class people lived in their simple apartments, nowadays the richest of the rich live, all the apartments are fully renovated and brought up to a luxurious "standard". (A family apartment at St. Peterhofstatt costs today, in 2010, over 4'000 Swiss Franks, which is almost 4'000 dollars.) All the old restaurants still exist, but all have also changed into luxury establishments. It goes by itself, that the social cohesion between the families that live there is practically zero: one greets one another, but one would never stand together as they did 50 years ago in order to prove the innocence of the "abort-boy" (Hüüsli-Bueb) Mäni.
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Café Odeon (1959)
10/10
A failure with highlights
24 October 2010
Kurt Früh, who directed this movie, wrote in his last book "Rückblenden" (1975) that he considers this movie a failure. As we know from his collaborators, Präsens-Film and mostly Lazar Wechsler were afraid when they read Früh's original treatment: What Früh had in mind was nothing less than a Zurich variation a la Fellini's "Notte Di Calabria", however, with a strong twist in direction of a history of morality. When Wechsler had told Früh his severe doubts that the original story with its "Libertinages" and "Débauches" would be refused both by public and critics and that furthermore the Moral Instances would agrees against the film, Früh started to rewrite and rewrite the original text until there was scenario left which hardly deserved to be filmed. It is true that the great performance of Margrit Winter is simply wasted. Her decision to become a prostitute is basically unmotivated. Also Dr. Kartmann's sympathy is hard to believe (at least then, when one does not know that in real life Erwin Kohlund and Margrit Winter were married). Especially stupid is the role of Emil Hegetschweiler as Waiter Walter and self-proclaimed morality guard. Why Anni (Winter) is afraid of him and does not even think of chasing him away, remains a miracle. Similar things would be to say about the character of Hans Gaugler, an eminent Swiss actor whose "Dällebach ... Dällebaaaaach" from Früh's movie "Dällebach Kari" (1970) nobody forgets until his last days. Not much better is the situation among the whores who stand in a certain sense in the center of the movie: The character of the later Burgtheater actress Blanche Aubry (the barkeeper "Mary" out of Früh's early movie "Polizischt Wäckerli") is completely senseless. Nevertheless, one can see the movie as a phase in the life of Leni, who forced her husband to steal because she wanted a more luxurious life. Let alone while he is in prison, she naively thinks that all she has to do is to go to her sister, and changing the city will automatically change her life. When she learns about the profession of her sister, she just lets herself go and steps into the footprints of Annie, while she is in Italy. That every position in life must be prepared - a bourgeois profession as well as a netherworld-profession - is simply unclear to her. She just clings herself to the first good-looking man she meets in the Odeon, totally ignorant if he is married or not and if she could endanger his marriage. Also, she does not doubt one second that the man will in a jiffy leave his wife and come to her into her apartment house. It is almost a miracle, that real catastrophes go beyond her; the worst she has to suffer is to stay as a house-keeper for the waiter together with his "stinking animals". Real life shows that anybody who unprepared breaks out of his position normally comes under the hammer. However, Früh waits also for Leni with a very dramatic end. The problem is here, again, that it is too little motivated.
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10/10
An anachronism of its own time
24 October 2010
Although the last Wäckerli-movie was made as late as 1966 (directed by nobody else than Werner Düggelin), the first one - and at the same time the first feature-long movie by Swiss director Kurt Früh - was an anachronism. Although the TV broadcasting of "Polizischt Wäckerli", which preceded almost immediately the movie, was a road sweeper, and the public liked both versions, most critics went against Wäckerli as the impersonation of the allegedly typical Swiss family father: with "tough shell and soft kernel". The 60ies were obviously visible at the horizon. Comparing Früh's three movies "Polizischt Wäckerli" (1955) - "Es Dach Überem Chopf" (1962) and "Der Fall" (1971) we easily get a socio-gram of the earthquake-like changes that happened at that time in Central Europe in the relationship between parents and children. While in 1955, the suppressed son, forced by his father, the almost almighty police-corporal of Allenwil, to hire out in a bureau-job which he hates as one can just hate, he is unable to free himself and needs for that purpose the help of his 10 years older girlfriend Mary, the owner of the local bar. The daughter and the mother have simply nothing to say. When they try to open their mouth, they are cut brutally ("but justly") down by Wäckerli's "natural authority". But only 7 years later, we see the 18 years old daughter Sophie Caduff in Früh's "Es Dach Überem Chopf" taking her own rights with conviction, spending whole nights with the then so-called generation of "Halbstarken" (mostly rockers). Although Sophie's father still tries to exercise his influence on her, the audience sees his might crumbling apart like Blue cheese. And again a decade later, in Früh's last film "Der Fall", we see a youth completely liberated from their families. When detective Grendelmeier by chance stumbles over the lost daughter of one of his clients, he sees her lying between one the stairwell, hypnotized by drugs. To his recommendation she might go home because her parents expect her, she answers in a flower-power drivel: "I don't believe that at all". This is the time-horizon from which "Polizischt Wäckerli" has to be judged: It basically describes a time which was already over when the movie was made. The mood that should be broadcast to the public was about that of the title-score of Früh's other movie "Oberstattgass": "In Allen Gassen Wohnt Das Glück" ("All The Alley Inhabits The Luck ...), in other words nothing else than the Gegenwelt of the Romantics. However, this is not Kitsch but Seelentröstung: consolation of the soul, of the wounded soul.
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Der Kommissar: Der Mord an Dr. Winter (1975)
Season 7, Episode 5
10/10
The shooting gallery target
23 September 2010
Dr. Winter is an outsider. Everybody attests him a grand knowledge and command of the discipline that he teaches in his high-school. But he also has his special way of taking his glasses off, to forget to put his handkerchief back into his pocket and a few other noticeable behaviors. He does not like to communicate, does not react to provocation, goes out the way of every conflict even before it starts. When he stands before the blackboard in class-room, his students throw erasers, paper balls and other things onto his back. Asked about the humans, he says: "One should pray every minute to ask God to erase this faulty and miserable race". Dr. Winter has lived in this way some 30 years already, often changing his positions. Before the end of World War II he had lost his wife and children by the Russian army; he found them lying in the gutters. Since then, Dr. Winter only loves his books; he possesses many thousands. No wonder then, that his student apartment, where he lives, is overcrowded. He has no cooking place there, but eating is not important to him, and when he is hungry, he dines out --- or not. In the past 5 yeas, a female colleague from his high-school visits him in order to take care of the notorious chaos in his booth. But only when a 19 years old strikingly beautiful student of his class visits him, allegedly asking for private lessons, he starts slowly, but in an amazing manner to change. Not even the priest, his only friend, understands what is going on. However, shortly after, things turn in a brutal manner ... . This episode from "The Kommissar", with the giant Rudolf Platte (1904-1984) in the main and title role, has good chances to be the best criminal story out of hundred thousands ever filmed in Germany.
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Beau Pere (1981)
10/10
The eternal substitute
22 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I don't think that "Beau Pere" (1981) by Bertrand Blier is so much about what Marion says: "I am a woman. A woman of 14 years (...). Admittedly, my breasts are small, but they do react when touched". One should not let oneself cheat about how much this is a movie about the definition or role of morality in French society, either. The story is close to surrealism, and that form of surrealism which discloses a strong humorist or almost clown's function, as, e.g., in Concrete Poetry. Therefore, I see in the center of this movie rather the poor Stepfather, Rémy, whose eternal faith it seems to be to never overcome his status as a stepfather. Not only has he a stepdaughter with his wife, he subsequently becomes the lover of his stepdaughter. In one scene, even his status of stepfather is questioned when the school-psychologist asks the girls father and stepfather who are both present: So you both are fathers of the girl? While her real father answers by yes, Rémy says: I am rather her mother. Marion wishes children from Rémy for the future telling him explicitly that he should transcend one day his role of stepfather. But before he gets there, he jumps off their relationship in order to join Charlotte, a single mother of a little daughter (whose stepfather he soon will become, since Charlotte says to him: Tu Vas Guérir (you will be healed)). At that point at the end of the movie, it can be no doubt that Rémy will never become a real father but always remain in the substitutive function: Not a father, but a stepfather, not the original lover, but a step-lover, not with the mother of his child, but with the mother of his stepchild.
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10/10
A travel into the inside of an individual
22 September 2010
A world is the radius of influence of an individual. Therefore, the beginning of a world is his birthplace or the location of his earliest memories. Quite opposite, the ends of a world are there where an individual has never been before, since Nothing creates fear. Thus, the beginning, but not the end belong to the world. Furthermore, it is strange that an area which has a beginning, but no end still has a center, although in our world as the sum of the milliards of worlds there were not many in history: Rome, Jerusalem, Peripignan. The first two centers are clearly declared by religious authority, while the latter off sprang a instantaneous dadaist intuition of Salvador Dali. Traveling from his birthplace in Catalugna to the South of France, he saw a cabbage head growing amidst the rails in the railway station of Perpignan. According to Dali, this cabbage head was the center or "head" (Ceu) of the world. It makes sense, that a world which is fixed only on one side of the time or a space axis can have infinitely many centers - as there are individuals namely and thus worlds. For an individual, however, who represents in his spiritual power the center of his world by himself, as Manoel De Oliveira doubtlessly does, it makes sense not to declare a certain point of the earth his center, but to go back to his beginnings in order to conciliate it there with the end of his personal world.
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10/10
A filmed metaphysics of film
21 September 2010
This partly fairytale-like, partly almost surrealist movie is a little gem about gain, loss and regain, about how far one comes in being honest. It is amazing in many respects, as usually with the films of Manoel De Oliveira, and absolutely unique. E.g., the communication between Macário and Luísa takes mostly place between windows. Windows as such are compromises, openings of a wall which separate the inside from the outside, in-between-land that belongs to nowhere. Then the story obviously sets in a noble and stylistically rigid society, possibly in the 19th century, in which the novel had been written. But suddenly you see a computer screen and people paying in Euro. While Ricardo Trêpa, nephew of the director, and Leonor Silveira belong to the director's film-family, Catarina Wallenstein (who has not much to say and nothing special to act) is a true surprise, doubtlessly one of the most beautiful women ever having appeared on the silver screen, yet completely unknown hitherto outside of Portugal.
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Der Hammermörder (1990 TV Movie)
10/10
Kein Schöner Land In Dieser Zeit
19 September 2010
Based on a true story that happened around 1985 in Stuttgart, Germany, the present movie is characterized by dissolving the psychological state of the robber and killer into action. Although hardly any "hard-core" murder scenes are shown, the psychological effects that the director achieves, are subcutaneous. Besides the story itself, this TV-movie can serve as an example about the present method in Germany of making TV-movies between the extremes of over-stylized feature films on the one side and purely action-driven TV-series ("Tatort") on the other side.

However, the deepest motives of the culprit remain mostly in the dark. We see him often visiting the grave of his little daughter that had "so much to suffer". But why did she suffer? Is it really convincing that we are to believe that Rohloff's shopping binges, his attempts to show even his family and closest friends a false facade, are simply to be interpreted as a surrogate action? Did a deeper reason not already lie in Rohloff's personality when he decided to become a policeman? It is true that his wife has a big impact on the crimes Ruhloff is doing, but he also abuses her for the might he gets in his house whenever he brings money from his robberies. Thus, is he not from his beginnings a heavily disturbed person incapable of dealing with might? His caring of his children appears more as a chumming up in order to have children on his side when the next attack from his wife comes.
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Men in Black (1997)
10/10
The USA: A Nation Of Aliens
18 September 2010
When you enter the US from Europe you may hear first "How are you doing", usually pronounced in one word which makes it impossible to recognize its parts, the question spoken with the melody of a statement, and the continuous tense form being false, while the good and correct British "How do you do?" is practically out of use. Second, let's say, you need a coffee. You go to Starbucks and get one of these plastic cups carrying a paper Banderole where there stands in big letters: CAUTION! CONTAINS HOT LIQUID. When you visit the restroom, you find a tetrahedron-like warning shield placed on the obviously wet soil telling you: DANGER! WET FLOOR! Later, in the taxi, you read in the rear-view mirror: OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR.

If you want or not: Coming from a land where neither the coffee-shops nor the cleaning company nor the car-producers are nursing you, you will ask yourself: What is this for a land where the self-evident things are told even to adults, things which are know already by children in the rest of the world? Obviously, you conclude, here there lives a species of beings that MUST be told that, since otherwise nobody would go through all the pain and costs for all those warnings. So, you ask one of the inhabitants of this country, and he tells you that recently a lung cancer patient who had smoked for forty years sued Philips, telling the court-house that this tobacco company did not warn him of the dangers of smoking - and won the process. At that point, as an educated European, you may ask yourself: Are these really humans that inhabit this gigantic country between Montana and Mississippi, California and New England, because both the stupidity of their behavior and the credulity of their court-houses seem to contradict strongly to that assumption. You may also get suspicious when you enter a store and ask a cashier, who is just busy to serve another customer, where the paper products are. Unlike in any other country, she will stay calm, put on her most agreeable smile, show you her Pepsodent teeth and direct you kindly to aisle number eleven. When you then look at the people in queue whose time you have stolen with your stupid question, you will encounter the same artificial and mechanical smile remembering you perhaps of E.T.A. Hoffmann's Olympia and the unhappy Professor Mosh Terpin who invented her. Now you count one and one together, since you feel strongly that you are on a hot trail. Perhaps you remember the people showing up in the famous old American movies of the 30ies or 40ies: Hardly any difference to Europeans (besides the language), educated, cultivated, polite but not automate with a mechanical make-up grinning. Then, the most horrible suspicion comes into your brain: WHAT HAPPENED OUT OF THE Americans OF THE 40IES? -. They are gone! Absolutely for sure the people who nowadays inhabit America are nothing but aliens, placed on both sides of the Apalachians after the original cultivated race has been high-jacked, leaving back a class of low lives who are behind the Central African states in the international PISA evaluation of the world-education, who clothe in jeans, sandals and speak as if they are born with a chewing gum in their mouth, who love to play war, do not speak one foreign language and not even their own in a proper way - and, consistently, as you now start to realize, have to be told that hot stuff can burn, mirrors distort distances, water on soil is slippery, in one word: that one first has to close a door before it can be shut. And then, after a long time, you find this marvelous film: MEN IN BLACK, the title purposely without significance, so that nobody gets suspicious of its content. After having watched this movie, you, who understands, recognize that the crew who made this movie is obviously the last rest of people who could rescue themselves when their relatives had been high-jacked and replaced by the aliens. Working in the underground, they used the genre of comedy, again, in order to avoid suspects, because the low lives' Gestapo is everywhere! Even worse: In the film they abuse the Mexican minority in the southern rim of the US for suspect of being aliens, for example in the famous truck-scene where the two MIB search the trunk and find these aliens disguised as Mexicans. So, the message of this movie is clear enough: The few Mexicans in the trunk are the real Americans, while the majority around, the alleged Americans, are the aliens. IF SOMEONE INVITES YOU TO THE US, STAY AWAY, RUN AWAY AND HIDE YOURSELF.
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Der Kommissar: Der Papierblumenmörder (1970)
Season 2, Episode 1
10/10
Christiane Schröder (1942-1980), forgotten actress
17 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
As "Unglaublich Langweilig" - "unbelievably boring", "Der Papierblumenmörder" had been criticized when it was first broadcast in 1970. Although the idea of the story is not a priori dull - a double-suicide looking like a murder-case, with the interesting twist that the second suicidal is assumed to be the murderer of the first -, the problem is that the dramaturgy is verbose: a wall consisting of too little stones and too much grout will not keep well. There are certain stories that are shorter than for 60 minutes movie-time, these are exactly those which cannot be expanded by "grout". However, from the standpoint of 40 years later, this movie has become a monumental status, insofar as it is well possible that "Der Papierblumenmörder" was the Chef d'Oeuvre of Christiane Schröder (the character of Bonny), daughter of the famous actor Ernst Schröder, who got a certain strange fame by orchestrating her own, real, death, in 1982 at the age of only 38 years when she jumped from the Gold Gate Bridge in San Francisco. When we thus watch the present movie and see this beautiful and highly talented actress who got perhaps only in this one movie the possibility to "pull out all her stops" as an actress, we should be thankful, that this movie has been made and always been aware that a movie is never better than the people who act (in) it. The paper- flowers, perhaps the last remnants of the Hippies, have been immortalized by Christiane Schröder as she immortalized herself in her highly dramatic and definitely Oscar-worthy play.
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Tatort: Reifezeugnis (1977)
Season 1, Episode 73
10/10
The magnifier on the story
16 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
(Please do NOT read this comment, if you do not want to learn the clue of the story!) We speak here about one of the most famous Tatort episodes, with a creme De la creme-crew, including Nastassja Kinski, Christian Quadflieg and Judy Winter (not to forget the late Klaus Schwarzkopf), therefore, it may be allowed to look with a magnifier at the story. After she has refused to spend her leisure time with former boy-friend Michael, Sina is caught by Michael having an affair with her literature teacher, Fichte. Because Michael is deeply angry about this liaison, he urges Sina to go the next day with him into the forests and make love - as she did with Fichte. Because Michael threatens to denounce Fichte to the director of the school, she agrees. A bit later when she is called by Michael, she tries to dissuade him from his idea. The central question is here: Did Sina already at this moment conceive the plan to kill Michael, or not? The seems so suggest the second alternative. However, when they arrive in the forest, Michael immediately throws himself on Sina, lying on her back in the soil. Crying that Michael should leave her alone, but unable to lift him away from her, she catches a stone on smashes his head. Arrived at that point, how would you, reader of this comment, continue the story? I would say: Sina goes to the police, reports that Michael tried to rape her, the police will probably believe her (we hear about Michael's unbalanced character a bit later in the movie), and then there will be a self-defense, but not a murder case. OK, what the author needed is a satisfactory murder-story and not a self-defense. But how he changed this quasi natural on-going of the story, is less than unsatisfactory: He lets Sina invent the Big Third Unknown, allegedly a portly built, middle-sized hunters-man - too much fairy-tale for a sexually and intellectually mature 17 years old girl. Since the police suspects that Sina covers her own school-teacher, they lure her into a trap and present her the caught alleged culprit. Since she is so stupid to identify him as her raper, the police is now convinced that it was the teacher who killed Michael. Well-understood: the police do not even doubt that there were only two instead of three persons at the place of the crime! Because she sees no other way, she writes a good-bye letter in which she frees her teacher from all crime, admits that she killed Michael and disappears in order to commit suicide. Only then, when she is found still alive, the mystery is disclosed. But the movie is finished, and the big question, if Sina will now be sentenced for first-degree murder and not for self-defense, appears. It seems that here the most important twist in the whole movie has been screwed up.
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10/10
Jede Schwizer Isch E Bedrohig För Sis Aigene Land
16 September 2010
In English: Every Swiss citizen is a menace for his own homeland. It is a fact, well known in Switzerland, that after World War II, the role of a Swiss Gestapo was taken over by every Swiss citizen himself, moving the curtain whenever someone left the house or arrived, noticing painfully if She has a man with her or not - the next time: if He is the same man She had before with her. Such a day is long, especially for the house-wives and the retired: No wonder that the results of this breathtaking observations have to be reported meanwhile and exchanged with the other finks and informers and plants. Officially, however, "Spitzels" there were only behind the Iron Curtain, and the big difference of the Swiss "Fröntler" from the German Nazis was THE reason that Hitler did not invade Switzerland. This "strategy" has even gotten a name: Geistige Landesverteidigung (Spiritual Homeland-Defense), and prices were given for people who won merits. That the most terrible events in and around World War II can obviously best or only treated in the form of comedies, we know since Chaplin's "Great Dictator" and until Achternbusch's "Das Letzte Loch". And "Beresina", too, is a comedy, although director Daniel Schmid has ever done one before. That "Beresina" grew also into Scmid's last movie, was due to his progressive disease rather than purpose.
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10/10
De Chrieg Wo Dir Aazettlet Hei
14 September 2010
Between the beginnings of the Swiss feature length movies in the 30ies and the middle of the 50ies, the cinematographic landscape was practically ruled by three directors alone: Franz Schnyder, Leopold Lindtberg, and Hermann Haller. While the latter had been mostly classified as "artistic collaborator", "assistant director" or even only "cutter", especially Schnyder's movies were famous and infamous at the same time for the strong propagandistic style. While this is true for most of Schnyder's later works, the often heard criticism at "Gilberte De Courgenay" is not just. First, one is astonished to hear the sentence given in the title out of the mouth of Kanonier Hasler ("The war that YOU (i.e. the old generation) have started"), then, generally, what we see about the discipline of the Swiss army is anything else than great: Besides the parade towards the end, brought up to give Mr. Odermatt the chance to change his opinion about the discipline in the army, we see the soldiers almost exclusively drinking in the railway-station restaurant in Courgenay. Although they are in charge, Hasler says in one episode that in the morning, he drank a whole bottle of schnapps. The only time when the soldiers are shown out in the field, they are served tea with cognac by Tilly. So what the basic purpose of this movie nowadays is, is to serve as a collection of all those nice and funny little episodes that ancient military colleagues use to tell one another to the hundredth time, when sitting in the restaurants and glorifying the "good old times". If one is able to look away from this so-called Froentler-Mentality, one should let this film live (it is shown once a year by the Swiss National TV) and enjoy to meet again all those great actors who dominated the Swiss film scene during decades, such as Anne-Marie Blanc, Erwin Kohlund, Zarli Carigiet, Heinrich Gretler, Schaggi Streuli, Max Knapp, Rudolf Bernhard ... .
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