Friday One Sheet: In The Fade

A gorgeous one-sheet featuring a gorgeous actress: Diane Kruger. Here she is working with German-Turkish director Fatih Akin examining the after-effects of a terrorist bombing on one woman who loses her son and husband in the attack. It’s difficult, exactly, to tell this from this glittery urban-lit poster, that is as reminiscent of Blade Runner as it is of Old Boy. Maybe the rain makes things seems sad? But the first rule of old-school marketing is sell the star, and this picture does so magnificently. It even drops the laurel in the top left corner indicating Ms. Kruger picked up the best acting nod at this years Cannes festival. And just to show you how much Photoshop is used these days (you know this already, of course) here is Ms. Kruger not in the rain.

Blu-Ray Review: Lola

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Screenplay: Pea Fröhlich, Peter Märthesheimer, Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Starring: Barbara Sukowa, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Mario Adorf, Matthias Fuchs
Country: West Germany
Running Time: 113 min
Year: 1981
BBFC Certificate: 15


I watched (and reviewed) my first Rainer Werner Fassbinder film, Fear Eats the Soul just over a year ago and was impressed, so I’ve been keen to check out more titles from his extensive filmography (particularly large considering he died at the early age of 37). I’d passed some of Arrow’s re-releases over to other writers to cover, but luckily Studiocanal are now honouring the director by releasing Lola this month, followed by a box set in October (details still to be confirmed), so I threw my hat into the ring for the former.

Lola is an unofficial remake of the German classic The Blue Angel (a.k.a. Der Blaue Engelreviewed here), modernised to reflect the values of post-WWII Germany. Set in the 50s, ten years after the war, rather than fully updated to reflect 80s Germany, Lola is set in a country whose market economy is booming. In an unnamed city, Herr von Bohm (Armin Mueller-Stahl) is the newly appointed building inspector. He’s hard-working and committed to developing the area, but upright, uptight and traditional in his personal values. Shuckert (Mario Adorf) is a local builder who’s profiting greatly from the boom, aided by a lot of corruption. He’s excited by von Bohm’s desire to pump up the local economy and get building work done efficiently, but also worried that he won’t approve of the backhanded dealings that have so far been running the town and lining his pockets.

Meanwhile, Lola (Barbara Sukowa), a singer at a bordello and the mistress of Schuckert, is intrigued by von Bohm and becomes driven to get such an honourable man to fall for her charms. She does manage to win him over, but only by hiding her occupation and ties with Schuckert. Von Bohm is bound to find out at some point though, so the question is, what will he do when he does and how will it affect Shuckert’s plans for the building inspector?

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Blu-Ray Review: Fear Eats the Soul

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Screenplay: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Starring: Brigitte Mira, El Hedi ben Salem, Barbara Valentin, Irm Hermann
Country: West Germany
Running Time: 94 min
Year: 1974
BBFC Certificate: 15


Rainer Werner Fassbinder is a director whose name I’ve heard bandied around for a long time, but I’ve never got around to watching any of his films. Thankfully Arrow Academy are releasing a collection of 10 of his most famous features on dual format Blu-Ray and DVD (full details further down the page) so I decided to take the plunge and review one of the most well known titles in the set, Fear Eats the Soul (a.k.a. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul).

Fassbinder was an interesting character, to put it mildly. Openly bisexual at a time when that was taboo, he had a myriad of sexual relationships with his regular cast and crew and had problems with alcohol and drugs throughout his adult life which eventually killed him at the age of 37. However (or maybe fuelled by all the cocaine he took), he had a creative prolificacy like no other. To quote Wikipedia, “in a professional career that lasted less than fifteen years, he completed forty feature length films, two television film series, three short films, four video productions, twenty-four stage plays, four radio plays and thirty-six acting roles in his own and others’ films. He also worked as an actor (film and theatre), author, cameraman, composer, designer, editor, producer and theatre manager.” Quite how he managed this is baffling, but he had a skill for swiftly putting together a production, frequently of a high enough standard to gain great critical acclaim.

In fact, Fear Eats the Soul was meant as a throwaway experiment, shot in just two weeks in between the higher budget films Martha and Effi Briest. It went on to be one of his most critically successful films, winning prizes at the Cannes and Chicago Film Festivals. It tells the simple story of a 60-odd year old German woman Emmi (Brigitte Mira) who falls in love with a 40-odd year old Moroccan immigrant known as Ali (although his real name is that of the actor who portrays him, El Hedi ben Salem – Ali is just the name most Germans give to Moroccan immigrants). The couple face horrible treatment from their family, friends and colleagues due to their age and racial differences. This causes a strain on their relationship.

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Cinecast Episode 396 – Rated ‘R’ for Mood

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It has finally happened. Matt Gamble shows up and forces a co-host to say enough is enough and leave the room. In these parts, it is probably the best way to handle things until cooler heads prevail – which takes a few minutes. You might think is the grotesquery on display in Fury Road or the non-necessity of the Pitch Perfect sequel becoming this weekends box-office champ. But No. Appropriately it is the Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 6. If Beinioff and Weiss, HBO’s show-runners are looking for a reaction, they have gotten it… Things devolve into semantics, call it the “Daybreaker’s Effect.” But fear not, intrepid listener with ringing ears, we move on to happier, less controversial places created by Mike Judge, Neil Marshall and Alfred Hitchcock.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 

 

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(Moody) Trailer: The Silence

Baran Bo Odar’s 2010 moody German thriller, The Silence, is getting very limited U.S. release in March. In light of this, an atmospheric, Memories Of Murder-esque trailer has dropped on the internets. This thing looks masterfully shot. Check it out.

23 years ago on a hot summer day, a girl is brutally murdered in a field of wheat. In the present day, on the exact same date, 13-year-old Sinikka is missing, her bicycle abandoned in the same spot, leading police to suspect the same killer may be at work again. A recently widowed detective David and his colleague Janna struggle to solve the mystery of these parallel crimes with the help of the retired investigator of the unresolved case. While Sinikka’s distraught parents are trapped in an agonizing period of waiting and uncertainty, their daughter’s fate rips open unhealed wounds in the heart of the mother of the original girl.

Flyway Film Fest Dispatch #5: Documentarian Howard Reich

 

 

One of the most intriguing films to come to Pepin this year is the documentary Prisoner of Her Past. Chicago Tribune Jazz critic Howard Reich sits down with us to talk about how and why his mother of 69 years one day decided to flee her Chicago home in the middle of the night insisting to police later that people were trying to kill her. After an evaluation we learn that Sonia actually has a rare form of delusion: Late Onset Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

During World War II, it turns out that as a ten year-old child, Sonia was forced to go on the run and into hiding through the German occupation of her country and witnessed unspeakable atrocities. These tragic events are now rearing their ugly head all these years later within Sonia’s psyche. After writing an article about the ordeal for the Chicago Tribune, he’s decided to investigate further and document the entire personal journey on film that takes him across the globe and chance encounters with other war survivors and people who actually knew his mother as a child. It’s an absolutely fascinating journey of discovery that’s both heart warming and heart wrenching at the same time.

Howard was gracious enough to sit down with us and discuss how he went about making the film and his discoveries and feelings as he progressed through this trek over the past few months/years.

 

 

 

LINKS:
Prisoner of Her Past Official film site
Purchase the DVD
Sonia’s story in Book form written by Howard himself
Howard’s Blog documenting screenings and events since the making of the film

 

Review: SOUL KITCHEN

This is one of the most crowded release weekends of the year, and the wide releases are splitting demographics wildly – Scott Pilgrim for the hipster nerds and gamers, The Expendables for manly testosterone, and Eat Pray Love for the Harlequin/Estrogen set. But opening on a lone screen in Toronto is a light comedy that should have appeal to nearly all demographics. It’s a broad German slapstick food comedy and it is excellent. Opening to funkadelic beats and high gloss cinematography, Soul Kitchen may confuse fans of German/Turkish director Fatih Akin, who is perhaps best known for the energetic and raw drama Head On (Gegen die Wand).

Piling on pratfalls, meet-cutes, wacky neighbors, montage sequences and an abundance of ‘Fox Searchlight’-isms (think of the plots and tone of films from that company: The Full Monty, Saving Grace, Juno) and the old stand by of good food equating to good sex, Akin does not reinvent the wheel, but he does deliver one of the better comedies stuffed to bursting with living-in-the-margins characters. When all of the elements come together this well, it is hard not to surrender to the pleasure of a simple yet well-made dish (Ratatouille if you will).

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German Zombies Run Amok in “Rammbock”

As big of a fan as I am of the zombie sub-genre, even I have to admit that its starting to grow a tad tiresome. Romero’s latest piece of shit didn’t help matters either.

Still, when one is done well and looks exciting, I take notice. Thanks to the cool cats over at QuietEarth, my spirits were lifted a little after checking out this latest trailer out of Germany for a film entitled Rammbock. According to German Wiki, a rammbock is like a giant battering ram, but I think the literal translation is “[Rec] meets 28 Days Later.”

Their synopsis is as follows:

Just when Michael arrives in Berlin to visit his ex-girlfriend Gabi, a terrible virus starts spreading across the city at a rapid pace, turning people into mindless homicidal maniacs. Much to Michael’s concern, Gabi’s not home; instead, he meets Harper, a teenage plumber’s apprentice at work in her apartment block. Together, they manage to barricade themselves when raging hordes of infected people swarm the building. Surrounded by these thirsty zombies, Michael and Harper have their hands full to survive – and it will take all of their ingenuity to make their way out to try and find Gabi.

 

 

Review: Max Manus

Max Manus Movie Poster

Directors: Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg (Bandidas
Writer: Thomas Nordseth-Tiller
Producers: Sveinung Golimo, John M. Jacobsen
Starring: Aksel Hennie, Agnes Kittelsen, Nicolai Cleve Broch, Ken Duken
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 118 min.

When a war rages on for as long and as widespread as WWII, you’re bound to continually discover interesting stories to tell. From the brilliant documentary The Rape of Europa which shone a light on the work done by the monument men to 2007’s The Counterfeiters about a plot to kill the world economy by making counterfeit pound notes, these stories always seem to find an audience and there’s little doubt that Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s tale will find some love among history aficionados and film fans alike.

Max Manus Movie StillWritten by Thomas Nordseth-Tiller, Max Manus tells the story of a real life war hero, a Norwegian who was determined to fight back when he felt his country essentially gave itself up to Nazi occupation. Max retreated to Scotland, made friends, received training and returned to Norway to begin a career as one of the war efforts’ most brilliant saboteurs.

It’s a little surprising that a film as polished and well crafted as Max Manus comes at the hands of the directing duo who also brought us the awful Bandidas. Max Manus is visceral when it needs to be (it opens with a bloody exchange of bullets) while also veering into tenderness as this isn’t directly a story of the war effort but more of a tale of a man struggling with his inner demons. Max was brilliant at his job and fiercely loyal taking his role as leader very seriously and feeling the responsibility of each death “on his watch” deeply and so the film teeters from action to drama with expertise.

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Shorts Program: E.T.A.

So admittedly this is a few years old but when a short is this good, it’s worth attention regardless of how old it is. Created by a team of digital artists who are collectively knowns as Junk Works, these guys are creating nothing even remotely resembling junk.

The crew has been making short films for a few years but it was their 2008 effort titled E.T.A. which really caught a lot of attention. The film played at BreakPoint ’08 in Bingen, Germany where it won a first place finish with a strong recommendation from the jury that their next project be a full length feature. Obviously, that’s a lot easier said than done but I can’t help but agree.

E.T.A. is only four minutes long but darn it if it’s not the most entertaining four minutes I’ve had this week. Unexpected and a whole lot of fun. I look forward to director Henrik Bjerregaard Clausen’s next project.

Film after the break!

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Tykwer Returns to Germany for Next Project

TomTykwerI really like director Tom Tykwer but it seems that as of late, he hasn’t managed to catch a break with his English language features. Perfume was brilliant, managing to capture on screen, as closely as I’ve ever seen, scent, but the film seems to have been largely overlooked (did anyone see it?) while The International (our review) had the attention but failed to live up to expectation. The time seems ripe for a recharge and there’s no better way to regroup than by returning home.

First Showing reports that Tykwer is returning to Germany to direct Drei, his first German language film since the release of The Princess & the Warrior in 2000. The new project is said to be a “tragicomic film about love, morality and gender in late modern Germany, set against late modern Berlin backdrops — a story of a love triangle with social and cultural-philosophical depth.”

I’m happy to see that Tykwer continues to make film. He’s shown great talent behind the camera and it would be a shame to see him disappear so early into his career (though I realize he’s been working for some time, it seems like just yesterday that we saw him make an appearance on the world stage with Run, Lola, Run). Regardless of the language he’s working in, he’s one to watch out for and I look forward to more details on the project.