Archiv der Kategorie: English

We Won’t Rock You

Film review: Bohemian Rhapsody (Director: Bryan Singer)

By Sascha Krieger

Musicians‘ biopics are not among the least popular fares of cinema but they aren’t without risks either. While the fanbase can usually be counted on to run to the theatres in flocks and – depending on the notoriety of the subjects – the celebrity-curious masses will as well, depictions of beloved stars‘ lives will invariably meet with a long litany of criticisms especially from devoted fans who are bound to find the portrayal of their darlings inadequate. However, as this usually does not to affects at least the initial box office numbers significantly, it was only a matter of time until Freddie Mercury’s life would make its way to the big screen. Mercury, lead singer of the legendary hit factory of bombastic rock anthems that was Queen, is one of the most intriguing figures in the history of popular music: a flamboyant and mesmerising performer with an unmatched voice and unbelievable vocal range, an eccentric and hedonist capturing the desires of many, the curiosity of almost all and the fear of some. And, following his untimely death at the age of 45, an icon in the fight against HIV and AIDS and by proxy against discrimination and for tolerance and diversity.

Image: © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox

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Look Back in Awe

Film review: A Star Is Born (Director: Bradley Cooper)

By Sascha Krieger

A Star Is Born is Hollywood’s own rising from the ashes Cinderella story. The seemingly plain, unrecognized young girl discovered by  a successful yet somewhat desperate man, benevolently lifted by him into the spotlight where the duckling turns into a swan and blossoms and blooms and fullfils all her potential because, well, there was a man to recognize it, help her, make her, while he himself goes down. The films had three incarnations already, the first in the 1930s, the last it the mid-70s, before it was remade again, curiously in year one of the #MeToo era. A chance, of course, to retell the story as an emancipatory tale, focus on the female perspective, level the playing field, re-invent the central couple as partners. There’s just one problem: not only is the director male, he also plays the male protagonist, setting the film up for a level of lopsidedness not easy to overcome. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

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Festival: Around the World in 14 Films 2018 (part 3)

Short reviews of selected films from this year’s festival

By Sascha Krieger

Manbiki kazoku / Shoplifters (Japan / Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda) – Cannes Film Festival

Celebrated Japanese film-maker Hirokazu Kore-eda has made himself a name for tender, subtle, highly observant and quiet family stories, a seismograph for the most essential of social units. Shoplifters, the surprise but wholly deserving winner of the Golden Palm at this year’s Cannes film festival, is no exception. except that the family is highly exceptional. Firstly, it engages in rather unusual behaviour: in a the opening scene, what seems to be a father-son duo expertly and quite poetically steals from a supermarket before they lift a lonely little girl on their way home. Subsequently, it is gradually revealed that the family ties are not exactly what they seem. When something goes wrong and finally the agents of a hitherto almost completely absent outside world enter, efficient and benevolent society does a thorough job in unravelling a family unit that is all their members have, leading to a haunting series of quietly moving final scenes, images mostly, hovering uncertainly between faint hope and shattering desolation.

Image: © 2018 FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK/GAGA CORPORATION/AOI Pro. Inc. All rights reserved.

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Festival: Around the World in 14 Films 2018 (part 2)

Short reviews of selected films from this year’s festival

By Sascha Krieger

The Favourite (UK, Ireland, United States / Director: Yorgos Lanthimos) – Venice Film Festival

Yorgos Lanthimos, the creator of bitter, biting, often very cold allegories on the perversion of (post)modern humanity, has made a costume drama. Two hours later, the most conservative, rule-ridden, comfort-zone-seeking genre will never be the same. The celebrated and much hated Greek film maker tackles it with the force of a hurricane, leaving no stone unturned. On the surface, everything is fine: the sets are as elaborate and injected with a great love of detail as are the costume, the atmosphere of the claustrophobic powder and wig-heavy indoor society that is Baroque England so expertly covered one can almost smell the sweet stench of decay. The story is fictional, some of the characters are not. It takes place in the court of Queen Anne, the forgotten queen between the first Elizabeth and the only Victoria. In the film, she builds around herself a circle of female friends and confidantes: first the resolute, tactically relentless uber-politician Lady Sarah (with biting force: Rachel Weisz), later the fallen former Aristocrate and now servant (though not for long) Abigail (quickly turning from innocent to witty to coldly scheming: Emma Stone). Together they fight the patriarchy by mirroring it: they’re tougher, more ruthless, less scrupulous and a lot more radical than their male counterparts. So much so that ultimately they turn against each other in one of the more epic and brutal battle of wits, minds and bodies you’ve ever seen in film.

Image: © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox

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Festival: Around the World in 14 Films 2018 (part 1)

Short reviews of selected films from this year’s festival

By Sascha Krieger

Se rokh / Three Faces (Iran / Director: Jafar Panahi) – Cannes Film Festival

In 2010, Jafar Panahi was banned from making films for 20 years. Three Faces is the fourth film he’s made since. This time, after being caught in a taxi or his own house, he has a little more room: he haunts his home region, the villages his family came from, a safer place for him than Tehran. Not a freer one though, as his film shows. The beginning is stark: a horizontal cell phone video shot by a girl apparently committing suicide. „This is not a film“, his first post-ban effort was called, „we’re not making a film“, Panahi keeps saying during this one – the beginning makes this statement, too, loud and clear. There is a documentary feel to this film, a sense of uncertainty representative of Panahi’s situation, of the female protagonists of the film – who all bear their real names – and the society depicted. It is a patriarchal one, full of often absurd rules such as the elaborate honking ritual to ensure safe passage on a narrow mountain road when it would be so much easier to just make it wider. Panahi depicts such episodes with glee, with a sly humour and a lightness of touch that astonishes.

Image: © Jafar Panahi Film Production

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The Mess of J.K. Rowling

Film review – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Director: David Yates)

By Sascha Krieger

Sometimes, a film’s problems start with its title. The latest instalment in J.K. Rowling’s cinematic wizard universe that was once centred around a boy named Harry Potter, is a fine example of that. It locates the film within the bounds of the story of famed beast researcher Newt Scamander – known from the textbook used by Harry and his fellow Hogwarts pupils – and at the same time anchors it firmly in the previous series‘ battle between good and evil, with the title character having been established there as a predecessor of „Dark Lord“ Voldemort’s and the first arch-enemy of the embodiment of good, Albus Dumbledore. What is it going to be? A somewhat quirky tale about a highly wird loner and idealist and animal lover or a dark parable about evil invading the world and the desperate attempt to fight it? While the first film already struggled with these conflicting forces, the second one quickly capitulates. It starts with a high-speed battle, showing off the films CGI capabilities as well as its arrival in the world of 3D as though it were 2005. A show of strength without much necessity to the story. Filling time, killing time, awing the audience.

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To Feel or not to Feel

Film review: The Children Act (Director: Richard Eyre)

By Sascha Krieger

In Ian McEwen’s 2014 novel The Children Act, a venerable judge faces a difficult case: a 17-year-old boy suffering from leukemia need blood transfusions in order to survive. He and his parents, however, are Jehova’s Witnesses and their faith forbids this procedure. The judge decides that the minor’s welfare is of the utmost importance and allows the hospital to conduct the transfusions against the patient’s will. Case closed. Or not: because the decision has effects on the boy, later the young man, and ultimately the judge, too. Her refusal to accept them has catastrophic consequences. The book deals with the clash of morals and law, the murkiness of the former and the supposed clarity of the latter, in an earnest way that however, tends to use the thick brush when it really matters. The conflict becomes a little too dramatic, the childlessness of the protagonist too pronounced, the parallel storylines of the court case and its aftermath on the one hand and a marriage in crisis on the other, feel a little to construed. At times, the novel feels more like a mixture of legal case study and tear-jerking newspaper story. Not a failure but a little to bloodless (!) to rank among McEwen’s best.

Image: © 2018 Concorde Filmverleih GmbH

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The Long Journey Home

Phillip McMahon: Come On Home, Abbey Theatre (Peacock Stage), Dublin (Director: Rachel O’Riordan)

By Sascha Krieger

Home is a drab  living room. Shabby wall-paper, a well-worn armchair, an old sofa (set design: Colin Richmond). The light is always somewhat on the dim side. In the middle of the room: a coffin. The lady of the house has died, time for her disgraced gay son, a former seminarian thrown out of his education and then his home to return after 20 or so years. This is the setting of Phillip McMahon’s new play, produced on the Abbey’s Peacock stage by director Rachel O’Riordan. The sense and meaning of home has been at the heart of Irish theatre since it was created as a concept as part of the re-awakening of the idea of an Irish nation around the beginning of the last century – a process the creation of the Abbey was a key part of, by the way. Home is where the corpses are, the skeletons in the closet or in plain sight. Collective or personal, the past always seems present when Ireland is trying to find out who she is. May playwrights have wrestled with those demons, the ghosts of an insecure and repressive society, a religious dictatorship , a stifling authoritarian molarity driving generations away. Recently, Ireland has opened: marriage equality, abortion rights, attempts to uncover the past and heal its wounds. This is the backdrop of Come On Home, a reminder that there is still a long way to go.

Image: Patrick Redmond

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The Smallest of Worlds

James Joyce (Adapted by Dermot Bolger): Ulysses, Abbey Theatre, Dublin (Director: Graham McLaren)

By Sascha Krieger

This summer, Dublin’s two major theatres are diving into the collective identity of Ireland’s capital city. While the Gate has a somewhat harmless stab at one of the most popular expressions of modern, post-Church-state Ireland with Roddy Doyle’s The Snapper, the Abbey, traditionally the space for discussions about and definition of Irish identity, takes on the book that put Dublin on the map, in literature and the mind of the world, and has influenced the way the city is looked at ever since: James Joyce’s Ulysees. Even so, its Dublin-ness might not be the key aspect of this mammoth of a novel: the way it has revolutionised story-telling, the way it presents the world through streams and puddles and rivers of consciousness, unconsciousness and fantasy, the way it represents a fragmented, non-objective perception of reality has radically changed this very perception and collective awareness of it. And literature, too, for that matter. A theatre adaptation naturally has to make choices, cannot do justice to the novel’s achievements in their entirety. But even with this caveat, Dermot Bolger’s adapation and Graham McLaren’s production leave much to be desired. Way too much, to be honest.

Image: Ros Kavanagh

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Dont’t Worry, Just Laugh

Roddy Doyle: The Snapper, Gate Theatre Dublin (Director: Róisín McBrinn)

By Sascha Krieger

Sometimes, books have a lasting impact on an entire society. Roddy Doyle’s famed and beloved „Barrytown trilogy“ is among those, a defining moment of Dublin identity, a Dublin that is urban, modern, decidedly working class. The quirky, lovable characters, the torching one-liners, the equal love of life and family and expletives helped shape the identity of not just the capital city but the entire country away from the grip of the past, the demons of the church state, the backwards politics of agrarianism and a neutrality that was decidedly anti-British. Sure, the working-class Dublin depicted left out its darkest parts, poverty, the drug epidemic, the trauma of unemployment, violence and crime, the lingering repression of an overpowering church that seemed to have missed the love part of the Christian message. Things are a little harmless, a little cozy and very much optimistic. The books celebrate the vibrancy, the stubborn lust for life at the lower end of the social spectrum, while not giving a sociologically accurate portrait of this part of society. They’re about spirit, not social criticism: Hardly any books could be further from the Ireland of Frank McCabe’s Angelas’s Ashes.

Image: Ste Murray

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