Archiv der Kategorie: Film

Opening Doors

Film review: Love, Simon (Director: Greg Berlanti)

By Sascha Krieger

First of all: Love, Simon’s greatest achievement is that it was made. Believe it or not, the film is Hollywood’s first teenage film slash comedy with a gay protagonist. Ever. Its director Greg Berlanti has been a trailblazer in bringing gay topics to screens outside the „indie“ field, starting with the wildly successful 1990s teen TV blockbuster Dawson’s Creek, where as the showrunner he insisted in introducing a gay couple, even threatening to resign if it wasn’t included. Now he’s opened teen popcorn cinema to the fact that a significant percentage of its depicted group – and target group – loves members of their own sex. The fact that this is worth mentioning and even regarded as revolutionary in 2018, is not something to be proud about for Hollywood. That it has finally been done is at least a silver lining.

Image: © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox

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These Shoes Are too Big for Walking

Film review – Solo: A Star Wars Story (Director: Ron Howard)

By Sascha Krieger

It’s almost as if the film wants to exorcise its, to put it mildly, difficult creation process. Its initial directors were fired halfway through, Ron Howard took over, making sure that at least top-level craftsmanship would be guaranteed. After a few minutes all of this is forgotten. Solo: A Star Wars Story charges out of the gate as if there was no tomorrow. A breathless chase, a few life-or-death confrontations, a love story, a miniature war movie thrown in for good measure and finally a memorable first meeting of  two beloved characters. The film’s first part is so fast-paced and breathless that viewers can easily forget how little things fit together, how much is constructed of set pieces cobbled together from various genres. Plausible characters? Who needs them? A consistent direction? That’s for losers! A goal for what is essentially a quest-based adventure movie, an Indiana Jones in space (the irony that said character was made famous by the man who originally played the title character in this one is not lost)? Overrated. Ron Howard knows how to build suspense, he masterfully erects a gritty, dirty, darkish world, an underworld really, and is an expert in keeping his audience entertained. There is no second that’s really boring, chiefly because Howard piles action sequence upon action sequence upon, well, you will guess it by now.

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That Awkward Age

Film review: Lady Bird (Director: Greta Gerwig)

By Sascha Krieger

Adolescence is the time when the individual emerges from the child, a process which involves emancipating oneself from one’s parents, frequently leading to clashes and a once close relationship being so utterly transformed that it can threaten to fall apart completely. This is summarized in Lady Bird’s opening scene: The titular, 17-year-old character and her mother share a moment of mutual happiness during a car ride before an entirely inconsequential disagreement leads to a rather radical separation. A scene which in its miniature characterisation of two strong, stubborn and equally vulnerable and confused women as well as its bitingly sharp humour epitomizes Greta Gerwig’s way of seeing the world and women’s place in it with which she has infused all her characters and which she now brings to her directorial debut. In Saoirse Ronan who invests her Lady Bird with a mixture of stubborn determination and fragile lack of direction and Laurie Metcalfe’s hard-shell and utterly lost mother, Gerwig has tow actresses carrying the film who take the Gerwig model a step further, adding a strength and roughness to it Gerwig’s own characters seldom have. The quirky sense of humour, the contradicting waywardness of characters caught in some sort of in-between and their essential awkwardness remain.

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Summer of Life

Film review: Call Me by Your Name (Director: Luca Guadagnino)

By Sascha Krieger

Soft sunlight drenches the village somewhere in northern Italy when Oliver arrives. The handsome American in his mid-20s immediately catches the eye of 17-year-old Elio, the son of the archeology professor Oliver has come to assist for six weeks. Luca Guadagnino’s celebrated film opens right with that first glance Elio can direct at the „usurper“ as he calls him on account of living in Elio’s room for the duration of his stay. The camera follows Elio’s eyes, filming Oliver’s arrival from the upstairs window Elio watches it from. Camera angles and focus play a key part in the way the film tells its story: The camera eye looks from above or below, faces quickly slide out of and into focus, partial views change with tha camera moving away, characters often moving into the foreground from a distance or remaining them. Shots over the shoulder are common, foreground and background swap places. The film thus mirrors the economy of looks and glances that the budding relationship of Elio and Oliver is built on, the maze of attraction and refusal, the slow and confusing process of understanding. The way they look at each other or deliberately refuse to do so is telling of what is about to happen long before it does.

Image:
© 2017 Sony Pictures Entertainment Deutschland GmbH

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Against the Darkness

Film review: The Post (Director: Steven Spielberg)

By Sascha Krieger

„Democracy dies in darkness“: Since the Trump administration began waging a war on the free press, this line has been added to the header of the Washington Post. With The Post director Steven Spielberg has now translated this claim in to a major film, an Oscar contender and quite possibly Hollywood’s statement about the crucial issues of the hour. The film takes place during the Nixon presidency in 1971, a previous time when a president had little respect for the constitution and especially the freedom of the press. When an injunction prevents The New York Times from publishing a secret report showing how the public was misled about the Vietnam War, the Washington Post rushes to find the material and decides to publish it, resulting in a Supreme Court ruling upholding the freedom of the press.

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Berlinale 2018: Day 11

By Sascha Krieger

L’empire de la perfection (Forum / France / Director: Julien Faraut)

In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, tennis enthusiast Gil de Kerdemac produced various series of instructional films about tennis. Starting with simple dry demonstrations of techniques and movements he later started filming the greats of his day during competitive matches.  His favourite subject soon became John McEnroe, the emotional and sensitive genius of 1980s tennis. From that footage, French director Julien Faraut has constructed a film about the pursuit of perfection – in sport and in film making. He looks at McEnroe’s obsessive perfectionism but also at the evolution and techniques of the films de Kerdemac made, has both realms mirror each other and sides of the same coin. The search for perfection in the one is used as a symbol for that in the other. Which makes sense, especially when it’s done in such a light-hearted, humorous and gently ironic way. Particularly convincing are the isolation of images only looking at one player (McEnroe) and the series of the same scene from different angles. This allows us to look at the familiar in different ways, sometimes bordering on the absurd, as well as show the difference between film making and TV and the images Gil de Kerdemac produces are quite different from those of live sports broadcasts. However, the viewer grasps the point rather early on during these 95 minutes and soon – the audience’s reaction was obvious – focuses more and more on the match the film closes with, McEnroe’s 1984 French Open final against Ivan Lendl. And suddenly we’re much closer to the realm of distanced and unreflected sports TV than the film would like us to be.

L’empire de la perfection (Image: © UFO Production)

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Berlinale 2018: Day 10

By Sascha Krieger

The Berlinale is a strange festival. When it ends, it isn’t over yet. When the Bears are handed out, there is still a day of screenings to go. Perhaps that’s only right: Berlin hosts the world’s largest audience festival and so the audience should have the final say. Having said this, everyone looks at the awards and it’s a rather depressing sight this year. Where Cannes and Venice pride themselves in awarding feats of cinematic art, Berlin loves being different. They go for smaller films and overlooked geographies, unusual work, they like to surprise. Touch Me Not, this year’s winner is such a surprise: an international production with a Romanian director, it blurs the borders between fiction and doocumentary, ans is daring in its direct and taboo-chasing approach to human intimacy. TA controversial choice and a spectacularly bad one. The film is arguably one of the worst in the Competition, superficial, chasing shock effects and artistically close to a nightmare. „An invitation to dialogue“, director Adina Pintilie calls it at the winner’s press conference. That it might be. A women director’s film with a female protagonist radically exploring her physicality, is a statement. Politically but also – and not in a good way – artistically.

 

Drvo (Image: Berlinale)

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Berlinale 2018: Day 9

By Sascha Krieger

In den Gängen (Competition / Germany / Director: Thomas Stuber)

What an opening: Still lie the aisles in this superstore somewhere in the eastern parts of Germany. A peaceful twilight lies in the air. The sweet sounds of Johann Strauss‘ famous waltz „An der schönen blauen Donau“ (of 2001 – A Space Odyssee fame) fill the room while forklifts glide elegantly through the aisles. Director Thomas Stuber explores the poetry and prose of a modern supermarket – a world in its own, self-sufficient, a miniature edition of the larger, scarier one outside, which is why In den Gängen hardly ever leaves it. Franz Rogowski plays his second leading role in this year’s competition, a quiet, soft man with a floating voice that doesn’t really seem present. It’s the story of his arrival, shedding a past discovered only late when he has already found his place. Complemented by the sad cheekiness of Sandra Hüller and the dry melancholia of Peter Kurth, two of Christian’s co-worker, chief among a group of characters finely moulded no matter how small they are and excellently played by a stellar cast. The loving glance Christian directs at the forklift long before he’s allowed to operate it, is longing and a promise. A new life in the beauty of faithful efficiency. The sunless world has its own soft glow in Stuber’s film, brightening just a little as it moves on. As this is life, there is love and death, too, and a few clichés which can be forgiven. At the end, as we’ve roamed through the aisles and observed their grid from above, the camera fleetingly moving from distance to closeness and finding its space in-between, where both meet, everything is open, the rough poetry of this safe space, pale, a little run-down, but a refuge of its own, has exhibited a glimpse of magic. Which brings this year’s Berlinale Competition to a strong and moving end.

IN DEN GÄNGEN (R: Thomas Stuber); v.l.: Sandra Hüller und Franz Rogowski

In den Gängen (© Sommerhaus Filmproduktion / Anke Neugebauer)

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Berlinale 2018: Day 8

By Sascha Krieger

Museo (Competition / Mexico / Director: Alonzo Ruizpalacios)

Juan is not very popular with his family. They mock him as a failure or because of his shortness. His response is hostility, the refusal to even conform to the most basic of agreed social behaviour. Ab true pain in the ass, one might say. A man void of any clear-cut identity. Like his country. The plundering of Mexico’s cultural heritage is the second layer of the film – an act Juan both detests and repeats as he robs the archeological museum with a friend. Why never becomes clear. They go on a road trip, first to sell the artifices, then to run away. Gael García Bernal plays Juan as a childish tyrant, an extremist who regards making compromises as the ultimate treason. Everything must be unconditional which makes him an outcast – among his family but also in a country based on compromise, blurring its conflicting level of heritage so as not to confront them, a faceless country and a faceless man not accepting this. Museo constantly changes its mode of expression – from the restless handheld camera chaos of a Christmas dinner where Juan is the disturbance so nobody has to face their own dysfunctionality to a serious of comical freezes during the robbery, a disconnection from reality to disjointed sound and images all narrated by the friend’s voice over. Juan is a memory, a puppet, everybody’s scapegoat which finally, he gives himself up to be. In order to function, society has to remain unconscious, preserve its apologetic narratives, must not face the truth. What does the truth matter if there’s a good story to be told he asks. And a good story he provides. The film is a thriller, a comedy, a satire, a road movie. One after the other, all at the same time. Playful, entertaining, cheekily subversive. Pick your story. Avoid the truth.

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Museo (© Alejandra Carvajal)

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Berlinale 2018: Day 7

By Sascha Krieger

Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot  (Competition / Germany, France, Switzerland / Director: Philip Gröning)

Elena and Robert are twins. Elena is about to graduate, Robert had to repeat a year. Together they spend a sun-soaked weekend around a rural petrol station learning fer Elena’s philosophy exam.  Truth and time are at the centre of their conversations. Mostly Robert speaks, reading and paraphrasing from St. Augustine and Heidegger. Thinking is waiting, time is hope. The hope wanes as the film progresses. An infinite three hours later, blood floods the petrol stations floor, a body sits on the toilet and Elena has her exam. In-between? Endless talking in a melancholy drone, close-ups of body parts, water surfaces, insects, shots from above. Every now and then the footage turns grainy, like a half-preserved memory. Waiting for life to begin. Distance and closeness, action and inaction. Time is non-linear, circular, coming to a pause. Or at least, thats what it says. In reality, it does move on, slowly, unbearably so. Elena and Robert follow their rituals, live their symbiotic relationship. even a daring bet – about her getting laid before her exam – doesn’t seem to change much. They engage in banter with the station clerks and play around with a child. Not much happens though everything is supposed to change. They throw fits, reconcile. Out of nowhere an escalation. Unexplained, with not much of an effect, it seems. Philip Gröning’s film is trying to be an elegy, two people, almost one, at the edge of becoming separate entities forever. The camera ebbs and flows gently, the narrative hangs in the balance between episodic fragments and rivers of time. Time stands still, even when it hits hard. After all, the present doesn’t exist. According to Robert. But what does? Them? Julia Zange and Josef Mattes are at times captivating as this couple that tries to assert their own identities but cannot escape their collective one yet. They cannot save the film which meanders rather aimlessly for two hours before losing grip entirely in its final third. A meditation about time and growing up? No, just a collection of admittedly rather pretty pictures.

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Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot (Image: © 2017 Philip Gröning)

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