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I knew in advance that I would like this film because Katharina Schüttler is my favourite German actress for some time now and because the director's first film "Der Strand von Trouville" was a small, underrated gem. Yet I didn't expect to be blown away this far and fall in love fervently with what is clearly the best German film of 2002 (IMHO).
I won't give a plot synopsis here, because the less you know beforehand the better. I will give a warning though: "Sophiiiie!" may not be the the right film for faint-hearted or easily offended people (and especially for pregnant women). It is a provocative, controversial, wild and fierce movie, less extreme but not unlike Gaspar Noé's "Irreversible".
Sophie is a great character (played brilliantly and very courageously by Katharina Schüttler) and to those people who complain that there can't be a woman like her in real life, I would reply: That's the magic of cinema! She is self-destructive, fearless, charming, sexy, funny, pitiable, and she shoots recklessly through the night like a ricochet in a china shop, leaving burning "Monsters", confused taxi drivers and lots of "assholes and nice idiots" behind.
If you (like me) didn't quite understand the ending, I can give you a hint that hopefully doesn't spoil anything: After the screening which I attended the director answered questions and he said that the "Texas TWO STEP" routine by the Polish cowboys may explain that ending (you'll know what I'm talking about when you see the film).
Das Jahr der ersten Küsse (2002)
"Maybe you should eat something to soak up the alcohol"
What do you get when you mix a coming of age drama, a teen comedy and a nostalgic flashback to 1985 ? Well, in this case you get a wonderful movie (especially appealing to those people who were teenagers in the 80ies), which is neither too broad/gross nor overly sentimental (except for the present-day frame story). Apparently you also have a marketing problem: sadly this seems to become another undeserved flop at the German box office.
The main forte of "Das Jahr der ersten Küsse" are the actors: I've rarely seen such a good ensemble of young actors (most of them giving their debut), who really are the age of the characters they're playing for a change instead of 22 year-olds playing 15 year-olds as in most Hollywood movies. Every one of them (especially Rebecca Hessing, but also Max Mauff, Nina Asseng and Luana Bellinghausen) is perfectly cast and acts very natural.
The main weakness of the film is the tempo: the unnecessary frame story and voice-over narration (first person to boot, which is usually a bad idea), the frequent "fade-to-blacks" (a stylistic device which was also overused in another recent German film, "Wie Feuer und Flamme") and the relatively long takes, all make this movie slower than it needs to be. If a bit more were happening plot-wise (like a disco visit of the clique, for example) this could have been balanced, but unfortunately the actual story is a little thin. Two minor quibbles that I have with the film are the freedom which the turkish girl Tümai enjoys (in 1985 she probably would've had a father like Simone's, who wouldn't allow her anything) and the fact that 15 year-olds still play bottle tricks. Today's teenagers may indeed have their first sex earlier, but 17 years ago teenagers were not *that* naive either.
As an overall rating I'd still give this movie 8/10 (despite the mentioned flaws), because it gives such a likeable and realistic portrait of German teens in the 80ies.
Das weiße Rauschen (2001)
Gives "A Beautiful Mind" a run for the money
Normally I'm not particularly fond of movies about mental illness and I hate it when an actor automatically gets an Academy Award just because he plays another autistic person or Alzheimer patient. "Das weisse Rauschen" is the exception to the rule. In this film you really get an insight into the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic (played brilliantly by Daniel Brühl - he deserves every award that he got already or will get in the future), because it is so well researched that it appears 100% authentic (the director studied neurology).
And yet the film does not become a clinical case study, but tells an interesting story about a young man, Lukas, who moves to Cologne to share a flat with his older sister Kati (Anabelle Lachatte) and her friend Jochen. At first everything is going fine; they spend their days taking drugs and having fun, but when he abandons his university studies on the first day just because he can't find the enrolment office and when a date with a girl goes a little bit wrong ;-) the audience begins to suspect that there's something wrong with Lukas. After the schizophrenia first breaks out, the movie becomes a very intense experience (similar to the films of Darren Aronofsky or even to "Das Experiment"), because on the sound track you hear the same cacophony of voices that begin to torment Lukas.
Without exception the acting is great. Anabelle Lachatte's character (sexy as hell, but very down-to-earth) may be the worst help a "madman" can get, but it's always clear that she loves her brother and would do anything to help him. Katharina Schüttler in her small role is as good as always. The cinematography has the look and feel of a "Dogma film", but for once it didn't make me dizzy.
All in all, I would say that in comparison to "A Beautiful Mind", "Das weisse Rauschen" is the better film ... much better.
A Foreign Affair (1948)
"Want to buy some illusions?"
Why is this film less known than "Casablanca" or "The Third Man"? Maybe it's because many see it as "just" a comedy, which these people consider a "lesser" art-form. In my opinion they miss that the brilliant screenplay just smoothes out the edges and puts some very sharp and witty dialogue on a plot and setting, which is actually very "noir"ish at heart. I guess it takes someone like Billy Wilder, who returned with this film to a city where he once lived (and that he loved), to discover the comic effect of a "weight-challenged" GI with a bunch of flowers and a dachshund on the lead walking to his "Fräulein" through the ruins of a bombed-out street. Less ingenious directors probably would have indulged in mourning and (self)-pity, which is exactly why many German movies from that immediate post-war time are unwatchable (unless you are fascinated by the morbid beauty of the ruins and rubble).
As a German my only minor quibble with "A Foreign Affair" is the German dialogue (not the occasional "Strudel" and "Gesundheit" from the American actors, but the actual German by supporting actors and extras): in most cases it sounds embarrassingly dumb, even feebleminded. Apart from one scene that has the same level of cynicism as the English dialogue (the choleric policeman asking "You live? Do you have permission?" after the "Lorelei" round-up), only Marlene Dietrich is allowed to talk normally.
Otherwise it's one of Billy Wilder's best films (which is synonymous with being one of the best films of all time). Unfortunately you don't get characters like Captain Renault ("Casablanca"), Major Calloway ("The Third Man") or Colonel Plummer ("A Foreign Affair") anymore in contemporary films. A pity!
Marx vs. Kant (favorite reading of Helmut Schmidt at the time)
Before this two-parter was shown on German TV, the director Heinrich Breloer said in several interviews that he had to wait 20 years to shoot the film, because the emotions would have boiled over again, if he made it earlier. It seems that he was right, because the interviews in the finished documentary are composed but outspoken at the same time, which would indeed have been impossible even ten years ago. Thus the film gains an objectiveness and a fairness towards all involved persons that puts similar films like the overrated and manipulative "One Day In September" to shame.
This gave a critic from the 'Süddeutsche Zeitung' the necessary distance to see that the events of the 'Hot Autumn' bear all the characteristics of a Greek tragedy. In fact, one can argue (as Dorothea Hauser did in her excellent book "Baader und Herold") that 1977 was a catharsis in German post-war history. Before that climax in the fight of the RAF against the state, the legitimacy of the monopoly on the use of force was questioned by many (as a result of its abuse in Nazi-Germany), but after that the concept of democracy became much more firmly rooted in the public's consciousness.
One question remains however: why is it that the 'Kontaktsperregesetz' and other laws are still in effect although even former chancellor Helmut Schmidt admits that he is glad, that the constitutional court didn't scrutinize the actions of the 'great crisis management group' too closely ?
If "Todesspiel" made you curious about the history of the RAF let me recommend the following movies: "Deutschland im Herbst", "Stammheim", "Die Stille nach dem Schuss" (also "Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum", "Die dritte Generation", "Die bleierne Zeit", "Die Terroristen!", "Das Phantom" and "Die innere Sicherheit"). But all these movies combined still don't give a complete picture IMO, so I hope there will be more in the future. The subject matter certainly is interesting enough.
After an argument with her boyfriend Dennis in a disco Anne goes home alone, leaving him and his friends Raf and Nicole behind. The next day she reads in the paper that two men and a woman are wanted for stabbing a man to death near that disco. Was Dennis involved in the murder ?
A simple story, told with a good sense of the social background (working class youth in the environs of Cologne) makes for a small TV-gem. Katharina Schüttler as Anne is great as usual (if you like her check out "Svens Geheimnis" and "Hin und weg", which make a great trilogy together with "Ausgerastet").
The photography is a little bit unusual: the contrast and depth of focus somehow make the outdoor-scenes look like studio-scenes. As soon as you've gotten used to it, this new film material (or is it video?) has its own beauty however. Maybe it's even closer to the way we naturally see things than the usual film material.
Sang gong kei bing (1984)
Bleak, bloody and action-packed
In this first (and best) of a four-part film series a group of men from the mainland illegally enters Hong Kong and soon forms a 'Big Circle' triad gang. It doesn't take long till the police is hot on their trail which inevitably leads to a final shootout. This takes place in the infamous 'Walled City' which was razed to the ground a few months later in real life. So this film is the last chance to behold the labyrinthic chaos of people, goods, narrow alleys and illegality that was the 'Walled City'. If you, like me, prefer the coarse, mangy and dirty Hong Kong action-movies of the 80s over the high-gloss, elegant movies of the 90s, this one's for you.
Di yi lei xing wei xian (1980)
This film leaves you speechless
I can only agree with the preceding comments; this really is the most nihilistic movie I've ever seen (comparable only to Sergio Corbucci's "Il grande silenzio" in that respect) and the heroine is very likeable indeed, although the name Pearl is VERY inapt. The scene where she completely unmotivatedly throws a cat out of the window was too much even for Hong Kong's censor boards which rarely cut out a scene for being too violent. Another scene that I'll never forget was when she set the car of the 'gwailo' (those sunglasses!) on fire. The definition of recklessness and defiance of death.
Someone please release this film in PAL-format, either on VHS, VCD or DVD. I've seen it only once and I'm desperate to see it again. Please!!!
Nachts, wenn der Teufel kam (1957)
The "serial-killer movie" is not an American invention
There is a strange continuity in German movies: about every 20 years someone makes a film about a serial-killer. Apart from "Es geschah am hellichten Tag" (recently remade by Sean Penn) I'm thinking of the following works:
* M - Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (1931)
* Nachts, wenn der Teufel kam (1957)
* Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe (1973)
* Der Totmacher (1995)
While three of these films are more or less loosely based on the case of Fritz Haarmann who killed more than 24 young men in the 20s, "Nachts, wenn der Teufel kam" is about Bruno Luebke who murdered several people in Hamburg during WWII (also a true case). In contrast to the picture that many American movies (e.g. "Hannibal") paint of a serial-killer as an evil being who kills for pleasure, these German movies show men who are helpless victims of their urge to kill, to which they succumb not when they want to, but when they 'have' to. Mario Adorf plays Bruno as such a man and his performance is of the same rank as Peter Lorre's in "M" or Götz George's in "Totmacher" IMO.
Even better is Hannes Messemer as an SS-Officer, who, for 'political' reasons, wants another man executed against better judgement. The main forte of the film however, is the depiction of everyday-life in the last years of the third Reich. In the scene where the ugly harvest helpers get their reward from a sweating hanger-on Robert Siodmak perfectly captured the moral corruption (thinly veiled by empty propaganda phrases) within Nazi-Germany. In view of mass-murder of an entirely different caliber (i.e. genocide), the question if the right man is sentenced for a killing series becomes secondary in the end.
Die große Liebe (1942)
Worth seeing for the songs only
In the 12 years that were the "1000-jähriges Reich" the UFA produced four types of movies. First, there were films like Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph des Willens" which had the purpose of winning more and more social strata over to the ideas of fascism ('Führerprinzip', 'Volksgemeinschaft', 'Opferbereitschaft', etc.). Recruitment by means of impressive visual iconography.
Secondly the ministry of propaganda tried to prepare the Germans for the so-called 'Endlösung' by intensifying the existing anti-Semitism to the most extreme degree with films like Veit Harlan's notorious "Jud Süß". These films are the most vile and abhorrent (but also the most clumsy and gross) concoctions in film-history.
In the last years of WWII the UFA put great effort in so-called 'Durchhaltefilme' (most infamous example: Harlan's "Kolberg"). With these Goebbels tried to force the war-weary soldiers and civilians to hold out to the end and keep on fighting to the last bullet.
However, the most popular and successful UFA-movies during the third Reich did not belong to these three categories, but were primarily made in order to entertain the audience and take it's mind off the war. The propaganda for the Nazi-cause in these films was much more subtle (yet still evident in most cases). "Die große Liebe" is a prime example for such an 'UFA-Unterhaltungsfilm', because it was seen by 28 million viewers till the end of the war (and thus still holds the record for any film in Germany as far as I know; for comparison "Titanic" had 'only' 17 million viewers, and that was considered a unique success). Nevertheless "Die große Liebe" is almost forgotten today, albeit every German still knows the two songs that Zarah Leander sings in this film: "Ich weiß, es wird einmal ein Wunder geschehen" and "Davon geht die Welt nicht unter". The lyrics of these songs seem to be smarter than their author, because they work both as 'Durchhaltelieder' (as intended) and as sarcastic commentaries on the last years of the 3rd Reich. As such they were used by directors like Fassbinder and Vilsmaier.
Time: present, Place: Berlin-Hohenschönhausen
Lately German movies seem to come in trilogies. While three films ("Harte Jungs", "Crazy" and "Schule") dealt with school-life in a more or less authentic way last year, at the beginning of 2001 within only two weeks another trio of films ("Grüne Wüste", "alaska.de" and "Die innere Sicherheit") started here that deals with the life of teenagers outside of school. Each of these movies features a very promising and talented young actress (Tatjana Trieb, Jana Pallaske and Julia Hummer) in the leading role and each of these movies is excellent in its own way - but that's where the similarities end.
"alaska.de" is an excellent film because it perfectly combines an acute problem of Germany's society today (the increasing youth violence) with a very elaborated style (the director shot music videos before she made her feature-film debut with this movie). Most of the actors are amateurs from the very same "Plattenbau" buildings where the film takes place, which adds a lot of realism (e.g. authentic dialogue).
Although it's a tragic story, it never gets bleak and depressing thanks to Pallaske's charm and the atmosphere (mainly created by visuals and music), which ought to appeal to a young target audience.
Ban wo chuang tian ya (1989)
Ringo Lam's underrated masterpiece
Yes, "Wild Search" IS a remake of Peter Weir's "Witness", but just like "Bullet in the Head" is a better film than "The Deer Hunter", this movie surpasses its American predecessor IMO. The subtle and subdued romance between Chow Yun Fat and Cherie Chung (who have a great chemistry that matches those of the classic screen-couples like Mitchum & Kerr or Bogart & Bacall) makes this one of my favourite love-stories in Hong Kong cinema (along with "In the mood for love", "Comrades - Almost a Love Story" and "C'est la vie mon cherie"). Naturally, the action is not too bad either (hey, we're talking about Ringo Lam here after all ...)
Im Juli (2000)
A Summer Night's Dream
It's been a long time since I've seen a film so unabashedly emotional. It often crosses the line to kitsch (thus getting a little embarrassing sometimes), but that doesn't matter because the whole thing is just so overwhelmingly likeable that I saw it twice in a row. A perfect feel-good-movie for the summer holidays. There are so many great scenes: Daniel and Juli getting stoned and singing "Blue Moon", Luna (played incredibly sexy by Branka Katic) laughing crazily during the chase through Budapest or the photos of Romania (who took those when both Daniel and Juli are in the picture?)
But you better don't scrutinize the logic too closely and while the dialogue also could have been more inspired and witty (as in Fatih Akin's first film "Kurz und schmerzlos"), "Im Juli" more than makes up for it with great characters, inventive cinematography (especially in the hallucinating scenes), a wonderful soundtrack and the rarely seen locations of SouthEastEurope. Makes you want to drive to Istanbul right away. See this film (even if you're a jaded cynic)! I gave it 9/10.
Better than "Heimat" ... or is it?
As much as I admire the artistic quality of these 13 films, I still like the original series of 11 "Heimat" films from the 80s even more and I think there's a reason why "Die zweite Heimat" was shown only once on German TV while there have been several reruns of "Heimat". Actually there are 2 reasons:
1) The TV scene in Germany has changed dramatically between 1983 and 1993: the two (+ one local) public channels back then are in competition with more than 15 private channels now. This was not a good thing for the attention span of the audience and the quality of the programming.
2) Apart from this general reason there's a problem with "Die zweite Heimat" itself IMO. Almost all the protagonists are ambitious artists (in various fields like music or film) with a high political awareness. In this sense they form an active avantgarde of Germany's society in the 60s, which is quite in contrast to the mostly passive protagonists of "Heimat", who just react to the turbulent times they live in. Although this gives Edgar Reitz the chance to paint an even more precise and detailed picture (because he was part of this avantgarde and knew people like Clarissa, Juan or Reinhard), it's harder for the viewer to identify with these people. An example: the girl from Detmold (can't remember her name) is on her way to become a left-wing extremist (RAF-terrorist?) long before 'ordinary' people join the APO in 1968. Being so much ahead of your time makes it very hard for your contemporaries (let alone the viewer of the films), to understand your feelings and motivations.
Nevertheless these films belong to the best German films of the 90s and I would love to see them again. If you also like this 'chronicle'-genre let me recommend two other German series made for TV which are nearly just as good IMO and deserve to be better known: "Rote Erde" is about some families who go through the changes in the Ruhr-area mining industry between about 1890 and 1919 (first 9 episodes) resp. 1923 and the 50s (second 4 episodes). "Löwengrube" is about a policeman's family in Munich over three generations in the 20th century (32 episodes).
Coming of age movie
This coming-of-age movie is an adaptation of the autobiographical bestseller by Benjamin Lebert which caused a sensation on the German bookmarket in 1999 because the author was only 17 years old when he wrote it.
It tells the story of a "half-side spastic" boy who keeps changing schools in order to pass the math exams at last. His latest school is a boarding-school in Southern Bavaria (filmed at the same one that the real Benjamin attended), where he finds friends for the first time. Each of these misfits has problems of his own but they all share the confusion of puberty. This period of life is shown so authentically that everyone in the audience will be able to identify with the characters (or remember his/her own youth).
The actors are excellent (especially Tom Schilling and Julia Hummer) and very well guided by Hans-Christian Schmid, who seems to have a knack of discovering young talents. The music is great as well and excellently enhances the often melancholy mood of the film. If you liked "Fucking Amal" you'll love "Crazy". I hope it will be a success.
Verschwinde von hier (1999)
Canary or Wolf?
Tales of difficult childhoods in dysfunctional families, stories of lost innocence and coming-of-age in a street-, junkie- or criminal milieu belong (for reasons I don't understand myself since I grew up pretty protected) to my favourite motives in a film. Real children are neither sweet angels (as in a John Hughes film) nor little monsters (as in many horror-movies) but something in between. They can be mature and irresponsible, clever and stupid, cute and cruel all at the same time.
I won't go into detail about the story of "Verschwinde von hier" but I'll just say that I loved the characters of Lukas and his sister and that all actors were wonderful. If you also like this subject-matter let me recommend some similar German movies: "Kinderspiele", "Svens Geheimnis", "Asphaltflimmern", "Abgefahren" and the classics "Bübchen", "Nordsee ist Mordsee" and "Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo"
In order to force Lukas Berlinger, a talented scientist and heir to the "Berlinger" chemical plant, to work for the Nazis during WWII the Gestapo arrests his wife and she commits suicide. Berlinger escapes from Germany by plane and emigrates to South-America resp. Sweden where he becomes a rich man. In the 70s he returns to Germany just when a former friend of his is buying up real estate for a huge leisure park project. Since Berlinger doesn't want to sell the premises of his old factory, a conflict ensues between the powers of the capital on the one hand and a single man (who gets a little help from some workers and a teacher he falls in love with) on the other hand.
This films appears to be from a completely different time now although it is only 25 years old - which is not to say that it isn't fresh and very entertaining. First, it's a POLITICAL film which explains the inner workings of capitalism and the difference a single nonconformistic person can still make in a highly bourgeois society in an exemplary way. Berlinger is a true individualist (almost anarchist) and a very virile and likeable hero (which is quite rare in German cinema). Secondly, when you watch the film now it's almost like a time travel back to the last days of the machine-age. And these machines (an old engine and a zeppelin that Berlinger is working on) are so much more fascinating, sensual and beautiful than the boring computers of the information-age we are living in now. Flying was an ancient dream of mankind, surfing in the Internet was not!
When asked for the best directors of the New German Film in the 70s I'll add Sinkel/Brustellin from now on to the likes of Herzog, Fassbinder, Wenders, Schlöndorff and Klick.
El espíritu de la colmena (1973)
I saw this movie only once and that was more than five years ago but many scenes are still vivid in my mind as if I saw it yesterday. Like the children jumping over the fire, Ana talking to her father while the two are walking among the beehives, the arrival of the travelling movie theatre or the anatomy lesson in school. And of course you can never forget the face of Ana Torrent (of "Cria Cuervos" fame), who simply is my favourite child actress ever. Please check out "Tesis" to see what a wonderful actress she still is!
And another recommendation : "Whistle Down The Wind" (with Hayley Mills) is a beautiful film with a very similar subject matter. However, it doesn't quite reach the quality of "El espiritu de la colmena", which should be much wider known if there were any justice. There's more to Spanish Cinema than Bunuel and Almodovar!
I hope some day I'll find this little gem again on video or TV, if only because now I'd better understand the political background (Spanish Civil War). 10 out of 10!
Beautiful film in a beautiful city
This film is in many ways reminiscent of "The English Patient" and even "Casablanca" (the love-triangle in times of WWII, the beautiful cinematography and the use of a melancholy song as a central motive). Still, the story is different enough, so that "Gloomy Sunday" stands on its own as a wonderful movie. I especially like the style and elegance. Although there is a lot of passion involved there are no big emotional outbursts which I find refreshing for a change. The way Laszlo, Andras and Ilona keep their dignity reminds you that the 20th century could have been an age of reason and enlightenment (even AFTER WWI) if there hadn't been the barbarity of fascism.
On the other hand I'm also grateful to the director (and to the great Ben Becker) that Hans Eberhard Wieck isn't portrayed as a soulless monster. He rather seems like the dark reflection of Oskar Schindler to me.
There is even room for some humour (of the pitch-black variety) which is still very brave in a German film about the holocaust. While some of it can be understood everywhere (the glass-eye joke), other funny scenes will probably be understood in Germany only (Ms. Häberle and her "Duden"). Thanks to the wonderful actors and to Rolf Schübel for making this film (which should have been selected as the German entry for the foreign film academy award instead of "Aimee und Jaguar" IMO).
The first film of the 21st century
This beautiful movie is set in present-day Japan, but shows to the rest of the world what the future might look like if the WTO brings about their goals. The film centers on some losers of globalization and free world trade who make it big when they discover a tape ("My Way"!) which allows them to make counterfeit Yen. The money soon destroys their solidarity though, and separately they have to face their own problems (expulsion to China, the Yakuza who's after the tape, drugs and a nosy journalist who wants to find the dirt in Glico's success story).
But it's a modern fairy tale, not a naturalistic drama, so expect miracles and uplifting twists and turns rather than a depressing end. The director obviously loves all his characters and so will you; the black boxer with the innocent soul of a child, the philosophical doctor/tattoo-artist, the American who speaks only Japanese, the killer with the b/w-painted face and the cool female sniper are all wonderful characters and these are just the small roles!
If you love movies where people speak in different tongues (in this case Japanese, Mandarin and English) this is THE film for you. If you don't, still go see this masterpiece of innovative filmmaking. You'll thank me for the recommendation.
Pas de deux (1998)
Short - but good!
Hoffi and Lehmi go to see Brendan Behan's "Richard's cork leg". Unfortunately the play has been replaced with a boring one "by some French guy" but that doesn't spoil our heroes' good mood. They pay a visit to the hospital where they used to work and have their own party with "alcohol, fat chicks, dragging dead bodies around and ... fat chicks".
The good news for all people who found this short gem as hilarious as I did : there will be a feature-length sequel called "Besser als Bier" (better than beer) in the summer 2000. Cheers to that, or rather "Berger, Senna, Prost!"
Unter den Brücken (1946)
A small miracle
This film was made in the last months of WWII. Because of the allied bombers flying over the set on their way to Berlin and because of the destruction of many locations shooting often had to be stopped and was resumed later when the alarm was over.
And yet "Unter den Brücken" became the most beautiful love-story in german cinema (apart from Ophüls' "Liebelei" of course) without any trace of propaganda. The acting of Hannelore Schroth is wonderfully natural even today and the cinematography reminds me of Jean Vigo's "L'Atalante" and Charles Laughton's "The Night Of The Hunter". This movie stands out as a real miracle and as a singular event in UFA history.
Absolute Giganten (1999)
How to say farewell
As Floyd' s probation has expired he's going to leave Hamburg the next day to see the world. So there's only one night left for him to say farewell to his best friends Ricco and Walter. The movie depicts the funny and sad adventures of the trio during that last night involving an argument with some die-hard Elvis fans, the most nerve-racking table-football match in film history and way too much alcohol.
The whole thing is so beautiful in a bittersweet way that you wish the film would go on forever. You want to see more about Ricco's family, about the barflies at Horst's and especially about Telsa, the girl next door (who is played incredibly cute and vulnerable by Julia Hummer in her film debut). But if a film is too short it's always a compliment, not a fault.
Sebastian Schipper in *his* debut as a director really knew what he was doing, although (or because?) he sometimes doesn't play by the established rules. For example he uses refreshingly little dialogue for a german film and he even lets it go on for a few more minutes after the last words have
been said, telling the end just with images. And those images are brilliant since the director of photography was Frank Griebe ("Lola rennt"). IMO the movie gets 9 out of 10.
Homo homini lupus
A night-club owner, an unemployed businessman, an ex-cop on drugs, a small-time pimp and a transvestite (well, sort of) find together to rob a yakuza-gang. Against expectation they can pull off the heist, but afterwards they are hunted down by two professonal hitmen (one of them played by Takeshi Kitano at his stoic best). Without giving too much away one can say that the end can compare to "Hamlet" in terms of (relative) body-count.
The story is really simple and has been told many times before, but the great cinematography, the good performances and the intensity of the violence make it seem fresh and exciting. I recommend this film to anyone who likes dark, nihilistic gangster-movies. Definitely not for the squeamish.
("Gonin 2" is not a sequel, but tells a similar story with women in the leading roles. Although also quite good it's not as great as the first one.)
Children's games are no child's play
This film tells the sad story of a childhood somewhere in Germany in the early 60s. When Micha's mother leaves his irascible father, he tries to prevent their divorce by any means he can think of, but his attempts to hold the family together lead to a catastrophe. The film shows in a brilliant way how pressure and violence is passed along to an inferior person: Micha's father beats his son because he's frustrated about the poverty they have to live in and Micha vents *his* aggressions by teasing his little brother or the senile grandma of his best friend Olli.
What I really like about the film (besides being moved to tears) is the realism and attention to detail in everything from dialogue to set-design. It's all dead-on. Even today children in Germany still tell the obscene "poems" which Micha learns from Olli ("Rot ist die Liebe, schwarz ist das Loch ..."). Another example: When they refurnish the room of Micha's granny copies of the "Völkischer Beobachter" (an infamous Nazi-newspaper) appear below the wallpaper, indicating that the Third Reich wasn't that long ago. Or: When Micha is told to bring some plums to relatives you can see that they have more exotic (and expensive) fruits in a bowl on the table, indicating the difference in the social position in a very subtle way. The script is full of these exact observations, so that you'll discover something new even the third or fourth time you see this little gem.