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Tausend Augen (1984)
German film critic Blumenberg made some rather pretentious and lifeless movies, but this is not one of them. Obviously, there are probably a few insider's jokes and references too many (looking for the cameos of all the famous directors draws some attention away) but some parts are very well made, like the short pieces from romantic holiday film you can see as flashbacks. The whole film has a cold big-city atmosphere. It is set in Hamburg, but you wouldn't know this from seeing any sights. Characters suffer from not being able to emotionally connect, and in the end it is ironic that "Cherie" can not regain the loving feelings for her Australian boyfriend she has been longing for, while the film offers at least a little happy end for one of the protagonists.
For German viewers it is interesting to see a lot of familiar faces and to de-code some of the allusions made by the directors. If you are into 1980s movies, this one could be for you!
Not as enjoyable as expected
After seeing some film stills, I thought this picture might have the quality of some of the later Fritsch/Harvey movies like "Glückskinder" or "Ein blonder Traum".
While the film is fairly entertaining, some scenes are uneven (too long, too loud, too silly). Lilian Harvey is just as good as some of her Hollywood peers, but in some parts the parts don't make a complete picture. Rühmann's part is too long (as a kind of Ralph Bellamy character), Fritsch shows up too late and Roberts (a Saxonian actor who was in no way Anglo-American) is so slow, silly and strange that the idea of Harvey being his wife (even the gold digger sort) is nothing but ridiculous.
The AD is great (Erich Kettelhut worked with Fritz Lang and many other German film greats) and Holländer's music is quite good.
All in all: it is mostly a movie for people who are interested in the history of European films.
Ich bei Tag und du bei Nacht (1932)
Hidden gem now restored
This great movie is still somewhat of a "non-classic", which is sad. Several German movie books don't even mention it (Klassiker des deutschen Tonfilms). Now the film is restored and available on Blue Ray. It can even compete with many American classics of the times. A great mix of music, fun, realism and comedy, the film makes you also sad because of the talent that left because of Hitler (producer Pommer, Käthe von Nagy, director Berger...).
Go watch it if you like old classics (it should be one!).
Hangmen Also Die! (1943)
Gripping real story, Still, not one of Lang's best.
After watching a 128 minute PAL version of the film, I had mixed feelings about the film. It certainly has some of the Fritz Lang-style moments (the use of objects in the standoff between Gruber and the two doctors) and obviously the real story about the assassination of Heydrich is fascinating.
But apart from the strange effect of Czechs talking American English (even using hints to "Valley Forge"), the film has some weaknesses. It is probably 20 minutes too long and tries to cover too much ground. Apart from a thriller it was also meant to be a political drama, some romantic moments are not really developed and the moral dilemma is very dominating in the second part of the movie. The script is also an unhealthy mixture and there is still a lot of talk how much of an influence Brecht was in the final version. In Germany the movie is published by a big book publishing company, which presents the movie as a Brecht/Lang movie even though there's not much to find regarding Brecht's techniques (which is probably good for the film).
Like several anti-nazi films it has hardy ever been shown on German TV and it existed in crippled versions. So it is great to have the opportunity to actually watch it at all.
The film has its good sides, obviously, like the acting and the lighting, but some details also stick out as negative like the very studio-bound atmosphere (I know the a Prague setting was impossible in 1943, but at least some real streets would have helped) and the idiotic, almost grotesque presentation of Heydrich.
All in all, I was happy to add the film to my list of Fritz Lang movies I have watched, but I expected a bit more.
Silent Running (1972)
Excellent early warning call
This movie is light years away from the majority of the more simplistic sci-fi epics. Surprisingly, it is closer to eastern European movies (like Solaris) than to Star Wars.
Even though the protagonist commits some horrible crimes, he still comes across as the "good guy", which has to to with Bruce Dern's great performance as Freeman Lowell.
If you are interested in the history of sci-fi pics - this is a must see. Made aboard an abandoned aircraft carrier (the real Valley Forge), it is just as effective as most modern movies in terms of convincing you that this is really "up in space" - and they used so much less money for it!
Am Abend nach der Oper (1945)
Average German WWII escapism
This movies has recently resurfaced in a box edited by the Murnau foundation. But it was not reissued because it is a hidden gem, but just because it is a document of the German film of the late Nazi-era (the film was completed before the war's end, but published after the war). Rabenalt was a difficult character. First, the Nazis put him on a blacklist for "Kulturbolschewismus", then he adjusted and made some movies that pleased the Goebbels-led ministry for propaganda. After the war he worked for the East-German (!) DEFA and finally he made lightweight entertainment for the fifties.
The film has Breuer in the role of a character with a past, and he made a career out of shady roles. In the end, the movie shows that a good woman should always stick to her husband, no matter what. Some of the acting is good, even though German actors of these days always tend to overact somewhat.
If you are interested in movies that are a document for the times they were made in, it is interesting - for others: there are better ways to spend your time.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Much better than its reputation
I watched the movie with low expectations because of all the bad reviews. Maybe the low expectations helped a bit, but I was absolutely surprised in a positive way.
To complain that the movie includes references to Star Wars episodes is totally besides the point. Who would like a James Bond movie without the familiar parts? To complain about the acting is also strange. This is NOT Hamlet, and was Mark Hamill really a reincarnation of Laurence Olivier in the first place??
I even think (and I know that this is close to a sacrilege) that Alden Ehrenreich is a very believable Han Solo. The visual style is great, the space ships also look almost "authentic" - much more metal, less CG. The story is just about right (did people complain about Hitchcock's "McGuffins"?) and the only things I did not like are not really that important like Emilia Clarke's hair (so 70s - just because Episode I came out in 1977??).
Hotel Adlon (1955)
Solid entertainment, 1950s style
The film features solid performances of several famous German (and Austrian, in the case of Nadja Tiller) actors and actresses. Of course, it is somewhat dated in its plot development and some of the actors deliver their lines theater-like (a problem that can often be seen in German movies).
Still, the characters are interesting and even the Third Reich is not being swept under the carpet as so many German films of these days preferred to do.
The hotel itself was once considered the most modern one in Europe (bathtubs were filled with water so fast, that they had warning signs for guests not to move away from the bathroom). One of the later family members, Percy Adlon, became a famous German movie director and he also made an interesting documentary about the hotel, but for the cineasts, even this old-fashioned movie is worth watching.
Ku'damm 56 (2016)
Good mix of history and fiction
Ku'damm 56 is fun to watch. This is a great achievement by the actors and the set designers. The series is a bit loaded too much with historical input, almost like something made by a history teacher (and I say this as a history teacher).
Sometimes the characters and situations are too much "an example for this" and an "example for that". It is still really interesting how much the 50s were a completely different age even though you can see cars, television and Rock 'n' Roll.
The actresses of the three daughters are very good as are the mother and Heino Ferch's sinister doctor.
So while this is no Downton Abbey or Boardwalk Empire in terms of quality, it is well worth watching.
Excellent view of organized crime
This is an outstanding achievement. While many European productions basically look like made-for-tv films, this is cinematic in the best way.
Still, you have to be patient to be rewarded. Much like Soderbergh's "Traffic", the movie features several protagonists and sub-plots that, in the end, all come together. The violence is all there, but not in a show-off action movie style, it is really closely connected to plot and characters. I have not seen a contemporary movie that shows you so much about the power of organized crime. Throughout the movie, police is nonexistent. The crime is not just restricted to gangsters, politicians are part of the system, even the Vatican (just some hints of it).
The actors are great, for non-Italians some are real discoveries. Production values first rate, music, locations all combine to create something really special.
I watched the movie in its dubbed German version because my Italian is just shaky, but it was still great!
A Bigger Splash (2015)
Under the Tuscan Sun - it is NOT!
On the surface this seems to be a thriller-like movie in the bright sunlight of Italy. Still, it won't work if you watch the movie like this. The film was made when the European refugee situation turned serious. And all the characters in their self-centered ways seem so far away from the real world. Once Rock rebels but now just concerned with their private problems - it's no coincidence that the star has lost his voice, her lover has to fight an alcohol problem and the Hawkes character is simply appalling. To offer some explanation to the police they are willing to throw some nameless refugees under the bus. Still, I have to agree to some of the negative reviews. The film is very long and very slow and obviously the protagonists are quite negative (which is the point of the film). I can't see much of character development which is mentioned in some reviews. These characters CANNOT develop anymore. They are stuck in their ways, which probably also the reason why the girl is crying at the end of the film.
It is not a coincidence that the setting is Lampedusa, where many refugee boats arrived. But is this really helpful to hide the message when this topic is so big and important?
As a classic "thriller", the movie is obviously not working (imagine what a veteran Hollywood director of the 1930s would have done with the plot! William Wellman or William Dieterle would have told the story in 10 minutes). So if you appreciate a subtle, indirect way of storytelling this might be a movie for you and as some positive reviews show, the movie works for many people.
L'aîné des Ferchaux (1963)
As some of the other reviews have already stated, the print of the movie that is available is very poor. So it is not quite clear whether Melville wanted to have the washed-out look of the picture or whether it is just plain bad quality. Even rare TV screenings do not offer an improved version (ARTE).
The relationship between the young ex-paratrooper/boxer/secretary (Belmondo) and the old bank owner/colonial adventurer (Vanel) is quite interesting and also stands for the generational conflict of the 1960s. Obviously, some of the plot is somewhat stretched but the tension between the main characters is excellently played out. Melville wanted Spencer Tracy for the Vanel part, but Tracy's health situation made any form of outdoor filming (not to mention insurance for this) Impossible. Belmondo, who is fooling around in Godard's "Breathless" and posing as a Bogart style tough guy, really plays a film noir character in this one. The way he treats his girlfriend at the beginning of the movie makes his protagonist almost unlikeable. In the damp Louisiana setting at the end of the movie, the whole affair really turns into a veritable noir.
The Black Swan (1942)
Full throttle pirate action
The talent assembled by Fox is almost unbelievable: veteran director Henry King, camera by Leon Shamroy, Music by Alfred Newman and the script by Ben Hecht (remember this is a pirate movie - not a big city drama). The actors are magnificent, especially Laird Cregar as a over-the-top Henry Morgan.
Of course, the attitude towards alcohol, treating women and violence in general is a far cry from modern values but this is still a pirate movie and the times were probably quite similar to this. Maureen O'Hara also holds her own - compared to Olivia O'Havilland in Captain Blood she is not just a pretty face.
I watched the movie on Blue Ray in the Technicolor style that really makes the movie somewhat removed from the realistic style of Black Sails or other modern pirate action. But with it, it has an almost dreamlike atmosphere and it also has this speed of the days: just 85 minutes!
One of the best pirate movies ever made!
La blonde de Pékin (1967)
Complete waste of talent
It is hard to believe that so many people involved in making this film have quite some resume. This one doesn't work at all: the music does not fit, Claudio Brook is totally miscast as a James Bond wannabe, the plot is full of holes and jumpy and the characters are just sketchy. Take a look at one of the extras in the house where the Russians try to hide the girl: he is not even able to sweep the floor with a broom! All in all: a sloppy "effort" of an international team which really serves as an example for all that was wrong with some European productions of these days.
If you want to see how it can work - check "Top Job", also featuring Edward G. Robinson in an international production.
Mediocre New Wave thriller
The truth about the movie lies somewhere in the middle of the reviews. I saw the movie in an almost empty Munich cinema when it came out - mostly because of Dieter Meier, the voice of the Swiss electronic project Yello.
The movie tries to create some New Wave atmosphere, but most of it is just haircuts and clothes. Modern (1980s) architecture is used nicely in the picture, nevertheless it fails in almost every other regard: plot, character development etc.
Still, as an example of this 1980s feeling you may give it a try (at least it is short!).
Think Heaven 17 in a German television film.
L'homme de Rio (1964)
Comic book style tour de force
Naturally, this is not "La dolce vita" or "Citizen Kane" in terms of its contribution to cinema history, but this is one of the most enjoyable adventure movies. It is sometimes crazy but not to an extent that it kills its adventure feeling. Many details are worth mentioning (the references to the popular Tintin comic books, the breathtaking setting of the newly constructed Brazilian capital Brasilia and its milestone architecture etc.) and it all creates this little masterpiece of action, fun, exotic excitement and the lifestyle of the sixties when people still believed in progress and the fact that young people can make the world a better place. So, yes, this movie is sometimes typical for these days but it still fun to watch once a year.
Der Student von Prag (1913)
creates a rare authentic atmosphere
This is definitely one one the best pre-WWI movies! Still, if you are looking for the typical German expressionism, you will not see a lot of this. The movie is great in its use of the Prague locations (remember- those were still the days of Austria-Hungary). You see some of the city sights and also the famous Jewish cemetery but not in a tourist fashion, it all serves the romantic atmosphere of the movie: romantic in the fashion of Hoffmann and the German doppelgänger idea.
Paul Wegener is far away from a modern day movie star, but he was one of the top German theater actors of the days. He fully embraced the concept of movies and even directed some. The author Hanns Heinz Ewers produced some dangerous Nazi books later on, but this one is a major achievement.