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Archive for the ‘FILMED IN GERMANY WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES’ Category

Good Bye, Lenin!

08 Feb

Good Bye, Lenin! – directed by Wolfgang Becker. Comedy/Drama. 123 minutes Color 2003

★★★★★

THE STORY: Just before and after the end of the Berlin Wall, a young couple conspire to prevent their PTSD mother from learning the perhaps fatal truth.

~ ~ ~

This movie goes on for a good while, and a good job too! Because it needs to evolve through its complications at its own pace, and to force us to wait respectfully for the working out of its theme — which is the uses of lying.

Here we have a mother lying to her children in a far more profound way than they lie to her, and yet, without their knowing her truth, they lie to save her from her own mortality.

The film is neither moral nor political in any way. Its playing is made superb by the actors, particularly Katrin Sass as the mother, an actress who puts me much in mind of Joan Allen. She has the same inner eye.

So here is story-telling well-paced and a story quite unusual. We lie to protect those we love. Nothing new in that, save that I do not know of so interesting and just an examination of the matter. Acting is the art of living-it-out.  But film is a two dimensional medium, so it is very hard to find characters in a movie one can actually walk around completely to see all sides of.

Of course the great master of this is the director Jean Renoir. (The Rules of the Game, French CanCan, et al.) I won’t say the director achieves that here, but I sink with wonder that actors can do as much as they do to make the story “move” — that they walk in and out of buildings and fry eggs — as though only I were watching them, and no camera at all, and no crew around. What a remarkable feat!

Just watch, if you will, the recognition scene between the father and son, how right the older actor is in that passage! How right the girlfriend is in every scene! How right the neighbor with the pile of blond hair downstairs is! Praise be to all actors of all nations. That the piece is in German is no barrier to the craft they execute so daringly and so simply before us.

 

The Formula

25 Jun

The Formula – directed by John G. Avildsen. International Espionage. An L.A. cop sets out to find who murdered his friend and his search leads him to higher echelons of European big money.117 minutes Color 1980.

★★★★

James Crabe was nominated for an Oscar for his beautiful filming of it, a skill which bring coherence and life and meaning to the entire piece. The director and particularly Steve Shagan, who also wrote it and produced it, talk well about it as it goes along, praising the minor actors handsomely and Crabe particularly, but also leaving us enlightened as to the behavior of George C. Scott while it was in production. I leave it to you to dive into the special features for those tasty anecdotes. They hired Marlon Brando because he was perhaps the only actor who could stand up to Scott, and so he does by making his character a sort of lolling baby – this, mind you playing a man who is one of the most merciless oilmen alive. It’s a daring and imaginative choice and Brando is choice in the role. He does something with his lower lip that is so odd and right. He is in his late fifties here and willing to take on character leads. The story involves a mysterious murder which Scott sets himself to solve. The murder seems to revolve around a secret formula for turning coal into fuel oil, which the Germans managed to do for the duration of World War II. It is a telling account of the international oil trade, as apposite today as when it was shot. My daughter went to the same school as Nancy Marchand’s children, many years before The Sopranos. She was an actor I liked a lot. One day, walking down the inside stairs I passed her and asked if she had seen George C. Scott’s TV performance the night before. “No, “ she said, “I don’t think he’s going to show me anything new.” Nor is what he does here new. I first saw him on the Broadway stage in The Andersonville Trial, playing a lawyer. He was very exciting in the emphaticness of his growl, and he was the best Shylock I have ever seen. He was brand new in those days. Later I saw him on stage in Uncle Vanya. He was no longer new. In him what we are faced with, unlike Edward G. Robinson, is a perpetual ire. He is always a sten gun about to go off. And so, seen-one-seen-them-all. The public tired of him. It’s a shame, for here he is quite good, and looking at his work now, piecemeal and years later, it does not weary one as, in its repetition, it did at the time. Indeed it impresses one with its force and intensity. He has tremendous reserves of insult and intention, great timing, the ability to focus and be still, the ability to not show his hand, and the ability to deliver his stuff full force and absolutely mean what he says. He can charm and be dangerous on a dime. You might say he plays everything the same way, but it does not matter so much here, since the story convolutions are what gather our attention in. Marthe Keller is just grand as the partisan love interest he falls in with, and John Gielgud gives great value as a dying chemistry professor, and Richard Lynch deserved an Oscar for his German general. There are three racetrack scenes, one with female jockeys and one racing on ice, and the final one played out between Brando and Scott in Brando’s office in front of Degas’ jockey scene, all of them captivatingly captured by Crabe, whose filming is a lesson in point on the art of lighting, color agreement, exposure, and how to shoot people walking while talking, of which this film has many examples. The film is a classic instance of how a cameraman alone can make a story cohere. In this case there are other coherences to count on. And of course, the presence of the greatest acting genius of the 20th Century.

 

 

 

Goodbye, Lenin!

05 May

Goodbye, Lenin! — directed by Wolfgang Becker. Comedy/Drama. Children protect their mother coming out of a long coma that the world she knew is no longer. 121 minutes Color 2003.

★★★★★

Winner of innumerable awards, this movie goes on for a good while, and a good job too! Because it needs to evolve through its complications at its own pace, and to force us to wait respectfully for the working out of its theme — which is the use of lying. Here we have a mother lying to her children in a far more profound way than they lie to her, and yet, without their knowing her truth, they lie to save her from her own. The film is neither moral nor political in any way. Its playing is made superb by the actors, particularly Katrin Sass as the mother, an actress who puts me much in mind of Joan Allen. She has the same inner eye. So here is story-telling well-paced and a story quite unusual. We lie to protect those we love. Nothing new in that, save that I do not know of so interesting and just an examination of the matter. Acting is the art of living-it-out — whatever the “it” is. But film is a two dimensional medium, so it is very hard to find characters in a movie one can actually walk around completely to see all sides of. Of course the great master of this is the director Jean Renoir. (The Rules of the Game, French CanCan, et al.) I won’t say the director achieves that here, but I smile with wonder that actors can do as much as they do to make the story move — that they walk in and out of buildings and fry eggs — as though only I were watching them, and no camera at all, and no crew around. What a remarkable feat! Just watch, if you will, the recognition scene between the father and son, how right the older actor is in that passage! How right the girlfriend is in every scene! How right the neighbor with the pile of blond hair downstairs is! Praise be to all actors of all nations. That the piece is in German is no barrier to the craft they execute so daringly and so simply before us and for us.

 

M

12 Oct

M – Directed by Fritz Lang. Satirical Drama. A child murderer is hunted by the police and also by the criminal populace itself. 117 minutes Black and White 1931.

* * * * *

Peter Lorre was a great actor and that is plain in this picture. Being Jewish he had to flee immediately to America, where he was cast in sillier and sillier roles, so much so that he was thought to be a silly actor, but it was not so. There is never a time now or later when you cannot identify with the terror of the worms he played as they were about to be stepped on by sadists.  Think of how, in his paranoia and degradation, he is always terrifying to behold. Think of him as an astounding piece of humanity revealed raw. His acting was so good we kept thinking it wasn’t acting. It is a mark of his genius and of acting genius itself that he was able to engage our participation so openly. Think of him in Casablanca in his frenzy as the Gestapo come for him. And see him here. Fritz Lang was half Jewish and had to flee to America soon after, where of course he had a big career also. Their instruments are well matched here in one of the most famous movies ever made – a completely contemporary and extremely humorous satire of the officiousness of Germans tracking down a serial killer. It’s so funny you won’t even laugh. It could have been made yesterday – except it wouldn’t have been this good. A masterpiece. Don’t miss it.

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