Invention of Love

Invention of Love was made by Andrey Shushkov in 2010. It’s here because some of our viewers like animated movies and because we can see the clear influence of the animation technique by Lotte Reiniger. While wanting to link to our article on The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1922), we noticed the Avenue had never published such an article. Truly a shame, which is why we’ll first post a clip of said movie:

Do check out the rest on dvd, it’s well worth your money. And now back to the 21st century, with Invention of Love:

The Girl With The Yellow Stockings

June has traditionally been a month with fewer posts, but this year that will not be true. The Avenue will get an update today as well as on the 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th and 30th of this month. How is that possible if there’s hardly time to even check in if someone liked the most recent post? Well, if I have the time, I’ll write a new review. If not, you can enjoy a short movie. Hand-picked and with a short explanation why.

We kick off the series of shorts in Germany, with Das Mädchen mit den gelben Strümpfen (The Girl with the Yellow Stockings). This six minute short introduces us to a young couple, lying on bed. He wants to marry her and has even bought the rings. She doesn’t want to make life that simple for him and simply refuses. It doesn’t exactly make her the most sympathetic woman in a short, but the YouTube crowd are way ahead of you: the insults written there are misogynic at best (often dragging the World War into this, a simple love tale). For my money, I saw a girl too young to commit: in her heart, she wanted her knight in shining armour to make an effort for his princess, not just ask her bluntly on a bed. She doesn’t refuse him: that would be have led to a phrase like “I like you, but…”, she simply says “no”. She wants him to ask again, without a promise that the answer will be positive. Maybe she wants to be sure his proposal wasn’t just an impulse. But that’s the Avenue’s take on The Girl with the Yellow Stockings.

Directed by Grzegorz Muskala in 2008, the couple is played by Rosalie Thomass and Thomas Fränzel. Happy viewing!

Angèle et Tony

Aaah, love… or, as the French call it, l’amour… or, as the Germans call it Liebe … for today I’ll review a French film on l’amour that I watched while staying in Germany.

Fans of comparisons may be keen to hear that Angèle et Tony reminded me of Ken Loach‘s Raining Stones. Only here it’s not about getting a child a wonderful dress, but it’s all about love. In a way, as both protagonists – Angèle and Tony, as you might have guessed – are not the most romantic people in the world. But the tone of both movies is similar.

Another movie that Angèle et Tony is reminiscent of is Naked (by Mike Leigh) and this for two reasons. Angèle is the sort of hard-headed woman that wouldn’t be out of place in Leigh’s masterpiece about lost souls. This is proven – and that’s the second reason – by the opening scene where Angèle is involved in a bit of rough, loveless sex: not in an nightly alley, but in a daytime environment that could only be described as romantic if you have a fetish for concrete. After the sex, she gets a doll for his son and races to a pub to meet Tony.
Tony is late and instead of talking he brings her to her work. Only she doesn’t go for another shift in the factory, she nicks a bike and rushes off to the school. Just in time to give the doll to the boy’s grandfather. Angèle, you see, lost her parental rights and that’s not all: every now and then she has to check in with the social services to see if she doesn’t stray from the right path again. Like stealing a bike… of which she knows nothing, of course.

So is Tony’s life a bit more romantic? Don’t get your hopes up too high: Tony lives with his mother, he and his brother are fishermen and their mother sells the fish at the market. It isn’t exactly screaming out romance to me.
So why have Angèle and Tony hooked up? Tony is tired of being alone and advertised his interest in a potential partner in a newspaper ad. Angèle is the one who responded. Tony has a hard time expressing his love and in the rare occasions he tries to overcome this flaw, Angèle usually pushes him away. Anyway, Tony is somewhat happy that there’s a new face in the house and Angèle doesn’t wait long and tells everyone she is about to get married. After all, a wedding document helps her getting back her parental control.

Of course, Angèle’s hiding her personality behind layers of armour in combination with the grumpy stubbornness of the fisherman may be standing in the way of a marriage, so whether the wedding bells will eventually toll is something that’s hard to predict. Well, probably not: every fibre in the movie points towards a happy end of some sorts… and some sorts it is, a genuine “Hurrah for Hollywood” happy end wouldn’t fit the movie, so we’re having none of that.

Stylistically, the film – the debut feature by Alix Delaporte – observes the couple from a distance, adequately reflecting the distant nature of the protagonists. Likewise, the film shows Angèle overcoming her inner turmoil by using long shots of her riding around on her stolen bicyle. Some say this takes the pace out of the film, but I don’t agree: for me it shows how Angèle copes with the situation. No long interior monologues only a voice-over could deal with, but brainless peddling on a bike through kilometres of hardly inhabited land. Here a comparison with a Dardennes movie springs to mind. If you ever wondered how Rosetta (of the eponymous movie) would look nowadays, Angèle et Tony offers a more than valid possibility.

Rosetta, Naked, Raining Stones… I’ve likened Angèle et Tony to some social masterpieces, haven’t I? To say this film can proudly stand between those would be lying. Especially in the early scenes I felt a fast forward button could be a handy tool in a movie theatre, but at least the film is not mimicking these masterpieces, but offering a slice of real life and the brilliant movies just spring to mind. And the director shouldn’t feel too awful: even the Dardennes haven’t been able to equal the 10/10 that I awarded to Rosetta. Seven out of ten means your film is good and that is what Angèle and Tony is.

Sûpâ robotto Maha Baronu (Roboter der Sterne)

With my largest deadline (for the Dutch coursebook) pending for next week and the good news that some British movies are being re-released for a cheap price (my review copy is on the way), there’s only time for a minor update today. But what an update!

Have you ever asked yourself: where would the world be without superheroes? Answer: nowhere, so it’s high time for another serving of Superhero Schlock.
This time we go to Japan, which eagerly gave us heroes like Ultraman and Inframan. In 1974 Koichi Takano directed The Iron Man or Sûpâ Robotto Maha Baronu, which has been released on DVD in the Trash collection. Wonder why? Then here’s a scene where our hero has to battle against American Footballers with exploding balls and when things don’t look too well, his police friend comes along on a bike that could fly eight years before E.T. managed the same trick.

I only found this scene in German, but don’t let that sort of detail rob you from two minutes of cinematic glory. Who needs language when you have exploding balls?

Deutsches Filmmuseum (Frankfurt)

The Deutsches Filmmuseum by nightFrankfurt is mainly known for two districts, the financial and the red light, but did you know the city also had a Museumsofer? On the two sides of the Main river, there’s a bundle of museums. One of them is the newly reopened film museum. On 14 August the doors opened for the public for the first time in a lot of months and the Avenue went to investigate what was behind them.

Enter the lobby and you’re already treated to a handful of teasers, like a page from the Casablanca script and a Golden Globe. The lobby is also there and allows you to enjoy a coffee while you’re watching some movie clips projected against the centre wall.

Up the stairs the exhibition begins at the very beginning, the lenses, zoetropes and cameras obscuras (surely “camerae obscurae”, ed.) pull you back to a time when images couldn’t move. True, they still don’t: we’re watching stills projected at such a speed our eyes are fooled, but this was a time when even thay couldn’t be achieved. The good news is you are allowed to play with a couple of the exhibits and the reporter for one definitely enjoyed that opportunity.
As you walk around the first floor and literally walk towards the invention of cinema the journey ends with a collection of the earliest films. Starting with the earliest works by the Lumière brothers and the arrival of Kaiser Wilhelm II in a town (which allegedly made him the first film star), it doesn’t take too long before you end up with film getting a more fictional feel. A lesser known Méliès (but one that shows his roots as a magician) and Booth are among the likely suspects. The “?” accident – yes, that is the actual title – is also present and remains an eclectic remix of cinema’s earliest hits: a chase scene, the car running over someone (hello Booth) and trip through the stars (hi Méliès) are featured, as are several other bits of trickery.
Most of the films shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise if you own a dvd with early classics (like my Kino collection) but it’s always nice to see them on a bigger screen. And the 1896 film of Frankfurt will probably be shown nowhere else.

Next to the early classics is a door and it seems like it’s the only option to proceed… one thing my trip to Frankfurt told me is that some of the museums are occasionally unclear for visitors without a guide. The German Film Museum is relatively straightforward: it isn’t too big and you’re walking past the different exhibits in a semicircle. The museum continues on the second floor.
Over there you’ll find a floor dedicated to the post-silent era. When the doors open you immediately see four screens in a semicircle. Feel free to sit down and enjoy the montage of movie clips: sometimes it’s one film being shown

Blick in einer Vitrine
One of the museum displays with Nightmare Before Christmas faces

randomly on the four screens (like Jungle Book), but most of the time there’s a theme that seems to connect the various movies. These themes vary from historical characters (like Queen Elizabeth or Hitler) to more abstract subjects (“shadows” places the original Scarface next to that heart-stealing moment from Nosferatu). The films feature anything from classics like Das Kabinett des Dr Caligari to Twilight 2: New Moon (hey, any chance to hear Lykke Li is welcomed here).
Note that this projection uses up a third of the room and you’ll understand that the Deutsches Film Museum isn’t the biggest museum in the world. It overcomes this by going for a more modern approach. The second floor may have a couple of traditional exhibits (like Darth Vader’s helmet from the second Star Wars film – yes, I still refuse to redub it the fifth one and feel free to get a life – or Murnau’s screenplay of Sunrise, complete with director’s notes), but next to these goodies the movie has small displays. Next to costume designs you’ll find a director or a costume designer talking about the look of a certain film. Most of those interviews take a couple of minutes and are subtitled in English.
Other displays opt for an interactive approach, something the museum seems to like. The museum also hosts a booth where you can watch yourself on screen and alter the mood of your image by changing the background: feeling like being in a horror scene or do you feel in a romantic mood? Click around and watches how a couple of lights massively influence a scene.

Speaking of scenes, another display allows you recut a German movie. You get to choose which of the four different points of views you prefer and this allows you to remix the film. Adjacent to this, another display shows you four scenes (going from the first Harry Potter to Citizen Kane) and you have to guess how many cuts the director made. Guessed incorrectly? Then you can watch the scene again, this time with clues.
One of the funnier displays can be found at the back of the room, next to the green screens: you see a couple of movies with a similar theme (like romance or road trips) and can alter the soundtrack for each movie. Speaking of which, Kirsten Dunst‘s kissing of an upside-down Spider Man did improve when I added the Collateral soundtrack.

Anna Maria Mühe by Jim Rakete

Enough tomfoolery? Then there’s always room for the temporary exhibition. For the relaunch, the Deutsches Filmmuseum opted for Jim Rakete: Stand der Dinge, a retrospective of a German photographer’s collection of celebrity portraits. If you’re not German, you might as well think Jim Rakete made a series of portraits of unknown members of the public, though you may recognize some of them: Wim Wenders, Moritz Bleibtrau or possibly even people like Alexandra Maria Lara from the Ian Curtis biopic Control. Photographer Rakete doesn’t just go for a normal portrait: he likes the celebrity to hold an object, often related to the film. To promote Lola Rennt, director Tom Tykwer was placed next to a clock. (“All you need to make a movie is a girl and a clock” – Tom Tykwer) Some of those objects, like Tykwer’s clock, are also displayed in a room. Given that the temporary exhibition costs more than the permanent pieces, non-Germans may want to think twice about watching this current exhibition. Unless, of course, you want to tell your grandchildren you went to Frankfurt and saw the actual white ribbon from Das Weisse Band.

If you look at all the displays and movie montages, it won’t be hard to spend more than two hours at this museum. This, of course, is nothing like Frankfurt’s Museum of Modern Art MMK, which celebrated its twentieth birthday by renting another building as well a room on the other side of the street (so a dance adaptation of a Thomas Beckett text could be displayed). Who’d anticipated you could spend five hours in a museum? People should be warned!

You won’t spend five hours at the Deutsches Filmmuseum, but if you’re into movies, you’ll spend a lovely two hours here. One negative afterthought was that the digital revolution seemed to be somewhat overlooked. Then again, you are able to digitally play with movies, so subconsciously, it’s there.

(all images copyright of Deutsches Filmmuseum except photograph of Anna Maria Mühe by Jim Rakete, copyright: Jim Rakete – all images were used for a better visual representation of the museum, no commercial infringement intended)

Music from Der Schweigende Engel

And when the flowers have already hung their heads out of fatigue, you should still (still… still) be thinking of me… but then sung in German and with a woman’s voice.

Last year (September, to be precise) the Avenue talked about a German film that only seems to pop up every now and then on tv. It’s not out on dvd and there are no signs that’ll change soon. The film is called Der Schweigende Engel (The Silent Angel) and it was a crossover between a Heimatfilm and a film noir, according to our resident reviewer (which sounds better than “me”).

But something regarding the film has popped up: in the last year we’ve seen the cinema booklet of the film being auctioned on the internet (needless to say, we were outbid) and YouTube has a track from the film. The title is “Ein Strauss Vergissmeinnicht” (read: a bouquet of forget-me-nots). Seems like the Avenue isn’t keen on forgetting soon. We’ll go on mentioning this film until someone has the wonderful idea of releasing or rebroadcasting it…

Die Mörder sind under uns

Today, as the final entry for German Week, DV serves you Die Mörder Sind Unter Uns. It was either that, or one of a handful of other classics I could think of. Lotte Reiniger’s animation classic Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed is one I’ll save for a later day, Gert Fröbe (you know, Goldfinger) was also a good choice – preferrably Es geschah am hellichten Tag, a German classic which was later remade as The Pledge (starring Jack Nicholson). As is so often the case, the remake couldn’t stand up to the original.

All good choices, but Die Mörder sind unter uns (literally “The Murderers are among us”) has a little extra, not in the least its readily availability on DVD (it’s out on Region 2 as well as Region 1). It also tackles post-war Germany, something we haven’t mentioned in this week’s reviews – apart from a brief mention with Goodbye, Lenin (in which a mother from Eastern Germany wakes up after several years of coma and can’t be exposed to severe shocks, which may be somewhat difficult given that the Berlin Wall has been demolished).Die Mörder sind unter uns is also tied with history, the film was made in 1946 and is officially the first post-war movie. In the background of the action, you can actually see the city of Berlin in ruins. Die Mörder sind under uns lives on a rare edge between reality and fiction.

The film begins in 1945, just after the war. The first image we see is that of a destroyed street. People wander around, aimlessly. Among them a drunk man (Ernst Wilhelm Borchert), despised by his neighbours. A little later a young woman enters the shop downstairs, it is Susanne Wallner (Hildegard Knef), just returned from a concentration camp. She’s ready to return to her old apartment, but not only is it in awful shape after the bombings, it’s also inhabited by the drunk man. He is quite hostile towards her and accuses her of being one of the many who fled the cities during wartime. She doesn’t tell the truth, which only tightens the scene. It also reveals the leitmotiv of the film: guilt. Guilt because of what happened and anger towards those who did awful things during the war and acted as if it never happened. As one Posterman says during the film: “The war is over, things are different now.” Die Mörder sind unter uns is an accusation against those people, as the German dvd obviously declares: as you enter the dvd menu, you’ll hear a voice scream out: “But I’m innocent!”

The drunk man appears to be surgeon Mertens, so disgusted by what has happened during the war he lost the ability to do his job. The screaming patients remind him of the screams of war victims, especially the occasion where several Polish men, women and children were executed on Christmas Day because of an uproar by some men. Mertens pleaded with his superior not to execute the women and children, but to no avail. If it hadn’t been for the festive day, he might’ve even been punished for this weak behaviour. Not much later, the German soldiers are celebrating Christmas under a decorated tree, while dozens of bodies lie outside.

Susanne Wallner succeeds step by step in getting Mertens’s life back on the rails, but the surgeon doesn’t tell what has happened. But when Mertens bumps into his former superior, he’s disgusted by how that man is enjoying his wealth, hardly aware of the many people who have to live in a ruined city. Mertens swears he’ll have revenge on the ‘murderer’, the question is whether Susanne will be in time to stop him…

Die Mörder sind unter uns is the easiest film to watch and I’m not talking about the slow pace the film sometimes has. But the guilt and the ruins weigh heavily on the fllm and doesn’t make it the most enjoyable movie out there. Still, you’ll be glad to have watched it after 81 minutes. Stylistically, it benefits from Germany’s many pre-war classics: there’s still an expressionist feel to some of the film (especially in the scene where Mertens confronts his former superior – as you can see on the poster at the top of this article), but it’s mixed with the neo-realism that became popular just after the war.

The extras on the German disc offer a couple of newsreel clips, the first about the meeting where the American and Russian allies allow film company DEFA to produce their first post-war films. Sadly the German disc doesn’t have any subtitles, so if you don’t understand German and would like to see Wolfgang Staudte’s film, I’ll have to refer you to the Region 1 disc. If you’d like to see a side of the war’s aftermath you rarely get a chance to see, this film should be high on your list.

I’ll give this one 8 out of 10, which is better than I’d originally rated the film. I would’ve left you with a trailer, but couldn’t find it. Instead, the first sequence of the film is available on YouTube, so here’s that instead…

And that is it for German week… “The End” or, as they say in Germany, “Ende”. Yes, all things have to come to an end once. Apart from sausages, they end twice. Or as Stephan Remmler (the former singer of Trio) used to sing in 1987: “Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.”

German week: censorship

Germany is one of those countries that like to censor their films. It seems almost odd then that there are German dvd companies that release video nasties on dvd, with a label warning the film is not for sale in Germany. The German-speaking territories have produced quite a number of directors wanting to bring more gore to the screen. Nekoneko has more over at the Litterbox where the nasty Nekromantik is dissected.

Which means it’s another day off for me and time for a video… quite fittingly enough it’s anti-establishment band Atari Teenage Riot (led by Alec Empire) whose “digital hardcore” assaulted your ears in the late nineties and early naughties. One of the band’s EPs was once forbidden in Germany because of the track “Hetzjagd Auf Nazis!” and the subsequent Nazi symbols (which are forbidden in Germany). Quite odd given that the band was very much against the Nazis. Maybe it had something to do with their left-wing political tendencies. And so, conform with our forbidden theme, here’s the video for “Revolution Action”, which was marked too violent for television. Not for DV though…

German week: Deadlock

Forget about the “spaghetti western” (Ennio Morricone never liked the term anyway), no European country loves western more than Germany. Pretty odd for a country that never really made westerns… what Germany did do was reinventing stories of existing westerns. Because of the success of Django, the Germans were quick to rename every Italian western “Django”, whether a character called Django was present or not.
The most interesting film here is Preparati la bara, a western starring Terence Hill. This film is released in Germany under two titles: one is an intact version which is called Django und die Bande der Gehenkten, the other version is cut to pieces and seems to have been made later. By this time, Hill had become famous for the movies in which he co-starred with Bud Spencer,which is why Hill’s character occasionally wonders where “the fat one” would be hanging out. Spencer, you may have guessed, had nothing to do with this film. Preparati la bara was re-edited, not only cutting the violence out but also adding extra comedy bits. And so the Germans managed to make two new films out of existing footage…watch Django und die Bande der Gehenkten by all means, but if you ever spot Joe, der Galgenvogel stay away from this re-edited monstrosity.

So did the Germans make any westerns themselves? Hardly any. The best example is the film adaptations of the Karl May novels, starring cowboy hero Old Shatterhand and his Indian pal Winnetou. Aimed at a young audience, the films were adventure films rather than westerns, just like you’d probably never answer Bonanza if someone would ask you “Name a typical western”. The film adaptations were made by a name that has popped up before: Harald Reinl.

A more typical (albeit modern) western has been made in Germany, even though a lot of people haven’t heard of it. Time for DV to change that then… Deadlock was made in 1970 by Roland Klick. A quick IMDb search will show you Klink isn’t very well known and a lot of his films feature violence. Deadlock has plenty of that too.

It is a weird little film, it starts with a gangster staggering through the desert’s heat, before falling over… exhaustion, we can only guess. A shabby guy drives past, notices the guy and his suitcase. He opens the suitcase, notices it’s brimful of money and does the only decent thing: he takes a rock to crush the guy’s skull. But just as he’s about to hit the gangster, the gangster’s body starts sliding down the mountain. Afraid to spill any extra effort and pleased by the fact the gangster didn’t even react to his body’s sliding down a hill, the shabby guy grabs the suitcase and drives off. Remorse eventually hits him, but not in the form Samaritans would like to hear: he drives back to the gangster, this time with a better weapon, only to find the body is gone. The very next moment he notices there’s a gun pointed towards himself… looks like the gangster wasn’t so dead after all.

What follows is very much a typical western. Sure the horses have been traded in for trucks, but the essential flow of a western is still there. Some settings even reminded me of Django, that most essential western. The characters even have typical western names…our shabby protagonist is Charles Dump, nicknamed “The Rat’. There’s the “Old Killer”, the “Young Killer” (named Kid), the “Girl” and her mother (whose name I won’t mention here, something to do with being raised to have manners etc.).

Mascha Rabben, as “The Girl”, may have gotten a less excitng part (essentially it’s sois belle et tais-toi), but she gives a lasting performance. She’s probably not very known. The only names you may have heard of before are Mario Adorf (as Charles Dump) and Anthony Dawson (as the Old Killer).

Will the Old Killer manage to track down his Kid companion? Will there be bloodshed? Will the Girl’s looks save her? How many people will leave Deadlock alive? All these are questions I won’t answer. I’ve already told you of that rarest of things, a real German western. A Sauerkraut western, if you please.

Deadlock is out on DVD in Germany. The music is once again by Can and adds a lot of extra mystery. It may even be the best reason to watch the film for. Maybe that’s why the film was also dubbed “psychedelic western” and why Jodorowsky likes it so much. The film was recorded in English, so there’s no need to take that German-English dictionary out of your bookshelves if you feel like watching it. The DVD contains an interview with and a documentary about director Klick (as well as an audio commentary by the man), but what is even more special is “Die Chance”, a documentary about Klick’s national search for a girl to play the role of Jessy (The Girl). It’s not often you get to see such an extra for a movie made in 1970.

I leave you with the trailer, but watch out as it contains some spoilers. Ardent westerns fans shouldn’t be too surprised though. Still, if you just want to get a feel of the film, watch only the first two minutes of the trailer.

P.S. And let’s end with some schlager music, it wouldn’t be German week without it. Here’s Gitte telling us about her love for the only kind of man she’s attracted to: “Ich will ‘nen Cowboy als Mann”.

German week: arthouse cinema

Today at DV Nekoneko takes care of the next entry in DV’s German week and it’ll be about the arthouse film. Here the German market shouldn’t be underrated. In the middle of the nineties the European film was on the verge of becoming extinct. European film companies that weren’t already bankrupt were bought by American companies… Euro cinema, once so vibrant in the 70s and 80s, was about to be declared dead. European films were either bland or bad copies of American cinema. People felt the many different languages of Europe were to be blamed. Weirdly enough, this didn’t seem to apply to American films. Apart from the UK, how many countries have English as their mother tongue?

In my opinion, a couple of things happened in the nineties that are worth mentioning. The biggest claim to fame should go to Thomas Vinterberg and Lars von Trier, whose Dogma 95 was exactly what was needed at the time. Sure, it might’ve looked like a strict series of rules, but the main underlying message was: if we don’t have the giant budgets American films have, let’s be creative.

In Germany, there were enough directors who didn’t want to call it a day either. In the last fifteen years, German films often had the little extra lots of other European films didn’t have. Just think of Lola Rennt (Neko’s choice), Der Untergang (reviewed by Deeopey here), The Edukators (reviewed on DV as well) and Das Leben der Anderen (rightfully awarded several prizes). Also worth a mention was Goodbye Lenin, which managed to give a light tone to Germany’s history (Eastern Germany coping with the downfall of the Berlin wall).

Anyway, as this means I’ll have the day off, let’s listen to some music… yesterday we mentioned Klaus Kinski, so our video has to be this hit by The Passions. If only so we can mention the film star was not Kinski. As quoted from the Passions’ site: “Contrary to popular belief, the German Film Star referred to in the song is not Klaus Kinski, Curd Jürgens, Jürgen Prochnow or even Marlene Dietrich. In fact he was neither German nor a star but a certain Steve Connelly, aka Roadent, one time roadie for the Clash and the Sex Pistols. However, he did appear in several minor German films.”

Steve ‘Roadent’ Connelly’s part that must’ve sparked the song must have been in the series ‘Der Joker’, the other two entries in his filmography were directed by one Wolfgang Buld, a name you may be familiar with if you read this site. Yes, he’s the director of Gib Gas, Ich Will Spass reviewed a couple of weeks ago. It is a small world after all.