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February Films

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This month featuring Blood Diamond El Método, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Kikujiro, The Third Man, Tampopo, Days of being Wild, François Ozon short films, and others.

Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond supposedly takes up the critical issue of buying diamonds from civil war ridden countries where the money is used to buy more misery for the locals. While I don’t think the film actually does much for changing the world in that respect, it still tells a tragically entertaining story of civil war and its business interests or business and its civil war interests.

Hand holding a stone

The story is pretty straightforward I guess. Civil war in black Africa, with all the personal misfortunes associated to it. And with the rulers looking for good money from slave work and diamonds to pay for they weapons and lives. On the other side we have business sense from white Africa doing the best to trade those stones for cash and weapons. And as a third party we have some American journalist chick who does her best stopping the war and stopping the evil trades  – or taking some nice photos of it anyway.

Of course things get shaken up a bit and the local Solomon managed to hide a huge diamond (and, well, ‘huge’ diamonds are quite small…) which then everybody wants to get. Weapons dealer Danny hears about it and convinces Solomon to get him back his family once they retrieved the stone. After a lot of troubles that works, and we get a happy end.

So, all right, the main story is a bit lame perhaps. And having Leonardo Di Caprio play Danny probably doesn’t help either because he looks like an ageing chubby boy trying to play a guy who fights his way through the jungle. The small scenes in the film were more convincing. Seeing one of Solomon’s abducted kids being turned into a child soldier was harsh. And picturing the diamond industry as people going long ways to get pretty stones just to safely hide them away was sweet.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

El Método

After seeing Die Grönholm Methode in a local theatre, we were thrilled to learn that the story had been turned into the film El Método in Argentina as well which we managed to get hold of (Spanish with subtitles and all).

While the film revolved around the same subject of recruiting techniques and the way participants are treated in them these days, it took a different path than the play we saw. Not only did they start off with more candidates competing for the job in the film and arrive at a different outcome, they also managed to sneak some political realities in there (globalisation protests in town, a bit too much high tech stuff) which made the film a little less intense than the play was and made it less isolated from the ‘real world’ we know out here.

Manhattan Murder Mystery

Manhattan Murder Mystery may not be one of Allen’s greatest films – with him and his wife (Diane Keaton) spying after their neighbour whom they suspect to have killed his wife. But its quite funny with all its paranoia and it’s a must see for that wonderful scene alone where he has to leave the Wagner opera half-way through because it gives him the urge to conquer Poland. Always gives me a good chuckle.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Kikujiro

Kikujiro is a 1999 film by Takeshi Kitano which I had meant to see for a while. Quite typically for Kitano it ranges from the strange to the absurd . It doesn’t focus too much on its main story which is about little boy Masao who lives with his grandma and wants to visit his mum when all his friends from school go on holidays. He’s then taken on a trip to go there by a somewhat dodgy guy called Kikujiro (played by Kitano) from the neighbourhood.

And that trip is neither planned, nor remotely orderly and they end up in all sorts of strange situations meeting odd people on their road trip across Japan. While there are plenty of amusing moments in the film, only very few of them seem to be in the range of things to do when travelling with a kid who’s wearing a rucksack with angel wings. That makes the film charming. But not great.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

The Third Man

Seeing The Third Man again was great. Not just the black and white and the great story and actors. But even more so they tried to re-create the atmosphere of post-war Vienna (not that I knew it first hand of course). What really makes this work for me is how they freely mix languages. So you have the main action going on in English but all the Viennese extras speaking in their local accent.

That’s quite cleverly done as it works really well for the viewer – even those who don’t happen to understand German. Not only because the main character doesn’t understand German himself and thus what they say doesn’t help him either but also because what those people say isn’t essential to what’s going on anyway but it mainly creates the atmosphere and gives the film a firm ‘home’ in Vienna.

Just compare this to English-language films that are currently made. Language just is rarely used as cleverly there. Mostly everything is turned into English – to not ‘scare’ the audience, I suppose. Or sometimes we have actors ‘speaking’ the foreign language who clearly aren’t native speakers. Only recently there seem to have been films again which were prepared to acknowledge that this is a multi-lingual word and attempting to make the best of it by leaving in all the original speaking and adding subtitles where they were necessary – The Science of Sleep and Babel for example.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Tampopo

Call me a food sufferer! After seeing Eat Drink Man Woman again last month I started craving Chinese food. As there is no decent Chinese restaurant in the region I am still suffering from that craving. When discussing that problem with friends, the topic drifted to Korean food and the much cursed and loved kimchi. I have never had Korean food so far, so I feel the need to try that as well. Korean restaurants don’t even exist in the region.

And now I watched Tampopo – a Japanese film about the ultimate noodle soup. And yet another craving arrived. Needless to say that these cravings are additive and don’t simply replace one another.

The film revolves around ramen cook Tampopo who wants to learn making the perfect soup after truckers Goro and Gun let her know hers isn’t good. They help her in the quest to find a good recipe and we get to see a lot of noodles and noodle soup preparation in the process.

What’s cool about the film is that it treats the issue of food quite seriously – both for the cook and the eater. But at the same time it is very light hearted and the attempts they make to find the perfect recipe range from walking around and dissing their competition’s food to spying on cooks who make the better soup. I really liked that combination. And now I need some lovingly crafted soup with a few thin slices of pork which I can hide beneath some of the noodles.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Days of being Wild

Days of being Wild is a 1991 film by Wong Kar Wai. While being older and not as refined as his newer films, this one is already full of the rich night-time scenes, the lush music and the film trying to convey a feeling, rather than a story to you, that make his films so special.

We are told the story of a young guy (played by Leslie Cheung who also starred in Happy Together) who learns that the woman he grew up with isn’t his mother and refuses to tell him who his mother is. All that while two girls fall for him and he tries to make sense and the best of it without committing to anybody.

While not quite as rich as in later films, the filming is great as well. With rich colours and generous out of focus portions of scenes a good environment is set for the rainy night time scenes and the girls in tight dresses.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

François Ozon Shorts

I saw some of François Ozon’s early short films: Photo de Famille, his first short film, starring his family, where a boy kills his family after dinner and then arranges them on the coach for a family photo. Victor who lives with the parents he killed and La Petite Mort about a photographer whose current project involves photos of guys while they are coming – but who gets distracted by the death of his father who never loved him; interesting – and including some dark room scenes.

Quite an obsession with photography in those alone. I’ll have to try and see some more. [Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Others

Also seen: Le Voleur by Louis Malle with Jean-Paul Belmondo playing a thief who’s in the trade for the kicks. Take the Money and Run old and not so great Woody Allen film. Der Kopf des Mohren (The Moor’s Head), a really strange Austrian TV film where the father of a family is overtaxed by the stress of modern life and wants to go all natural and self-sufficent – ultimately we see him planting corn and raising chicken in his flat. Bitter Moon with Polanski directing and Hugh Grant playing – a bit of a tragedy but essentially dull and bad, the drama went right past me. [Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

And if you managed to stay with me all the way here, let me recommend the short film Cashback that is situated in a supermarket. Apparently there’s a proper film based on this already. Can’t wait until it comes to cinemas here.

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Out & About

  • Apr 20 Faber, Mojo
  • Apr 21-23 Frankfurt
  • Apr 22 see #12, Wiesbaden
  • May 5-7 Frankfurt
  • May 17 HH.js
  • May 25-28 Frankfurt
  • Jun 3 Göttingen
  • Jun 4 Cardiff
  • Jun 5 Bath
  • Jun 6-10 Cornwall
  • Jun 11-13 Brighton
  • Jun 13-14 London
  • Jun 15-16 Cambridge
  • Jun 17-18 Bremen
  • Jul 2 Arcade Fire, Berlin
  • Jul 14 Liga der gewöhnlichen Gentlemen, Hafenklang
  • Jul 22-23 Frankfurt
  • Aug 10-12 Haldern Pop
  • Aug 18-20 Göttingen
  • Sep 16-17 Freiburg
  • Oct 12 Sigur Rós, Hamburg
  • Oct 26 Cédric Pescia, Elbphilharmonie
  • Nov 26 Herbert Schuch, Elbphilharmonie
  • Jan 31 Claire Hugancy, Elbphilharmonie
  • Mar 19 Lilit Grigoryan, Elbphilharmonie

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