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October Films

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This month starting of with culinary delights: Ratatouille, Bella Martha, Babettes gæstebud, Paris je t’aime, One Day In Europe, Alles auf Zucker, Spellbound, Planet Terror, Some Almodóvar and more.


Somehow Jean and me managed to accidentally see a ‘preview’ screening of Ratatouille the week before it came to cinemas around here. And while I am not the biggest fan of animated films it was rather enjoyable. Who could object to a cute rat, Paris, and loads of food?

What I found interesting about the film was how some of the text on screen was localised – while other text wasn’t. Of course that’s probably the logical thing to do with the all modern digital production, but I wondered why some text was in German while other text – like the sign in the kitchen about washing your hands appeared to be first in French and then in English.

I think I could do with a nice meal now…

Grating off lemon zest in Ratatouille

The image reminded me of this one I took a while ago.

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

Bella Martha

Staying in the world of kitchens there is the German film Bella Martha (aka Mostly Martha) which apparently has a pretty direct Hollywood remake coming by the name of No Reservations. It tells the story of the successful cook and cooking obsessed Martha who essentially lives for her kitchen only until her sister dies in a car crash and she has to look after her niece which she totally isn’t good at.

So rather than some hot kitchen action we go more along the line of family drama here with Martha and her niece needing to get along and Martha’s colleague Mario starting to get romantically involved in the whole thing. What I found odd in the film is how the kitchen scenes differed very much from all other kitchen scenes I have seen. Somehow the kitchen was spacious and operating at a relaxed pace, even having enough space to safely put an eight year old kid in there at times. I am not sure that was particularly realistic. And, needless to say, we manage to get an acceptably happy end for everyone.

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

Babettes gæstebud

A third cooking related film is the Danish Babettes gæstebud (Babette’s feast). In a way it shows us a the major ugliness of northern Europe that is achieved by protestantism: People just ‘prefer’ not having much fun and living somewhat sorry lifes. So do the sisters Martina and Philippa, named by their religious nutter dad after big heroes of protestantism. Despite being pretty they spend all their lives going to church and helping their father’s religious ideas.

Later on, after their dead’s death, a French woman, Babette, joins their house because she had to leave her home country. Their hospitality had been recommended by a friend who adored one of the sisters in their youth and Babette becomes their maid. She improves whatever little food is enjoyed at the house and given to the old people in the vicinity. And finally she does hear from back at home that she won the lottery and wants to cook a goodbye meal.

And what a meal it is! Many courses, including turtle soup, quails and plenty of great drinks are served. But luckily the Danish religious nutters had agreed beforehand that they won’t taste the food because it could be sin. Of course their plan didn’t fully work out and they enjoyed it a bit in the end but that was a bit painful to watch. Just a single guest to the party (honouring the death of the sisters’ father) fully appreciated the meal. Turned out he had been to France and exposed to proper food with the military. Also turned out that Babette used to be a famous chef back in Paris. And finally it turned out that making the meal took her entire lottery winnings and she’d stay there in Denmark – just as I hoped the thankless old ladies would go back to eating their yucky beer-soup for the rest of their lives.

Ah well, you can’t always win. But this protestant no-fun thing really irks me.

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

Paris, je t’aime

Paris je t’aime gives us eighteen short films about love, Paris, love in Paris, loving Paris, each of which by a different director and each of which in a different arrondissement. I was a bit sceptical about this mix of very short films by so many different directors. And a few of them aren’t all that remarkable. But overall, the directors manage to tell sweet little stories in their small slice of time. And each of them gives us a little love for or by the people in there and for the city.

With such a large number of stories, it’s hard to keep track of all of them. But I found the one by Tom Tykwer (Faubourg St Denis) with a blind guy and his girlfriend and the one by Alexander Payne (14e arrondissement) with an American lady reporting about her visit to Paris to her French class back home, most remarkable. — That’s not to say that our other favourite directors like the Coen Brothers or Gus Van Sant disappointed, they just didn’t leave as much of an impression.

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

One Day In Europe

Europe is growing and growing together and in One Day in Europe we get to see both. The film takes places in four European cities: Moscow, Istanbul, Santiago de Compostela and Berlin. And in these four episodes which all take place at the same time – while a football match between Istanbul and a Spanish team is running in Moscow we see some crime happening: Either something being stolen from the protagonists or the protagonists pretending something was stolen from them in the hope to get reimbursed by their insurance.

We hear a wild mix of languages being spoken – ranging from the situation in Moscow where the English businesswoman feels totally entitled to being spoken to in her mother tongue while everybody else is happy speaking Russian. Yet, an old lady helps her and they communicate rather well across the language barrier. This goes all the way to the ironic situation that the German crook who pretends to have been robbed in Istanbul gets helped by a cab driver who used to live in Germany as a well and speaks a funny local German accent.

While people in the various countries may be very different, a common theme seems to be that they enjoy watching football matches and are unlikely to be helpful while they are on. A strange continent it is…

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

Alles auf Zucker

Alles auf Zucker (Go for Zucker!) is a German comedy from a few years back. A guy, Zucker, lives in Berlin and is a bit of a semi-crook, reunification-loser and has just been kicked out by his wife when a telegram arrives that his mum died and his family are coming over. His wife and kids don’t even know about his family who had moved to the West before reunification and it turns out they are jewish and somewhat serious about it. So there we are for a bit of religious piss-take comedy when it comes to sticking to the rules – which is what Zucker and his brother are supposed to do so they can be elegible for the inheritance.

As Zucker’s problems are too big to stick to those rules and he seriously needs some money to pay his debts he makes an effort to sneak out of the proceedings to play in a pool tournament where he hopes to win the money he needs. Of course none of these plans work out properly but in the end we manage to arrive at a situation where the whole family does come together and no real harm is done.

Harmonic! And still quite funny in the process.

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


Hitchcock, Bergman, Peck — probably all fairly good reasons to make Spellbound worth seeing. But I hadn’t heard about it until recently when learning that Dalí had contributed ideas to the dream sequence at the exhibition about Dalí and film in London.

And it’s a fairly good film. With some psychoanalysis happening. With psycho-professionals digging through dreams to find out what happened to a guy with amnesia who was supposed to be a murderer. Choice quote by the mentor of Ingrid Bergman’s character, Dr. Peterson: Women make great analysts before they fall in love and great patients after they’ve fallen in love. Dr. Peterson is on her way to becoming a good patient at the time. But luckily thing stay just in control…

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

Planet Terror

After liking Tarantino’s Death Proof ‘Grindhouse’ part, it was obligatory to also worship Robert Rodriguez and his half of the game, Planet Terror. Planet Terror takes the classical zombie route of trash films and shows us some crazy chemical which turns people in zombies. And as some region in Texas gets hurt by that we can witness the reaction of the doctors at the local hospital in dealing with wounded people whose arms and legs just rot away quickly and cry for amputation. Self-preservation comes to mind.

Whether it’s the replacement of a lost limb by a gun or the quest for the perfect barbecue sauce, none of these stands in the way of temporarily defeating the zombies and a number of laughs are placed on the route to the somewhat happy, yet slightly ironic end. Even for someone who isn’t too fond of zombie films, this is good entertainment. Though not quite as striking as Death Proof.

The film was preceded by one of the trailers, Machete, that ran in the American ‘Grindhouse’ combination - fun! -, it sported a bit of Nouvelle Vague soundtrack and the closing credits looked like an effort to demonstrate that halation doesn’t do the readability of Helvetica any favours.

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


La Flor de mi Secreto (The Flower of my secret) is a so-so Almodóvar film about a woman in a a failing marriage who secretly writes kitsch novels; In contrast, I thought that ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!! (What have I done to deserve this?!) was an unusually light and funny film for Almodóvar which features a somewhat deranged family with struggling mother, her taxi-driver husband who keeps dreaming of a German singer he worked for, her fourteen year old son who peddles dope, her even younger son who has relationships with men, her prostitute neighbour. Add to that the grumpy mother-in-law, a lizard and another neighbour who hates her daughter with psychic abilities and you’ll be entertained for a while.

Once more the strange thing is that despite the somewhat fucked up biographies, the people in the film seem so normal. They’re living their lives, trying to do so well and doing their best to get along.

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


And after a very long time time I saw Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life again. I keep forgetting about that film’s grosser parts luckily and, yes, these films do age visibly. Still very enjoyable: Agatha Christie’s Murder on Orient Express, directed by Sidney Lumet. What a brilliant idea for a murder story. Highly Recommended as well The Work of director Michel Gondry, which not only contains all those brilliant video clips but plenty of talking, weird ideas and so on. Genius.

Finally, one of the better pieces of TV that should be constantly re-watched is the recording of Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations. While this is brilliant to listen to, it’s even better to watch as somehow even his hands move with such great clarity. This is definitely something where media being better than an ageing VHS tape recording might be beneficial. I found that image and sound seemed ever-so-slightly out-of-sync.

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

November 2, 2007, 9:41

Tagged as agatha christie, alexander payne, alles auf zucker, babettes gæstebud, bella martha, coen brothers, film, glenn gould, goldberg variations, gregory peck, gus van sant, helvetica, hitchcock, ingrid bergman, meaning of life, michel gondry, monty python, murder on orient express, one day in europe, paris, paris je t'aime, pedro almodóvar, planet terror, qué he hecho yo para merecer esto, ratatouille, robert rodriguez, salvador dalí, sidney lumet, spellbound.


Comment by g: User icon

I thought the Machete trailer was the highlight of the movie.

Well, except for the bit when the British guy pops his head around the block near the end, and that bit when Bruce Willis starts to talk about killing Osama. And then there was that bit when the little kid was given the gun…

November 2, 2007, 14:42

Comment by ssp: User icon

The gun bit was fun. I totally expected him to do it after his mum had told im (I think it’s called NLP), but I also expected her to reach the house first.

November 2, 2007, 19:30

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