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January Films

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This month with Soul Kitchen, Cowboy Bebop, Objectified and A Serious Man.

Soul Kitchen

I enjoyed Fatih Akin’s films in the past, particularly the dramatic Gegen die Wand and from the reviews I knew that his latest œuvre, Soul Kitchen [IMDB, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Website], isn’t quite as great for it has a somewhat non-dramatic story. Yet, I absolutely had to see the film after staying with friends in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg last December and passing the house used as the restaurant in the film in December.

Chef in Soul Kitchen presenting a dish he made

The film centres around two Greek brothers, Zinos and Illias, the former of which runs the poorly going restaurant ‘Soul Kitchen’ which caters to the mediocre tastes of the locals while his brother is in prison. Zinos girlfriend moves to China for her job and Zinos can’t decide whether to give up his restaurant to go with her. With his restaurant becoming better and more popular thanks to a new – and slightly crazy – chef, he decides to stay for the time being and when he finally hands the restaurant to his gambling addicted brother and gets on the plane to China, his girlfriend has found another guy and his brother gambled away the restaurant to a gentrification-loving investor before he returns.

And yet, a new beginning comes along and things may just work out. — A bit cheesy perhaps, but we’ll enjoy the scenery. Be sure to also enjoy the nice graphical closing credits!

A few of Soul Kitchen's Closing Credits

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

Cowboy Bebop

A few years back, I enjoyed watching some episodes of the Cowboy Bebop TV series which Dan gave me. A fun science fiction series about freelancing bounty hunters, a.k.a. Cowboys, the coolest of whom is Cowboy Bebop. I tried to indulge in the feature film made of this as well: Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven’s Door [IDMB] , but – despite a great opening and all cool one would expect – I found it lacking. It seemed like they didn’t manage to span the action throughout a full movie’s length. I’m wondering whether the films they made later on (2005) or in the future (2011) will be better. IMDB comments don’t suggest so.

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


I finally saw Objectified [IMDB, Website], Gary Hustwit’s design-focused follow-up to Helvetica. I was definitely looking forward to this film, but I also suspected it couldn’t live up to the standards set by Helvetica, a film which treated a very specialised topic – typography – at the example of a typeface that manages to be at the same time one of the most remarkable and most humble ones. It managed to show countless examples, serve as an eye-opener and give a voice to a bunch of widely varying opinions on the typeface.

The topic of design is much broader, people have a bit of an idea what it could be about, and hence Objectified lacks the specific focus of Helvetica, the film. While following the same show-object-show-interview-related-to-that-object scheme used in Helvetica, I couldn’t help thinking that, on average, the ‘object designers’ interviewed in the film were more on the wanker side than their typographer / ‘graphic designer’ counterparts in Helvetica. They seemed to have a much harder time stating opinions and presenting coherent arguments for them. Just as many of them seem to have difficulties talking without waving their arms around all the time.

A big issue for designers is (should be?) that their services are mostly used to support the business of selling stuff. A look around our world suggests that ugly unusable crap is the design that the market-intelligence favours. It sells. Like hell. And it litters our environment ecologically, visually and in all other conceivable ways. The film tries to touch that topic in a few places but unfortunately most of the interviewees fail to grasp the topic or go for some kind of lip-commitment to it before quickly returning to more ‘interesting’ subjects. A shame really.

The interviews with the IDEO guys on the birth of software design were particularly interesting and, surprisingly (?) Dieter Rams [Wikipedia, London Design Museum] didn’t fail to impress [Disclaimer: author grew up in a household with great respect for him and Braun’s design]. Should the voice of such an ‘old’ designer be the most outstanding one in a film like Objectified? Particularly if what he’s saying hasn’t changed too much over the past fifty years?

Alarm Clock

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

A Serious Man

This year’s film by the Coen brothers is A Serious Man [IMDB] which unfolds the breaking life of physics professor Larry Gopnik. He has problems, he is religious, his wife is leaving him for an older acquaintance, nobody seems to care too much about the leaving but people do feel sorry for him because of the guy she’s leaving him for; a student tries to bribe him, there’s the risk of him losing his job, but he starts an affair with his neighbour. His son is ‘looking forward’ to his religious initiation while developing a healthy drug habit, and yet, the ritual brings the family back together.

While beautifully depressing, I’m not sure the film’s story is my cup of tea. However, as usual, the film looks great and the Coen brothers attempt to capture the style of an era long passed in the film. Both in terms of the visuals and the fears and hopes people may have had.

And if you’re a bit of a physics geek, you’ll have to watch the film for this split-second that’s also available in the trailer (from looking at the trailer, I’d say the 1920 resolution looks a bit like a waste of pixels):

Massive wall of blackboards in lecture theatre in A Serious Man

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

February 8, 2010, 23:34

Tagged as birol ünel, coen brothers, design, dieter rams, fatih akin, film, gary hustwit, moritz bleibtreu, objectified, serious man, soul kitchen.

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