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February Films

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This month with: Whatever Works, She, a Chinese, Metropolis, Food, Inc..

Whatever Works

In my eternal, yet-not-completed quest of watching all Woody Allen films, I couldn’t skip his latest: Whatever Works [IMDB]. It stars Seinfeld mastermind Larry David in a totally Woody Allen-esque role as weirdo physicist genius Boris who also enjoys commenting to the viewer on what’s going on in the film.

Melody, a naïve young girl who just ran away from the American south and is unfamiliar with Boris’ clever and ironic way of communicating runs into Boris, ends up living at his place and marrying him. This shouldn’t work but, strangely, it does. Whatever works… Melody’s puritan mother arrives soon after and ends up living as an artist with two guys and finally her father also arrives, and soon falls for a guy. I.e. the film’s motto »Whatever Works« is taken very seriously, and gives us a fun bit of entertainment which is too obviously un-subtle in many places.

Boris speaking to the audience at a party with his friends in Whatever Works

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

She, a Chinese

She, a chinese [IMDB] by Guo Xiaolu portrays a chinese girl, Li Mei, who grows up in the Chinese countryside. Rather than being keen on a life there, she dreams of living in the city and leaving the country for the West. And she lives up to those dreams by actually moving there. First to a nearby city where she fails to work in a clothing factory, starts working in a ‘massage’ parlour and then to London where her work is horrible until she gets to know old widower Mr Hunt who eventually marries her, greatly simplifying her life in the UK that way. But she can’t stand that he still loves his deceased wife and starts making out with a fast food worker who treats her badly instead.

It’s an impressive film. Particularly because it keeps tearing you back and forth between thinking that Li Mei is lucky in how things are working out for her and unlucky for the same reasons as she never reaches the better life she had dreamt of. Likewise you keep thinking that she’s relying on her luck a bit too much and voluntarily exposes herself to additional risks all the time. She tolerates the consequence of that without complaints, but she doesn’t seem overly happy with her life either.

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


Without doubt the big cinematic event of the season was the presentation of the newly restored version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis [IMDB, Wikipedia] which is pretty close to the 1927 original thanks to the ‘lost’ scenes that were found in Argentinia two years ago. The film was presented at the Berlinale film festival this month and accompanied by a whole orchestra. Even better, the whole show was broadcast live on arte, creating the ultra-rare occasion for a bunch of us to sit together and watch TV [eek!].

What can I say, the film is great. And the missing scenes helped it make a lot more sense – although I suspect that all the documentary material I read about it helped as well. The difference in quality between the proper ‘original’ and the copy of an original which was in use for decades and from which the missing scenes are supplied now is also baffling.

Even though Metropolis may have been a box-office flop back in the days and even though it’s inconveniently long, it’s still very much worth seeing because it’s amazingly modern and – one suspects – its picture of the modern world influenced many, if not most, other films made since then.

Image from a 'new' scene in Metropolis with scratches

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

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. [IMDB] is a ‘documentary’ about the corporatisation of the food supply in the United States. In a way it summarises what is already written in recent books on the same topic, particularly Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma whose authors also appear in the film. Things are taken beyond the facts by a mother who lost her son due to e. coli in food.

The film does contain some interesting facts on how food is made today and how these methods are hidden from the people who pay for them. It also tries to highlight how poorly politics work in this area where big business meets the basic needs of the people and how this leads to unhealthy food, horrible living conditions for the animals involved, ecological problems and even social problems due to all the manual work having been relegated to the easily exploited poor. A brief detour also discusses how it’s creepy but to a certain extent helpful that big business is getting on the ‘organic’ bandwagon.

As the facts alone are depressing and condemning enough, I thought it was pretty superfluous to try to catch the viewer with the emotional bits as well. But I suppose that’s for the American market.

I wonder how the German food industry fares in comparison. On the one hand I suspect it’s just not as huge and corporate as it’s American equivalent (but trying to get there) and there should be more regulation, less GM stuff and so on. On the other hand, Germans are the people who’ll eat any kind of shit as long as it’s dirt-cheap, so perhaps that gives us a little head-start here…

See also: We feed the world, Unser täglich Brot.

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

March 6, 2010, 11:40

Tagged as eric schlosser, fast food nation, food, food inc, fritz lang, guo xiaolu, larry david, metropolis, michael pollan, omnivore's dilemma, robert kenner, she a chinese, whatever works, woody allen.

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