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Thread: BERLIN & BEYOND Mar. 2024

  1. #1
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    Jul 2002
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    BERLIN & BEYOND Mar. 2024

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-09-2024 at 09:16 PM.

  2. #2
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    Jul 2002
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    ONE FOR THE ROAD (Markus Goller 2023)



    Too much fun

    By night, Mark (Frederick Lau) is a gnarly, energetic 35-year-old heavy drinking denizen of Berlin's lively bar and party nightlife. By day, if he can pull himself together, he is a highly accomplished and respected construction boss with a reputation for fair dealing and mastery of the job. The coordination of these two incompatibles begins to stop working, as it must. The fracture begins, along with the action of this film, when Mark tries to move his SUV out of a no parking zone while drunk and gets a DUI and a suspended license.

    Mark starts riding a bike, which if anything is even more dangerous when you're drunk. He is also forced to attend a class taught by a guru-like recovering alcoholic, Dr. Blau (Godehard Giese). Props to director Markus Goller for differentiating some of the other class members. Mark tells Dr. Blau the sole reason he's in this class is to get his license back. He'll acknowledge he has another reason - that he has a problem with alcohol - only toward film's end. The change of viewpoint comes about partly through his involvement with a fellow DUI pupil, Helena (Nora Tschirner). Partly he simply develops self awareness and wises up.

    You watch this film for the gutsy performance of Frederick Lau in the lead and the intensity of the scenes. Lau is fearless and convincing in his depiction of Mark's drunken excesses, which are usually public. There's more drunken behavior than is comfortable to watch. This would seem almost an instructional film about alcoholism, addiction, and recovery, if such a film were really well made and well acted. Only it fails to touch on all the main points of addiction and recovery. There is nothing about twelve step or other peer-support recovery programs based on total abstinence and continuing lifelong regular meetings. One can't say one misses the by now familiar movie ritual of folding chairs in a circle and addicts sharing, kept to a minimum here. But anyone familiar with addiction and recovery will feel uncomfortable with the impression given here that a hard core alcoholic can be expected to recover on his own or without more organized follow-up.

    Burak Yigit gives a strong performance as Nadim, Mark's best friend. Nadim seems to be able to drink a lot, participate in Berlin's fabled night life, yet somehow keep it a wholesome, enriching part of life, or seeming that way. With Nadim one pictures a good meal, a choice bottle, and a tall crystal glass, savoring the bouquet before taking a swallow. With Mark the image is of running around, gulping from the bottle, and getting messy; and sometimes, like when he relieves himself on an antique chair thinking it's a toilet seat, falling into embarrassing, even disgusting behavior he's unaware of during his nightly binges and after they have happened.

    Mark and other members of Dr. Blau's class can't remember such actions or deny they ever happened, like the elderly woman who insists she never drinks more than two glasses of wine of an evening, when a very high blood alcohol count for her is on the record.

    Helena and Mark are partners in defiance, but after Mark struggles with his bet against Nadim that he can stay sober for three months and can't get past 27 days, despite all the feisty lap-swimming and smoothie quaffing, Mark and Helena team up to help each other stay sober. That project also ends very badly.

    This is a movie in which a lot happens, and yet nothing happens: just getting drunk, getting sober, getting drunk, and getting sober again. But along the way lessons are learned. And the circles of folding chairs and the shares in the church basement and the story of lifetime recovery are avoided - for better or for worse.

    Though there is a pithy AA saying that the only meeting you're ever late for is your first one, the road to sobriety, in real life, is usually long. But given the repetition in the plot, it's not surprising that viewers have found One for the Road's run time to be longer than necessary. They seem to differ on what that run time is, giving 105 and 115 minutes. The version I saw appeared to clock in at 155.

    Nonetheless, it's worthwhile stuff, especially if alcoholism interests you and/or has played a part in your life. But I noticed that Godehard Giese played an important role in Christian Petzold's 2018 film Transit (with the remarkable Franz Rogowski in the lead), a film one critic described as like "Casablanca, if written by Kafka." That is a German film of another level, a film that puzzles, surprises and haunts you.

    One for the Road, 155 mins., was screened for this review as part of the 28th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, presented by the Goethe-Institut San Francisco, will run April 18-20, 2024 at the historic Roxie Theater in San Francisco's Mission District, and April 21-22, 2024 at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley. It was the Opening Night film and its North American premiere with Markus Goller as a special guest. It opened theatrically in Germany October 26, 2023. Showtimes:
    Apr. 18, 2024 at 6:00 PM – Roxie Theater, San Francisco
    April 22, 2024 at 5:30 PM – Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, Berkeley
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-04-2024 at 10:14 PM.

  3. #3
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    Jul 2002
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    WEEKEND REBELS (Marc Rothemund 2023)



    A special bonding story

    Movies and TV surrounding autism or Asperger's are popular nowadays, and here is an engaging, rather offbeat cinematic German entry in the genre. An award-winning blog followed by Mirco von Juterczenka’s bestselling novel Wir Wochenendrebellen lie behind Weekend Rebels, based on real experiences that nonetheless sometimes feel implausible, though the story winds up being rousing and sports-centered, an unusually vivid picture of the popularity of German and European football/soccer (it's amazing), and an involving exploration of what it's like to be a kid with autism, and to be the parents of one.

    Jason (Cecilio Andresen, touching), who in the main action is ten, has trouble fitting in in the main stream school he insists on attending, and his tantrums and outbursts are causing too frequent disturbances. He refuses to switch to a special needs school, but to stay where he is he has to modify his behavior. He reaches an agreement with his loving Papi/Dad Mirco (Florian David Fitz) and his mom Fatime (Aylin Tezel) that he will control his behavior, provided Papi takes him around to see all 50+ of two top level football (soccer) teams of the country in action in their stadiums, so he can pick a personal favorite, prerequisite to being accepted by the other kids at the school.

    How could a ten-year-old autistic boy endure traveling around Germany and Europe watching football games in large noisy crowds? He is made skittish, often disturbed merely by abrupt noises every day just walking down the hall of his school. And typical for an autistic person, he avoids physical contact, follows strict sets of rules, is disturbed by changes in routine, and avoids physical contact. Even his mother can kiss him only on the top of his head. Somehow it seems he is able to endure with his father the big noise of massive football crowds of a hundred thousand singing, chanting fans, though clearly it's a struggle for him at times, and Mirko must create a real or imaginary bubble around him.

    An Asperger's kid, we learn here, survives by working within a network of elaborate self-created rules. Deviations from routine can lead to a tantrum by Jason. He can also be a pain, loudly lecturing "normie" classmates he thinks stupid, and in a lone foray into playing soccer himself, humiliating a young goalie he thinks clumsy and making him cry. In a train compartment on the way to the first big match he has a fit in front of the waiter and other passengers when his noddles and tomatoe sauce are served minimally, infinitesimally touching each other: they get kicked off the train.

    But Jason is super-bright, of course, though not an idiot savant like "Rainman" whom he imitates once as a joke: he's already an expert on astronomy, black holes, and such, and minute to minute, even when he has an obnoxious spell of rudely abusing someone, the gifted Cecilio Andresen makes us impressed with Jason's passion.

    Partly the reason he can do the stadium visits obviously is the special motivation of peer acceptance at the end of the process. All this is so that in finding - within the strict requirements - no silly mascot, no overly colorful uniforms or mismatched shoes, etc., etc., etc.; many, many other rules. - a personal favorite team, he can be accepted by the other kids. Partly also there is clearly the mutual satisfaction of bonding with his Papy, a food services supervisor who has a busy and intense travel schedule of his own, and who tirelessly travels with Jason, resulting in a unique sense of being "weekend rebels" together.

    This winds up feeling a bit out of left field, with an Asperger's tale that becomes most memorable for its sequence of duo entries into thundering stadiums. I won't forget the little smile of pleasure on Jason's face as they come into each stadium and view the different crowds with their distinctive colors and rituals. It's obvious Jason doesn't just want to belong, but is thrilled by the massive crowds and the rousing games - even though he seems, once seated, mostly focused on how his ruleS are met, which has nothing to do with quality of play. Otherwise, the film loses sight of aspects of the family: for instance, there is a new baby, but it feels like a doll at the table, because all focus is on Jason. This film is all offbeat and odd. But there's warmth in it too. And how can a story about autism not be odd? Autistic folks are just different.

    Weekend Rebels, 95 mins., was screened as part of Berlin & Bdyond in San Francisco and Berkeley, April 2024. Showtimes:
    Apr. 19, 2024 at 10:00 AM – Roxie Theater, San Francisco (Invitation Only)
    Apr. 19, 2024 at 12:45 PM – Roxie Theater, San Francisco (Invitation Only)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-10-2024 at 01:08 PM.

  4. #4
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    Jul 2002
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    Boys in the hood, Berliner style

    Four teenage buds, (Lukas (Levy Rico Arkos), Julius (Vincent Wiemer), Gino (Luis Klein-Hessling), and Sanchez (Aaron Maldonado Morales) - the young actors all vivid first-timers, are trying to survive in the Neukölln, Berlin (Gropius) projects, amid drugs, gangs, violence, rap, poverty, and and boredom. The film finds them at a turning point, when they get into a bigger mess than usual and have big choices to make. From the Letterboxd testimonials, though a simple enough banlieue tale, this is much appreciated, because it is a subject rarely if ever seen treated in German cinema. And it has an appropriate breathless intensity and a smooth mix of coming of age and action-crime genres. The film is based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Felix Lobrecht, who collaborated on the adaptation with the director.

    These Berlin projects are as bad as the Paris banlieue, but the complex was designed by none other than Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, and is accordingly called Gropiusstadt, Gropius for short. On the ground, there are warring drug dealers who are Arab, Turkish and Black, and dominate the courtyard the boys must pass through.

    It is the hot summer of 2003. First off, we see Lukas get badly beaten in the face when he and his two best pals Julius and Gino try to get past the drug dealers, and he wimps out. His cool older brother Marco (Luvre47) tells him when attacked, to fight back. HIs father says the opposite. What is clear is that Lukas is not a tough, but a smart kid: his teacher compliments his essay and says he has linguistic talent. The three pals gain a new memeber when a new student coomes to class, Sanchez (Aaron Maldonado Morales), who is half Cuban and identifies as not Black but Caribbean. They're soon enough nearly inseparable. Only, the infectious biolence of the place invades their relationships aming themselves, and while Lukas is smart and a schemer, though cowardly, Julius has a dangerous violent and heedless quality.

    Debts and a longing not to be so poor lead Lukas to suggest their big project, in what could be seen as an updated version of Antoine Doinel's pinched typewriter in The 400 Blows, to steal a collection of valuable new computers at their school waiting to be used in classes. And they do this, getting via stolen keys and coming away with a lot of the computers in gtheir boxes loaded on a big grocery cart. Unleading them proves less easy. The theft is high profile. Things do not go well.

    What does go well is this film. It does not reinvent the wheel, but it is colorful, handsomely photographed by DoP Jieun Yi, maintains energy and excitement throughout, and reportedly adds scenes not in the book, providing background on each of the boys' home situations. The young actors are well cast. The locations are filled with local Gropiusstadt people, highlighted by other rappers, and the sound track is rich in German rap music. This is a creditable effort, and for the German audience is already spoken of as destined to be a cult classic. Its future for an international audience is vague.

    Sun and Concrete/Sonne und Beton, 119 mins., debuted at the Barlinale Feb. 18, 2023;Singapore Oct. 19. Screened for this review as part of the 28th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, presented by the Goethe-Institut San Francisco, will run April 18-20, 2024 at the historic Roxie Theater in San Francisco's Mission District, and April 21-22, 2024 at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley. It was the Opening Night film and its North American premiere with Markus Goller as a special guest. It opened theatrically in Germany October 26, 2023. Berlin &. Beyond Showtimes: To be announced.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-09-2024 at 10:56 PM.

  5. #5
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    Jul 2002
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    INGEBORG BACHMAN: JOURNEY INTO THE DESERT (Margarethe von Trotta 2023)



    Portrait of a major Austrian 20th-century literary figure excels in externals but lacks deep conviction

    Letterboxed comment says "Ingeborg Bachmann was one of the most brilliant writers of the 20th century and one of the most important poets in the German language. Hardly any other author has played so radically with language and relentlessly illuminated personal abysses. Margarethe von Trotta degrades the artist to a pale blonde in the midst of a banal jealousy farce.... Krieps, one of the rising stars of European cinema, plays Bachmann with an expressionlessness as if she were rehearsing for a Buster Keaton portrait."

    A TLS article on the 50th anniversary of her death in Oct. 2023 says that "Despite her extraordinary fame in the postwar years in Germany, much about [Bachman] remains mysterious."
    Nonetheless, recent years have revealed considerably more about her life, particularly with regard to her many intimate relationships. The publication in 2004 of her correspondence with the German composer Hans Werner Henze (Basil Eidenbenz), shed light on her longest and closest friendship, while the publication in 2008 of her letters to and from Paul Celan revealed their love affair in the 1950s as foundational to their growth and later success as poets. Last year’s publication of her correspondence with Max Frisch (reviewed in the TLS, 2023) went even further, revising the standard portrait of Bachmann as a helpless victim of Frisch’s cold-hearted abandonment in 1962 by making clear how she also sabotaged their fitful four-year relationship through other love affairs and constant travel.
    This film may be seen as a patchwork built up out of those recent discoveries, with added emphasis on the writer's love of Rome, where she lived much of her life, and her longing for the desert. That she died an alcoholic and barbiturate addict following setting fire to herself and suffering serious burns, at 47, is left out, while the film hihts that she died a Harry Crosby-style "sun death into sun" fading into the heat of the desert. She died in Rome. The main focus holding together the film is her four-year liaison with the Swiss playwright Max Frisch (Andorra, Homo Faber), whom the actor playing him here, an assured, hefty Ronald Zehrfeld, closely resembles; but his role here is what turns the film into what the Letterboxd reviewer calls a "banal jealousy farce."

    It's not just that. There was the trouble of two ambitious and famous writers consuming too much oxygen in the room for the other to survive and be creative. Here the clatter of the one-finger typing by Frisch on his olivetti typewriter drives Bachman nuts; then after she burns his diary full of observations about her, which she feels turns her into a laboratory specimen, destroyed his freedom to write. Meanwhile she was constantly traveling and involved with other men, such as the Italian war poet and literary star Giuseppe Ungaretti (Renato Carpentieri) in Rome, and the composer and collaborator Heinz Werner Henze (Basil Eidenbenz) and the wwriter Adoph Opel (Tobias Resch), the young Viennese writer and filmmaker with whom she traveled to Egypt and to the desert and shared at least one scene of group polyamory with two beautiful young Arab men (Sallar Othman, Abudy Ary).

    As Bachman Vicky Krieps may look right. She's certainly well dressed. But it's hard to conceive her as the kind of intellectual Ingeborg Bachman was, and apart from that, comments that people adored Bachman's voice at readings and recitations of her work sound odd when we hear Krieps' thin, reedy tones. Reports are the real Bachman's vocal equipment was strong and resonant, and doubtless her reading technique dramatic, rhythmic, compelling. The dramatized public readings that occur periodically in the film fall flat and one is surprised when the end with standing ovations.

    Some not-too-critical viewers looking for the dramatization of famous European midcentury cultural figures may be satisfied by this film. The flats people live, meet, and squabble in are truly inviting - as are the costumes, especially Ingeborg's handsome frocks and necklaces; even the rotary telephones are fun and nostalgic to look at. There are scenes of driving through a lovely Swiss landscape in a black VW Bug; Roman interiors are grand and worthy.

    The editing of the film applies a chronological cut-up technique: events are presented out of order, rearranged. Intriguing at first, this structure winds up dampening the tension. Superficial aspects of the film are fine. It's the deep underpinning that seems lacking, and this explains why some well-informed local critics expressed profound disappointment. So the jury is dubious about this one.

    Ingeborg Bachman: Journey into the Desert/Ingeborg Bachman: Reise in die Wüste , 111 mins., debuted at the Berlinale Feb. 19, 2023; also showed at HongKong, Istanbul, Beijing, Seattle, Shanghai, Zurich, and other international festivals. Screened for this review as part of the 28th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, presented by the Goethe-Institut San Francisco, will run April 18-20, 2024 at the historic Roxie Theater in San Francisco's Mission District, and April 21-22, 2024 at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley.
    Apr. 20, 2024 at 6:30 PM – Roxie Theater, San Francisco
    April 22, 2024 at 7:45 PM – Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, Berkeley
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-09-2024 at 11:07 PM.

  6. #6
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    Jul 2002
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    SOPHIA, DEATH AND ME (Charly Hübner 2023)



    Complications when Death comes calling, and gets delayed

    After a restless night, Reiner (Dimitrij Schaad), a thirty-something caregiver who lives alone, is surprised by Morten de Sarg (Marc Hosemann), his own death sent down from on high to take him away, and no stalling. But Rainer can't believe it, the three-minute time limit passes, and Morten lingers on for the moment useless, awaiting further orders one supposes, with Rainer still alive. Soon after, Sophia (Anna Maria Mühe), Rainer's ex, comes to take him to visit his mother Lore (Johanna Gastdorf) for her birthday. From now on Morten, Rainer's death, must stay within 300 meters at all times, or Sophia will die, because they have inadvertently touched, and Morten must not let Rainer out of his sight.

    Later the four of them, Rainer, Sophia, his mother, and his death, go north on a road trip to see Reiner's seven-year-old son Johnny (Mateo Kanngießer), whom he hasn't seen for a long time, though he sends him a postcard every day with a cartoon drawing and a P.s. at the end: "Johnny be good." And this becomes a road picture about family reunion and love's renewal.

    Forces from above send a tougher, grimmer archangel, Mork Mortius (Carlo Ljubek) to deliver Rainer's death. But Morten won't have his power usurped, and a battle of the titans (more petty than godly) occurs - thus giving Rainer another reprieve. This debut feature by Charly Hubner, which is based on a novel by musician Thees Uhlmann, in one way makes one think of Hollywood films of the thirties and forties, and on the other hand with its deadpan humor and confidently drab surroundings - perhaps the Northern German too - seems the most German thing included in this year's San Francisco Berlin & Beyond festival. And yet the film also makes one think a little of the Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki. Anyway, the humor is presumably subtly deadpan, with a risk of things being lost in translation sometimes.

    The film lacks Aki Kaurismäki's sweet sentimentality, except that when the odd foursome stop at a rural hotel whose tall, deadpan proprietor is none other than director Charly Hübner, Sophia and Rainer feel a reawakening of their former flame and take the honeymoon suite for some loving, while Rainer's still around.

    The northern German dialect throughout reportedly adds dry humor to the situation comedy and wordplay, while the songs by Swiss duo Steiner & Madlaina with their harmonious voices and rich Western guitar sound round off the road movie.

    A part of the humorous ultimate paraphernalia is Erzengel Michaela (Lina Beckmann) who assigns other like endowed creatures to announce their deaths to people; and, above her, a big blowsy Harold Bloom type known as G. (Josef Ostendorf). They are on earth for a while too: G. insists he could drive the car, because he can do anything, but he just doesn't want to. The memory that will linger is the brief encounter with the boy Johnny - though it is kept teasingly vague whether they do meet or Rainer just imagines over and over how they will and what he will say. The gesture of the daily postcards is especially touching in this era of snapchat and test messages.

    Sophia, Death and Me/Sophia, der Tod und ich, 98 mins., debuted in Germany Aug. 31, 2023. Screened for this review as part of the 28th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, presented by the Goethe-Institut San Francisco, will run April 18-20, 2024 at the historic Roxie Theater in San Francisco's Mission District, and April 21-22, 2024 at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley. Showtime
    April 20, 2024
    9:00 PM
    Roxie, San Francisco
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-09-2024 at 08:15 PM.

  7. #7
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    HAO ARE YOU (Dieu Hao Do 2023)



    Chasing a diaspora

    In this documentary the filmmaker, Dieu Hao Do, who was born and makes his mome in in Germany, presents the fruits of extensive travels and researches into seven members, and hence branches, of his family, whose members fled from Vietnam where they lived as part of the Chinese minority, in 1975, when the south fell to the communists. Do's explorations take him from Germany to Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and back to Vietnam, where family members remain. They all seem to squabble and complain. Largely out of contact with each other now, relations having broken down, they remain angry, nearly a half century later.

    His mother blames communism, his uncle an inheritance dispute, the others fall silent. How have traumas from persecution and violence inscribed themselves on the bodies and souls of the survivors and their children? After the Fall of Saigon on April 30 in 1975, more than 1.5 million people fled the communist regime. (Quoting from the blurb.)

    Do has noted at the outset that "Germans don't like family stories." The reason: the war. His own family story may not like being told. The Germans he meets "are completely one-dimensional beings who chatter about today, about (…) having children, about designer furniture, the techno hype and the new Vietnamese restaurant around the corner. But they are obviously not interested in yesterday, they do not see themselves as a chain, they do not see themselves as torchbearers of a tradition that goes back in a fascinating way into the past." He seeks to take a different path.

    One cannot but admire the alacrity and determination with which the filmmaker, who uses German, Chinese, and English to communicate with relatives, has pursued his researches over three continents with such evidently unenthusiastic interlocutors. But the interviews sometimes are fragmentary, or drastically edited, and after a while, being not very good at keeping family relationships straight at the best of times, inn this overlapping jumble of far flung and disjointed uncles and aunts and cousins, my mind began to glaze over; I lost track, and stopped caring. They became angry loners. Do needed color coding, chapters, or a number system - anything to keep people straight. A diagram would have helped.

    Patrick Kittler, a German reviewer, on Kino Zeit, comments of this film: "It is permeated too much by an almost pedagogical distance, and one would have wished that the author's passionate voice could be felt more strongly here. As in the plot of the documentary itself, Do tries so hard to unite all family poles in such an unbiased way that it is not really clear what he actually wants to tell. At some point you lose track of who is at odds with whom, until the documentary becomes almost luridly private." One feels that he needed to connect more closely to any relatives who would let him in, and that he is approachig each one in the same way, like an interviewer, rather than a blood relative. Does he ever find a connection, or is he still seeking it?

    The film poster, depicting the filmmaker dyed blue with family members pouring out of his head, is striking and handsome. Do exercises admirable caution in dealing with his older relatives.

    Do also contributed to a humorous 2018 web comedy series about the miscellaneous English-speaking Berlin expat population, called "Just Push Abuba."
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-09-2024 at 09:15 PM.


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