Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks - Foreign Language Films: German

Written as part of the blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. You should join us - just pick three films that fit the week's theme and tell us about them!

For this week's Thursday Movie Picks, we delve into the wonderful world of Foreign Language films (well, at least, they're foreign to us English-speakers...). Awesome. I love a good foreign language film just as much as I love films in English, and there are many that I hold very dear to my heart. Unfortunately, German films are not an area of expertise for me. I just haven't seen any films from their canon of great filmmakers (Herzog, Fassbinder, etc.), and while I've seen plenty from the silent era (Metropolis, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, etc.), I decided that choosing something without any spoken dialogue would be cheating a bit. BUT! I shall persevere. Here are three wonderful films in German.

Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt, Tom Tykwer, 1998) Tykwer burst onto the scene in 1998 with this blast of fresh air starring the tremendous Franka Potente in a star-is-born performance. Franka is the titular Lola, a young German lass whose boyfriend Manny has gotten stuck on the raw end of a drug deal and must come up with a large sum of money in a short amount of time. He calls Lola and tells her he's going to rob a market to get it. She implores him not to do something so stupid, but the clock is ticking. So she runs. But there are many options open to her around every corner, starting with where to get the money. And each choice she makes has an effect on the people around her, which Tykwer shows us in a series of snapshots after Lola runs into certain people. The film tracks her through three different runs, each with a different outcome but each with the same propulsive energy. In between each run, we see a scene with Lola and Manny in bed, presumably post-coital, talking about what love means to them. If all that sounds like too much, or too pretentious, let me reassure you: It is neither of those things. Everything here is in perfect balance. Run Lola Run is a thinking person's action film for sure, but everyone can enjoy it.

Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin, Wim Wenders, 1987) The angel Damiel is one of many of God's emissaries on Earth, able to hear the thoughts of everyone around him and offer comfort to those who are at the end of their rope. But it's a very lonely existence, because he cannot be seen by anyone except the other angels (who, it must be said, don't seem particularly friendly). And then one day, he sees and falls in love with a trapeze artist. But it cannot be, unless he chooses to become human, one of those beings he watches over that are always in despair. Sound familiar? PLEASE don't judge this gorgeous film by its Americanized version, City of Angels (which starred Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage). This is the real deal, a film about what it means to be human, what it means to be alone even in the most densely populated of cities, and just what it is that makes life worth living.

Summer Storm (Sommersturm, Marco Kreuzpaintner, 2004) One of the better gay films in recent memory, Summer Storm follows Tobi, member of a German rowing team installed at a training camp during the summer in the lead-up to a big regatta. The team is supposed to be camping with a girls' team, but instead gets placed with a gay youth team after the girls cancel. Naturally, this leads to all kinds of youthful exploring and pushing of buttons and boundaries, because Tobi has been hiding his attraction for his best friend and teammate, Achim. It's not a great film, but Summer Storm excellently captures the confusion and searching surrounding youthful sexuality - both gay and straight - in a way very few films seem to grasp. Plus: CUTE boys!

16 comments:

  1. Lass? You must be from t'up north, haha.

    Haven't seen any of your choices, but if you liked Summer Storm I recommend Lilting, a moving film about a man whose lover (also a man) dies in an accident.

    No wait. I have seen Wings of Desire! Great film, but I prefer Paris, Texas.

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    1. I've been DYING to see Lilting. I think I saw it was finally on Netflix Instant recently, if so, it is going in the queue right away!

      Haven't seen Paris, Texas, but I get the feeling I need to.

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  2. Summer Storm sounds like something I'd really enjoy. Adding that to the Netflix Queue!

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    1. It's a really nice film. Interested to hear what you think of it!

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  3. German films aren't an area where I have extensive knowledge either but Run, Lola, Run is one that I've seen and actually included in my list, it was a fun fast film and I agree Franka Potente is great in the lead. I've heard of Wings of Desire but City of Angels looked so nauseatingly puerile I've never pursued the film but now I will. The only Summer Storm I'd ever heard of was the Douglas Sirk directed version of The Shooting Party by that name with Linda Darnell and George Sanders, I'm thinking this is not that! I'll have to seek that out too.

    As I said I really had to search around for titles, I thought of Querelle by Fassbinder but it's in English despite being made in West Germany. Beside Lola the other two I came up with are pretty obscure though The Harmonists in particular is worth seeing. Those two are:

    The Harmonists (1997)-From 1927 to 1934 the Comedian Harmonists were a wildly popular singing sextet who toured extensively throughout Germany. The film's focus is really the trajectory of their career but once the Nazi incursion gains momentum the group's Jewish members aren't allowed to perform in public any longer causing a crisis within the group.

    Taxi zum Klo (1980)-Frank, a closeted high school teacher compulsively cruises for sex in public bathrooms eventually meeting a man he enters into a relationship with, not that it stops his behavior in the slightest. While his lover wants a more permanent arrangement Frank can't stop his wandering ways. How long can it last and how long before his secret becomes known at work? A real snapshot of a bygone era, the hedonistic, freewheeling time just before AIDS firmly clamped the lid on this kind of unfettered behavior shown here, the sex is very explicit and real. Written and directed by the film's star Frank Ripploh this was a succès d'estime winning several critic and festival awards and becoming a cult success during its original release.

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    1. LOL about Summer Storm - this is definitely NOT anything close to Linda Darnell and George Sanders (although based just on that casting I MUST watch it!). It's a very nice film - no great shakes, but as far as gay dramas go, it's much better than the average.

      Oh Querelle... I've seen clips, and it just looks so... fake. I assume it's stylized but I'm holding off on it until I've watched more Fassbinder so I can get a sense of him and hopefully appreciate the film more. Because what I've seen so far of it has NOT been impressive (outside of Brad Davis and Franco Nero's bodies, of course).

      I've not seen either of your other picks, but you've sold me on them. Taxi zum klo keeps popping up in Netflix Instant but I've stayed away for whatever reason. I'll definitely check it out next time I see it!

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    2. Your impression of Querelle is pretty close but you know almost two hours of Brad Davis (and Franco Nero) in skin tight clothes has its perks! Taxi zum Klo is very raw and rough film making but for the look at that moment in time it is fascinating.

      Sirk's Summer Storm was made very early in his American career and doesn't have the flourishes of Written on the Wind or Imitation of Life but some great acting including some of the best work that Edward Everett Horton ever did. It was also a big breakthrough for Linda Darnell giving her the first chance to play something besides the beautiful decorative young thing, although she is breathtaking in the film.

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  4. Yay, another vote for Lola. Love that movie. Haven't seen the others, but they do sound interesting. Been meaning to see Wings of Desire, actually. Good post.

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    1. Wings of Desire is really beautiful. LOVE all the love for Lola this week!

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  5. I love Wings of Desire but had kind of forgotten about it. It really is a great film. I haven't seen the third but will try to track it down.

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  6. I haven't watched any of your film, but this is the first time I heard about Summer Storm. Both gay and straight, eh? Gonna add that to my watchlist.

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    1. It's definitely a pretty good film!

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  7. Run Lola Run is popping up a lot. I've never even heard of it until today. Need to check all these out.

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    1. WAIT. Seriously? I remember it being quite the big deal when it came out, big crossover success. You definitely need to watch it. It's INCREDIBLE. A blast of pure originality.

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    2. I remember the same, that it was a big deal; it was the only reason why I checked it out and turns out I did not like it.

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  8. I've seen your first two, but not Summer Storm. I've never even heard of that one. I'll have to check it out.

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