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Monthly Archives: October 2006

That was an effort: to start into the movie without too many prejudices, without too much sure knowledge that a co-work between anybody and Eichinger can only result in something that is more Eichinger than anybody. It is actually a bit of a waste to use a talented director such as Tykwer just to hide him behind Eichinger’s creative ambitions. The fate of "Memoirs of a Geisha" looming around the corner, the fate of "Harry Potter" – films that try to match the book, but only manage to film some bits of it and never go beyond (see comments below, no need to repeat). The image of Perfume I had in mind was already very clear, I guess partly because Suskind is a writer who cannot but write "audiovisually" – once scriptwriter, always scriptwriter, I guess. The dirt and stench of Paris, the smells and colours of Grasse, the hair of the virgins, the method of stealing their odour – the images are already in the book, and whoever films it needs to stick very closely, because deviation would be fatal.

So Tykwer never deviates. There are a few moments where he uses some interesting imagery or sound-image combination (my favourite scene is Grenouille’s awakening right after he is born, also the scene near the end where he follows his final victim by nose while standing atop a hill, filmed in stroboscobic images), but there are not really very many interesting additions to the text. But given the starting point, I have to say that I was suprisingly entertained. I actually savoured the pictures following the words closely and well-made, while whenever an additional element was introduced, I felt rather annoyed. That said, I am not sure whether the "12 bases" of a perfume have really been in the book – they look like a simplistic construction to give some structure to the murders, and to make the 13th ingredient one more special (or rather: differently) special from what it is.

Grenouille himself is maybe a bit too pretty and not sufficiently deformed, but still he’s good. Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman do their best not to overact. All the red-haired girls are gorgeous and give excellent excuses for displaying 18th century dress codes with breasts pouring out like delicious vanilla pudding. Maybe these dresses are the real reason why somebody had to make a film out of it ;-).

Interesting that I expected to find a documentary “in the style of” Fahrenheit 9/11, but it is a regular fictional movie, more in the style of The Insider or Wag the Dog. The surprise aside, I had relatively high expectations, high praise came from the media. To sum it up: the film is not as hilarious as it could be, but’s it is a pleasantly mean comedy that also tackles a bit of the strangeness US society is infamous for. Not too much, though. I had the impression that this internal criticism never goes beyond the threshold that still allows your own industries to smile about their respective vices (alcohol, tobacco, arms). The main actor (Aaron Eckhar) is pretty good, does not overact and actually has some sympathetic streaks. Robert Duvall keeps on dying on screen in style (as the president of BigTobacco) and remains a monument. William H. Macy’s part as a Senator With A Mission is a bit wasted, as he does not get too much screen time. The promise of a future product placement campaign with smoking and copulating Brangelinas is something we are looking forward to.

Kermode’s Review

Seen it, done it. I actually think that watching it the second time is less disappointing than seeing it for the first time. I remember that initially I expected an excessively cool movie, with excessively cool actors. Both did not prove to be right the first time, but with the more realistic approach now and also with the interesting knowledge about why such a talented director does this kind of “thing” (from “Down and Dirty Pictures”), it’s very releaxed fun on those days when you are too tired to read and too bored to sleep…

three weeks after seeing it memory is more or less blurred, not a good sign. I remember praising the high optical quality immediately after watching it, with atmospheric lighting and cinematography. The opening sequence I remember well, which is good but not very innovative form of grabbing the audience’s attention. A little bit of "Seven" comes not just through the serial-deeds, but also through the young-cop / old-cop situation. There are skin collectors and dealers and drug addicts who need to sell anything for a next fix. There is the father-trauma that causes irrationality. Everything’s there’s as if designed out of the handbook for young thriller authors. That means that the film leaves me back with too little excitement, but a feeling that tv movies look really cool these days…

German review:

German film double feature: Before I saw “Sommer vorm Balkon”, I was very (!) pleased to lay hands onRequiem“, another film based on the story of a university youngster whos plans and dreams for independence falls victim to religious craze, established traditions and epileptic fits. The film is not just very good, it is in particular very interesting. It plays with viewerssympathies for the main character, because that girl is not just a darling and tries to break out of her 1950s village prison. She is also religious in way that is odd to observe and that makes her considerably harder to respect. She is caught between the fanaticism of her mother and the complete agnosticism of her father, who would do anythingworship God or the Devil – just to maintain some form of family peace. But his daughter wants serious signs of God‘s support, and she wants an independent live, and she wants God‘s help when she asks for it, and she wants to be cured, and she wants a normal live just like her buddies at university. Her boyfriend finds that appealing for a while, but it is quite clear that he will not be able to protect her from her religion and her family.

The film appears a bit undecided on whether to show life in the 50s or 60s, with all the troubles a sick girl will experience, or whether it really wants to go for the Excorcist story, with screaming and spitting and praying and dying. Both domains are mixed a bit half-heartedly, and when she surrenders and does not believe in her ability to live independently of God‘s system anymore, the end titles jump in. That‘s a bit strange, but maybe a necessary decision given all those US productions visualising the last instances of her life in full colour.

here is sheer enthusiasm on part of the BBC site to be found

Andreas Dresen is, beyond any doubt, the German filmmaker whose movies have given me the most joy over the last years. Not just joy about seeing one particularly good film, but even more: joy about the state of German cinema. A cinema industry that is able to have films like “Halbe Treppe”, “Herr Wichmann von der CDU” and “Willenbrock” produced in such a short period of time must be a good industry, indeed. There have been films by German authors in the last decade that may have equalled the qualities of the Dresen oeuvre (those by Hans-Christian Schmid, and by Christian Paetzold, in particular) – but save the time for looking for better films, because a film cannot be better than “Halbe Treppe”. Period.
Dresen’s latest film about two merry losers in the not-so-jolly areas of Berlin is definitely in line with this established quality. The characters are strong and they are all very sympathetic, easy to understand and easier to like the way you like acquaintances: by assuming that they are good people. Dwelling into the deeper layers may bring about some not so pleasant characteristics (such as the aggression upon being confronted with one’s own suppressed alcoholism and the fact that this puts you into a line with people with whom you never wanted to identify), but that is just the way it is with acquaintances: how many people do you need to meet in order to find someone you really trust and like in all his / her ways?
When you follow these characters through their summer, you learn about the lightness of being, about the unpleasant sides of people (old and young), about – that’s what I liked most – the humanity rule number 1: that never mind what happens and how somebody behaves, you should always be prepared to allow for a second chance, to understand that you are not the perfect morality instance yourself, to just go on and hope for a happier instance around the corner.
I admit that the girls that are at the centre of “Sommer…” are not half as interesting to me as the people from “Halbe Treppe” or as “Willenbrock”. They story, to be honest, has too much of the partnership hysteria that apparently is a must in today’s city life. But as that’s the way it is, and as Dresen and his author manage to capture that way in a very lively fashion, it is still a great pleasure watching it. Berlin fans will also like the city images. I have to say it’s not a Berlin film, it could play anywhere where dull surroundings meet flickers of hope.

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