Death in Stockholm

Talk about serendipity – there I was in Stockholm on 14 July, the day that would have been Ingmar Bergman’s 100th birthday, and they were showing The Seventh Seal. What better way to enjoy a hot summer afternoon on vacation than to spend it in the company of a knight undergoing an existential crisis and the Grim Reaper himself?

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The Rear-View Mirror: Swiss Army Man (2016)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Swiss Army Man is one of those movies that I didn’t think much of at the time, but my mind kept going back to it a surprising number of times, even now, two years later, and I am not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s because in my teenage years, I had big problems walking over to a girl and starting a conversation. Hank (Paul Dano) has the same problem, and he seems to be able to create an imaginary friend just when he wants to hang himself on a deserted island. The imaginary friend is a washed-up corpse, dressed in a wet and rumpled suit and played by Daniel Radcliffe. Sometimes quirky is just what the doctor ordered. Continue reading

Sick rom-com, bro!

What makes for a good romantic comedy? To be honest, I may be the wrong person to ask, since I have it on good authority that my narrative preferences lean towards the melancholy, if not the downright depressing. Which probably makes me the last person who should argue the qualities of good romantic comedies. Most entries in the genre strike me as manipulative, dishonest and often toxic in their notions of romance and courtship, not to mention their views on masculinity and femininity. And, last but not least, I have pretty dim views of the genre’s infatuation with phony happily-ever-after tropes.

The Big Sick

So it may not be a huge surprise that what may be my favourite romantic comedy of the last ten years (okay, nine years – I liked (500) Days of Summer quite a bit) revolves around one of the main characters almost dying and being in a medically-induced coma for much of its running time. Nothing more romantic than that, eh?

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Fog of Law

The men walk along the river. It is night. In the distance, the lights of the city glimmer. The man walking behind raises his arm, brings it down again, hard. A muffled sound of impact. The man in front goes down.  The man behind – the murderer – hits his victim again.

Again.

Again.

Once he is done and his victim is dead, he sets fire to the body and watches the flames.

The Third Murder

This is how The Third Murder begins. As may have become clear to the director’s fans: this is not your usual Kore-eda. Continue reading

The Loneliness of the Superstore Employee

There is a strange beauty to it all: the geometry of the almost deserted aisles, the precarious stacks of beer crates, the discrete whoosh of electric pallet carriers zooming to and fro (to “The Blue Danube”, no less!), and all of it during the graveyard shift. In the half-dark, the superstore is less of an abomination that is part supermarket, part warehouse: it is a refuge for the assorted sad sacks and losers that work there, most likely because they wouldn’t find anything else. These are the outskirts of East Germany almost thirty years after Reunification, and the reality is drab and depressing – but at night, in the aisles, you may just find something you don’t have anywhere else: a home.

In den Gängen

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Combing the beach for joie de vivre

Marie Bäumer has been compared to Romy Schneider for so long that it was really only a question of time that she would play her. Emily Atef’s black-and-white 3 Days in Quiberon uses that likeness to great effect, so much so that when I picked the stills for this post, I had to check twice which actor I was looking at. The movie revolves around Schneider’s stay in a rehab resort on the French coast in March 1981, where she wants to give an interview to journalist Michael Jürgs from the German magazine Stern. It seems to be shot at least partly in its original locations. There is history between her and her favorite photographer Robert Lebeck, and she asks one of her friends, Hilde Fritsch, to come and keep her company. For Schneider, any interview was a double-edged sword because she inevitably would be asked about leaving Germany for France, the suicide of her first husband and the custody battle for her son, and of course about the Sissi trilogy. On the other hand, she was eager to go on making movies. Continue reading

We need to talk about Tracy

I was very much looking forward to Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. It took me a while to warm to Anderson’s films, but I fell hard for his stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, even though I first saw it on a tiny screen in a cramped airplane, so the thought of another animated Wes Anderson joint featuring talking animals definitely appealed to me. I was lucky to finally see Isle of Dogs in a magnificent cinema in Florence, Italy – and much of it I enjoyed a lot. The craftsmanship is exquisite, the cinematography inventive and much of the canine characters’ writing and acting funny and endearing.

Isle of Dogs

However, a Fantastic Mr. Fox this ain’t. While the film’s premise is fine, the overall plotting feels like a draft in need of rewrites. The animal characters are quirky and neurotic but they rarely coalesce into something more genuine than the assembly of quirks that Anderson’s characters tend towards at his worst. More than that, though, there is a Tracy-shaped problem that makes you wonder: what was Anderson thinking? Continue reading