17 posts categorized "German Cinema"

October 12, 2023

NEKROMANTIK 2 — SHOCKTOBER!

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Nekromantik 2.In the brainwash of modern ideologies it seems apropos that Jörg Buttgereit’s follow-up to his banned 1987 horror film “Nekromantik” would also be prohibited in his mother country of Germany, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, and a slew of other countries. After all, “Nekromantik 2” exploits the same taboo conceit as the original film, namely the erotic and romantic tension between an attractive girl and a corpse. As with the first movie, a real-life boyfriend just gets in the way.

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From a filmmaking standpoint Jörg Buttgereit’s potent stab at transgressive cinema is more in line with the early films of John Waters or David Cronenberg than with the litany of directors associated with torture porn movies of the “Saw” franchise ilk. It would be sad to say that by modern standards, the “Nekromantik” movies are tame by comparison; they are not. Jörg Buttgereit’s consciously low budget approach prods the viewer to question obvious aspects of the film’s production. You might take a believable corpse for granted in a big budget film, but be taken by surprise by the apparent authenticity of the dead body getting all of the attention here. Buttgereit’s convincing Grand Guignol trump card might be one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it works like a charm.

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The film’s title tells you what you need to know. Romance with the dead is a heavy burden in every way imaginable. Set in the downtrodden streets and apartments of East and West Berlin the story picks up with Rob, the abandoned boyfriend from the first film, committing suicide with a knife while achieving orgasm. Death and sex are united. Enter Monika; a fan of Rob’s former exploits with the dead, to dig up his decomposing green body for some quality time between the sheets. Still, Monika learns that necrophilia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Her attempted sex act with what’s left of Rob sends her running to the bathroom to vomit. She chops up the body, bags it up, and returns it to its grave, albeit with one set of naughty bits kept behind in the fridge as a souvenir, or l'objet de fetish if you will, or if you won't.

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A chance meeting at a local cinema delivers Monika into the loving arms of Mark, a voice-over talent for cheap porn movies. As romance seems to grow between the couple, so too does Monika’s recurrent desire to make it with a cadaver.

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It is one thing to show a Hollywood action hero killing an endless army of nameless people, but widely considered beyond the pale to show a character acting out carnal fantasies with a corpse. Sure it’s gross, but is it any worse or better than other popularized filmic expressions of murder or sexual expression? This is one of the essential ideological questions that Buttgereit wrestles with in an ambitious adult horror movie that is as much about the audiences that will never see it as it is about a commercialized culture of war.

German officials have come around to accepting the “Nekromantik” films as works of art, and have since renounced their ban.

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Not Rated. 104 mins. 

4 Stars THE BLOOD OF DRACULA THE BLOOD OF DRACULA Screen Shot 2023-10-12 at 12.35.39 PM THE BLOOD OF DRACULA THE BLOOD OF DRACULAColeSmithey.com

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M — SHOCKTOBER!

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ColeSmithey.comFritz Lang’s first sound picture represented a breakthrough for modern cinema on many levels. A precursor to the serial killer and policier genres, “M” is first and foremost a suspense thriller made all the more gripping because the identity of the killer is revealed in the first act. How the killer is caught, and what happens to him when he is, sets up the film’s socially driven dilemma. A seething atmosphere of brutality hangs over the entire picture.

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In the role that led to his success in Hollywood, Peter Lore plays Hans Beckert, an orally fixated serial killer of children. At the time of its filming Lorre was an accomplished stage actor, famous in Germany for his performances in Bertolt Brecht’s plays. His portrayal in “M” was so persuasive that it typecast him for the rest of his career.

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Lorre’s elusive predator uses candy and balloons to lure kids who are murdered off-screen in a crime-riddled Berlin on the brink of succumbing to the Nazi seizure of power. The tireless fiend obsessively whistles a line from Henrik Ibsen’s Norwegian play “Peer Gynt.” The musical motif acts as a cue when another murder is about to take place.

Lorre’s adopted persona is a man/child seemingly physically and mentally deformed by the culture he is trapped in. Fritz Lang’s expressively layered image system of shadows and reflections resonates in the film’s title, a letter, which can be read the same backwards, as well as forwards. In one memorable scene Becker makes cruel faces with the help of his fingers in a mirror that reflects how he imagines society views him.

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Although filmed on indoor soundstages, the picture’s dynamic visual style juxtaposes detailed aspects of daily German reality to give the film a naturalistic feel. A newsstand holds a plethora of newspapers available to a public driven mad by the lingering effects of World War I and the local killer who robs them regularly of their children. A blind beggar only pretends to be sight-deprived.

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Lang populates the film with variously unappealing character actors. Exaggerated camera angles add to the tension. We see behind the scenes of an impotent police investigation that makes use of state-of-the-art techniques like fingerprints. The projected image of a fingerprint on a police precinct screen captivates the audience.  

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During the short years since World War I, Berlin’s criminals and police held equal sway for their potential to effect quickly orchestrated militarized actions. It is ironic that underground criminals succeed in capturing the murderer before hearing his explanation for his cruel deeds in front of a kangaroo court. Even though Nazi leaders such as Joseph Goebbels believed “M” to be a pro-capital punishment film, the picture puts more trust in the humanity of the German people than it does in the authoritarian establishment. Its suspense hangs in the air long after the movie is over.  

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Not Rated. 99 mins. 

5 StarsColeSmithey.com COLE MONSTERColeSmithey.com

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October 11, 2023

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI — SHOCKTOBER!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.comCredited as introducing the "twist ending" to cinema, Robert Wiene's 1920 "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" is a groundbreaking work of German Expressionism. The early horror film also introduces the frequently copied bookend structure so popular in modern cinema.

Wiene deploys a radical dreamscape of macabre lighting, Gothic make-up, and a boldly disjointed set design to form a twisting suspense story about an evil doctor who exploits a sleepwalker in order to perform serial acts of murder.

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“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” embodies an iconic brand of angular surrealism that defies gravity. The effect is unsettling. The film's ripples of influence can be found in avant-garde, film noir, horror, and thrillers ranging from crime to psychological suspense. Its angular stage sets and long shadows presage F. W. Murnau's aggressive designs for "Nosferatu"--made two years later in 1922.

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The script was written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer after World War I, a period of widespread violence throughout the country. Insanity is rampant. At an abstract level, the picture presages Hitler’s mad Machiavellian manipulation that turned Germany into a killing machine during World War II.

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A ghostly looking Francis (Friedrich Fehér) recounts to an equally pale friend his strange tale of woe involving his fiancée Jane (Lil Dagover). While visiting an annual fair in Holstenwall, Francis and his friend Alan visit a sideshow where Dr. Caligari exhibits Cesare (Conrad Veidt), a zombie-like "somnambulist" who has been asleep for 23 years. Someone has been stabbed to death the night before. Before Dr. Caligari's sideshow audience, Caesar emerges from an upright coffin to answer questions from the crowd. Alan worriedly asks how long he has left to live. Francis and Alan are caught in a love triangle with Jane. The vampire-like Caesar informs Alan he will only live "till dawn." Indeed, Alan's death comes later that night. Convinced that Caesar murdered his friend, Francis begins to follow the strange Dr. Caligari.

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The filmmakers use various colored filters to create the effect of a color movie. Tinted shades of sepia tone, blue, and purple add narrative depth to queasy episodes of altered mental states. An ingenious plot revelation involving a mental asylum puts the icing on the cake. With its unusual look and neatly folding method of storytelling “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is an artistically uninhibited silent horror film that still sends chills.

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Not Rated. 67 mins.

5 Stars“ColeSmithey.com“ SHOCKTOBER! THE BLOOD OF DRACULA THE BLOOD OF DRACULACozy Cole

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