9 posts categorized "German Cinema"

December 10, 2014

NEKROMANTIK 2 — CLASSIC FILM PICK

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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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.

NEKROMANTIK 2

Not Rated. 104 mins. 

4 Stars

Cozy Cole

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April 16, 2014

METROPOLIS — CLASSIC FILM PICK

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

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METROPOLISThe original three-and-a-half hour version of “Metropolis” was shown to an audience of 2500 guests during the Weimar Republic in Berlin in 1927. It was the most expensive film ever made up at the time. Cited as the first feature-length science fiction film, Fritz Lang’s expressionist silent movie is a dystopian vision of a futuristic Germany in the year 2000.

Impoverished downtrodden masses suffer under an autocratic corporate capitalist system that favors an elite few. Sound prescient?

Sadly much of “Metropolis’s” fragile film stock was lost over time. It wasn’t until 2008 that a 16 mm reduction negative of the original movie was discovered in the archives of Argentina’s Museo del Cine. Another print, discovered in New Zealand’s National Film Archive in 2005, contributed to an extensive restoration process that replaced 25 minutes of missing footage.

Laurent-durieux

Although it is still missing nearly an hour from its original, the restored version functions as a complete narrative.

Joh Fredersen (played by Alfred Abel) is the oligarch who oversees his monolithic empire from high above the city of Metropolis in his skyscraper office. Joh’s son Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) wears the sporty white clothes of a tennis player. He spends his days in an idyllic “pleasure garden” where the rich frolic around a large fountain and exotic birds play.

Metropolis-colesmithey

Women of high class wear outlandish dresses that look like something from a fairy tale. The arrival of a beautiful working class teacher named Maria (Brigitte Helm) — on a field trip with a large group of destitute children — awakens Freder to the disparity of wealth around him even as he falls instantly in love with Maria.

Freder goes searching for Maria only to discover the inhuman working conditions in the city’s giant underground boiler room. He witnesses an explosion that kills many workers and watches as many more are systematically murdered.

Freder reports back to his father, who in turn questions Rotwang, the mad inventor responsible for creating the city’s colossal power-driving machine. In a crucial subplot, Rotwang is busy creating a machine-human incarnation of Freder’s mother who, coincidentally looks exactly like Maria.

Metropolis2

Although it ends with an overwrought climax, topped off with a laughably banal cliché that unites the workers with their greedy overlord, “Metropolis” is filled with stunning archetypal imagery and grand-scale spectacle. Its production designers drew heavily from the Art Deco movement for their designs. Cameraman Eugen Schüfftan’s groundbreaking methods — utilizing miniature sets in conjunction with specialized camera techniques involving mirrors — contributes to the film’s lasting effect. Significant too is the design for Rotwang’s female robot that serves as the ultimate vision of a mechanized femme fatale.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

October 03, 2011

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI — CLASSIC FILM PICK

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

 

Cabinet-of-Dr.-Caligari Credited 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.

Caligari

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.

The-cabinet-of-dr-caligari

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

Cozy Cole

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