11 posts categorized "German Cinema"

January 10, 2013

BARBARA

COLE SMITHEY

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BarbaraDespite the limited scope of its predictable narrative, “Barbara” remains a compelling character study thanks to Nina Hoss’s enigmatic performance in the title role.

‘80s era Iron Curtain Germany is the setting for co-writer/director Christian Petzold’s pedestrian tale of attempted escape into Western Germany for Barbara Wolff, a pediatric doctor. Demoted to a small rural hospital from a prominent position at an East Berlin for requesting an exit visa, Barbara secretly plots with her boyfriend on the outside for her to escape. However desperately she wants to leave East Germany’s repressive atmosphere, Barbara still gravitates to caring for the young patients that she cares for.

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Hans Fromm’s (“Jerichow”) precise cinematography lends itself to the film’s compressed sense of apprehension. Still, “Barbara” runs its course too soon and with little to no surprise for the viewer. Here is a rainy day movie to appreciate the skills of a refined German actress elevating a mediocre script to something entertaining if not wholly satisfying.

Rated PG-13. 115 mins.

3 Stars

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This 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.

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.

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ColeSmithey.com 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.

ColeSmithey.com

“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.

ColeSmithey.com

Not Rated. 67 mins.

5 Stars“ColeSmithey.com“

Cozy Cole

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April 12, 2009

THE BLUE ANGEL — CLASSIC FILM PICK

The Blue Angel

Set in Weimar Germany, “The Blue Angel” is a modern morality tale of lust and betrayal that launched the sultry German chanteuse Marlene Dietrich to international fame. Dietrich plays the saucy Lola Lola, a promiscuous dance-hall singer and dancer with looks and attitude to die for. Men and boys alike obsess over Lola in their every waking hour. However only one man dares to become Lola Lola’s submissive. who destroys the life of Emil Jannings plays Immanuel Rath, an aging high school professor who becomes Lola’s literal clown. Rath is a strict taskmaster with the boys in his class, but the lower-class professor has urges in diametric counterpoint to his professional behavior.

One of the first films to usher in sound in cinema, “The Blue Angel” was painstakingly filmed in two versions — in English and in German, which naturally advanced the film’s popularity as a truly international film. Cinematographer Günther Rittau was hot after filming Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” in 1927 when he shot “The Blue Angel.” Rittau relies predominately on medium shots to contain the characters in intimate compositions that convey the trap that they inhabit.

Blueangel

Long before Betty Page’s iconic BDSM icon came along in 1951, Dietrich’s Lola Lola exemplified a model dominatrix. Here we witness a man destroyed by fetishistic desires. Rath’s very public humiliation at Lola’s feet presents a degradation of body and soul that is cathartic as it is excruciating to witness.

The recently fired professor brings Lola flowers to her room over the theater where she performs. His marriage proposal incites a condescending laugh from Lola before she quickly realizes the opportunity before her, and she changes her tone to accept the offer. The character study on display is striking. Here is one of the first times in Cinema where we see so clearly into the mind of a character. We see Lola’s motivation shift 180 degrees in the blink of an eye. Marlene Dietrich’s ability to hit dramatic beats represents a purely modern style of film acting that would inform generations of actresses. Clearly, Marilyn Monroe took notes. 

Blue_angel

The professor’s indoctrination to submissive occurs in the next scene. The newlyweds enjoy a post-wedding dinner with friends and family. A magician extracts a couple of eggs from Rath’s nose before Lola begins clucking like a chicken. He proudly returns the gesture. In the moments before their union is to be consummated the professor discovers nude postcards of herself that Lola sells. Although he categorically states that so long as he has a penny the cards will not be sold, Lola orders him to pick them up because they might get dirty. In the next scene, he’s selling the postcards to Lola’s audience after her performance. Professor Rath’s reward is a prolonged public humiliation and emotional degradation that leads him to perform as cuckolded clown in Lola’s stage act.

“The Blue Angel” remains an outstanding cinematic accomplishment that has influenced untold numbers of artists in all avenues of performance and theatrical exhibition.   

BLUE ANGEL

Not Rated. 106 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

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