12 posts categorized "New 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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March 26, 2017

MOTHER KUSTERS GOES TO HEAVEN

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Mutter_kusters_fahrt_zum_himmelFassbinder is the German version of Lou Reed if Lou had been a German filmmaker.

Although the version of “Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven” currently being shown on FilmStruck does a fake-you-out move by spelling out, and including, two different endings, Fassbinder's complex movie presents a compelling case for autonomy of the individual.

In an age when the NSA utilizes the same data that social media crunches to decide the plot of the next Hollywood movie you sit through like a hungry cat sniffing fresh tuna in the air, “Mother Kusters” puts the media, politics, and familial trust in same trash bin.

MOTHER KUSTERS

Brigitte Mira’s elderly matriarch is a postfeminist every bit as fascinating as the outsider character she played in Fassbinder’s “Ali: Fear Eats The Soul.”

Screen Shot 2022-06-20 at 1.27.13 PM

Heaven is what you make it. The media just makes trash. 

Not Rated. 108 mins. 

5 StarsBMOD COLE2

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June 11, 2015

THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

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Brecht meets Douglas Sirk and Joseph Mankiewicz (“All About Eve”) in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s delectable adaptation of his five-act stageplay, an exploration of a lesbian triangle of role-switching polarities between dominance and submission.

There’s a pinch of Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Blvd” thrown in for good measure.

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Repurposing his play’s original cast, Fassbender takes advantage of his skilled actors’ mastery of their tightly scripted roles.

Margit Carstensen works a high-wire act of emotional overreaching as the title character whose fetid teardrop of remorse is the result of her inability to master her ego and confused desires. Working in an image system of shadows, mirrors, and foreground objects, Fassbinder’s formal compositions convey the thin line between beauty and failure.

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It is winter in a remote German chalet in Bremen. The central narrative follows the haughty Petra Von Kant, a diva fashion designer of cottage-industry repute. A huge reproduction of Nicolas Poussin’s “Midas and Bacchus” hangs on the wall beside Petra’s bed. Nude costume mannequins stand at odd angles as a silent chorus of frozen female observers.

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Marlene (Irm Hermann) is Petra’s loyal live-in slave (admirer, secretary, maid, seamstress, and unacknowledged designer). Marlene is a true submissive. She never speaks a word, focusing her devotion to Petra via her domestic work like a nun sworn to silence. Petra likes to slow dance with Marlene to The Platters’ “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

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Fassbinder tears a page from the book of his Southern Gothic comrade Tennessee Williams with a credit sequence featuring two cats sitting on a staircase. The “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” allusion subtly primes us for the clawing, scratching, and biting to follow.

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Petra awakens in her prominently positioned bed to Marlene raising the blinds. Marlene’s upturned nose, cherry-kissed lips, and coiffed red hair accentuate Irm Herhmann’s poised portrayal, which conveys much of Fassbinder’s theme-rich subtext through body language. The film has the trancelike tone of a dance performance. Marlene brings Petra a glass of orange juice on a tray while her mistress puts on airs with her mother over the telephone. Petra is a neo-Gothic tyrant. She dons a brunette wig to go with her fur-lined robe.

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A discussion with Petra’s visiting cousin Sidonie (Katrin Schaake), about Sidonie’s recent divorce, exposes similarities about the women’s various troubles with men. Petra has been married twice; one husband died, the other left. Secretly, even to herself, Petra longs to live as a submissive. But she can’t see the forest for the trees.

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Sidonie says: “It’s the exception that proves the rule.” Petra glimpses her desires when she falls for the seduction con of a Karin (Hanna Schygulla), a young married Australian woman on vacation. Marlene types constantly on a manual typewriter during the film’s centerpiece sequence of seduction between Karin and Petra. Fassbinder uses the sound of the typewriter keys as a musical counterpoint to the would-be lovers’ conversation that runs the gambit to Marlene’s describing how her father and mother died.

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Their relationship puts Petra in a vulnerable state that allows Karin to humiliate her. For a moment the women live out their ideal sexual fantasy. The price of the experience will cost Petra Von Kant everything that she has.

Not Rated. 124 mins.

5 Stars Screen Shot 2023-03-28 at 12.26.56 PM

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