Verdacht, Der (2008)

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When a girl dies, a small town’s suspicion turns to the outsider among them!
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vt Suspect
Germany / 26 minutes / color / IFS (Internationale Filmschule Köln), SWR/arte, Mitteln der Filmstiftung NRW Dir & Scr: Felix Hassenfratz Pr: Mathias Casanova Cine: Yoshi Heimrath Cast: Anne Weinknecht, Heinrich Schmieder, Daniela Holtz, Eva-Maria Kurz, Leon Hofmann, Peter Höfermeyer.

An award-winning exploration of the way that suspicion, however great or little a basis it might have in fact, can poison both a community and even the minds of those closest to the person suspected.

Conny (Anne Weinknecht).

In a small town somewhere in southern Germany, Conny (Weinknecht), the baker’s wife, is a stalwart of the church choir. Her husband Udo (Schmieder) is regarded by the locals as something of an outsider, because he was born elsewhere. Conny’s mother (Kurz) especially resents Udo because the outsider inherited the family bakery through marrying Conny.

Conny’s mother (Eva-Maria Kurz) makes it plain she has never liked Udo, the interloper.

Three months or so ago there was a murder locally: a young woman from out of town was shot dead. The police investigation went nowhere. Now the cops have had a tipoff: Udo was seen giving the young woman a lift the night before the discovery of her body. Udo is brought in for questioning, but Continue reading

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Phoenix (2014)

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After her return from the death camps, why do people want to own and exploit her?
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Phoenix - 0

Germany / 98 minutes / color / Schramm Film Koerner & Weber, Tempus, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, arte, Piffi Dir: Christian Petzold Pr: Florian Koerner von Gustorf, Michael Weber Scr: Christian Petzold, Harun Farocki Story: Le Retour des Cendres (1961) by Hubert Monteilhet Cine: Hans Fromm Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf, Michael Maertens, Imogen Kogge, Valerie Koch, Eva Bay, Megan Gay, Frank Seppeler, Daniela Holtz, Kathrin Wehlisch, Michael Wenninger, Claudia Geisler-Bading.

This is the third screen adaptation of Monteilhet’s novel; the first was J. Lee Thompson’s Return from the Ashes (1965), which I discussed here a few days ago. If you watch the two movies back to back, as I did, it’s blatant that they’re both based on the same work; but at the same time there are so many differences—the two are faithful and unfaithful to the novel in certain but different ways, while in many respects they’re poles apart in terms of “feel” and subtext—that really it makes sense to treat them as independent of each other. (The second screen adaptation, which I haven’t seen, was Le Retour d’Élisabeth Wolff [1982 TVM] dir Josée Dayan, with Malka Ribowska, Niels Arestrup, Clémentine Amouroux and Roland Bertin.)

In order to discuss this movie meaningfully, I’m going to have to talk about its ending. To be honest, it’s not one of those movies where a spoiler’s going to destroy your enjoyment—it’s a very satisfying tale even if you know what’s going to happen—but you’ve been warned. (Besides, I’ve missed out various of the other major plot turns.)

It’s 1945 and onetime Berlin cabaret singer Nelly Lenz (Hoss), hideously facially disfigured after a year in Auschwitz, is brought back into the city’s US sector by her old friend Lene Winter (Kunzendorf), who’s part of the Jewish committee clearing up the postwar mess.

Phoenix - 1 Lene (foreground) introduces Nelly to the wreckage that was once her home

Lene (Nina Kunzendorf, foreground) introduces Nelly (Nina Hoss) to the wreckage that was once her home.

Lene seems to have taken it upon herself to control every aspect of Nelly’s life. She arranges for Nelly to have reconstructive facial surgery at the hands of plastic surgeon Dr. Arzt (Maertens)—Nelly shows a first sign of rebellion here, insisting that he attempt to restore Continue reading

Night Train (2009 DTV)

US, Germany, Romania / 91 minutes / color / A-Mark, Rifkin/Eberts, FilmTiger Dir & Scr: M. Brian King Pr: Brian Etting, Wendy Park, Bruce McNall, Steve Markoff, Arnold Rifkin, Christopher Eberts, Michael Philip Cine: Christopher Popp Cast: Danny Glover, Leelee Sobieski, Steve Zahn, Matthias Schweighoefer, Geoff Bell, Constantine Gregory, Richard O’Brien, Takatsuna Mukai, Togo Igawa, Jo Marr.

A highly effective black comedy, done with lashings of CGI (the exteriors seem to be almost entirely CGI; the interiors often seem, especially in the earlier parts of the movie, to be done as CGI-enhanced live action). There are also plenty of hat-tips, via the character names, to earlier noir/crime movies—the names Mr. Gutman and Mr. Cairo obviously referring to The MALTESE FALCON (1941) and Mrs. Froy to The Lady Vanishes (1938)—although besides these hat-tips there aren’t really any further resemblances (except, perhaps, in that the plot role of this movie’s MacGuffin could be compared to that of the Maltese Falcon). Other movie influences might seem to be Hellraiser (1987), Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and even, in terms of visual style, The Polar Express (2004).

Night Train - CGI fest (do as opener, query)

A movie of great visual style.

Senior guard Miles (Glover; “I know everything about this train except its favorite color”) and his far junior colleague Frankie (Schweighoefer) run a night train called Continue reading

Love the Hard Way (2001/2003)

vt Hard Attraction

Germany, US / 104 minutes / color / Vif, P’Artisan, Time, Open City, Vine, Kino Dir: Peter Sehr Pr: Wolfram Tichy Scr: Peter Sehr, Marie Noëlle Story: Yi Ban Shi Huo Yan, Yi Ban Shi Hai Shui (n.d.) by Wang Shuo Cine: Guy Dufaux Cast: Adrien Brody, Charlotte Ayanna, Jon Seda, August Diehl, Pam Grier, Liza Jessie Peterson, Elizabeth Regen, Katherine Moennig, Joey Kern.

In NYC, petty crooks Jack Grace (Brody) and Charlie King (Seda) operate a scam whereby actress friends Pam (Peterson) and Sue (Regen) pose as prostitutes and lure businessmen into rooms in the hotel where associate Jeff (Diehl) works as a desk clerk; Jack and Charlie, dressed as cops, then burst into the room, “arrest” the women, and accept bribes from the businessmen to keep the whole affair off the record. When Jack meets attractive Columbia University biology grad student Claire Harrison (Ayanna) at the arthouse cinema, The Screening Room, where she has a part-time job, he puts the make on her, tells her he’s slept with over two hundred women, and gets laughed at for his pains.

Love the Hard Way - Charlie and Jack shake down another bunch of suckers

Charlie (Jon Seda) and Jack (Adrien Brody) prepare to fleece another bunch of suckers.

Later, when Jack and Charlie are on campus collecting debts from a student for a numbers racket, they run into Claire, her best friend Debbie (Moennig) and Continue reading

After Alice (1999)

vt Eye of the Killer

Germany, UK / 100 minutes / color with some bw / Promark, Videal, CPTC Dir: Paul Marcus Pr: Tina Stern, André Paquette, Tom Kinninmont Scr: Jeff Miller Cine: Brian Pearson Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Henry Czerny, Polly Walker, Gary Hudson, Ronn Sarosiak, Stephen Ouimette, Eve Crawford, Denis Akiyama, Lorén Petersen, Alexander Chapman, Colin Glazer.

Cop Mickey Hayden (Sutherland) has been boozing ever since his wife deserted him to take up with his boss, Lt. John Hatter (Hudson). One night he’s in a convenience store picking up his next bottle when a punk seizes it and runs. Mickey chases the thief into a deserted building and sustains a cracked head in a fall. He very soon discovers the trauma has endowed him with the power of psychometry: when touching an object (even a corpse) he can often have visions of relevant events in that object’s past. The first time he experiences this is when called to investigate the seemingly random murder of the punk he’d earlier chased.

After Alice - The punk's murder revisited in a vision.

The punk’s murder revisited in a vision.

He’s approached in a bar by Harvey (Czerny), who has this same ability and can identify it in Mickey. At first Mickey violently rejects Harvey and Harvey’s claims, but slowly Continue reading