Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Festival of German Films

The Festival of German Films screens at the Como and Brighton Bay cinemas from March 20-29. I have just received the list of films screening (and links to IMDB where available). If anyone has any opinions, recommendations or insight to any of the films, feel free to post your comments.

Like Australian films, I often find contemporary German cinema a bit patchy in quality, though there have been some notable releases such as Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, 2006), due for release on 29/3/07, Lola Rennt (Run Lola, Run, 1998), Der UntergangDownfall, 2004) and Sophie Scholl - Die letzen Tage (Sophie Scholl - The Last Days, 2005). With eighteen films screening this year, it's hard to decide on what to see, and it's good to get any leads.

Note: the film synopses are as provided by the festival.

Schwere Jungs (Grave Decisions, Marcus H. Rosenmüller, 2007)
A quirky satire that centres on the life of a misguided 11 year-old boy, who tries to play matchmaker to his widowed father with near fatal consequences. This film was a huge box office success in Germany and played for 16 weeks in the top ten and sold more than 1.2 million tickets.

Schwere Jungs (Heavyweights, Marcus H. Rosenmüeller, 2007)
A sports adventure story about German bobsledder teams, featuring dazzling action sequences, at the first winter Olympics since the end of the war. Rivalry between the two German teams becomes intolerable as the sportsmen skid into a hornet’s nest of sports-political intrigues and erotic adventures.

Vier Minuten (Four Minutes, Chris Kraus, 2006)
An elderly piano teacher discovers a piano prodigy. Trouble is the pupil, a female prison inmate, likes to beat everything around her to a pulp just to amuse herself. However, with the teacher’s help she could win a prestigious piano contest, maybe..... This film has received 12 international awards and will be released by Madman in Australia. Lead actress Hannah Herzsprung will be in Australia in from 18th April.

Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback (Dietmar Post/Lucia Palacios, 2006)
An award-winning documentary about the band The Monks, who were five America GI’s based in Germany in the sixties. The Monks were considered the forefathers of industrial, heavy metal, punk and techno music and also the first marriage of art and popular music ahead of Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground

Emmas Glück (Emma’s Bliss, Sven Taddicken, 2006)
A dying man attempts to escape his life to his ideal beautiful place Mexico. But instead finds himself on a pig farm with Emma, the sole occupant with a few problems of her own. Together they overcome challenges and find some happiness. Actress Joerdis Triebel received the Best Actress Award 2006, Munich for her role.

Sommer '04 (Summer ’04, Stefan Krohmer, 2006)
When 40 year-old Miriam’s son brings his 12 year-old girlfriend on summer holidays things begin to unravel when the brazenly sensual Livia begins flirting with a much older man. When Miriam tries to stop the inappropriate relationship she finds herself falling for the man, but it is Livia he loves.

FC Venus (FC Venue – Women With Balls, Ute Wieland, 2006)
An innovative challenge from a frustrated soccer widow Anna. She rounds up her fellow soccer widows and forms a team FC Venus, and challenges the men in the ultimate duel.

if the wives win the match against their men, is bye-bye soccer for the men, and if the men win, the women can no longer complain. Trouble is, none of the women can play soccer.

Ein freund von mir (A Friend of Mine, Sebastian Schipper, 2006)
A story about two very different friends: a stable mathematician Karl, and the man about town Hans. For Hans “friendship” means sharing everything, even the queen of his heart Stelle. This is too much for Karl, but you can’t get rid of a friend like Hans, and a woman like Stelle is unforgettable...

Valerie (Birgit Möller, 2006)
A model’s glamorous life takes a dramatic turn when she finds herself penniless and living in a hotel car park. As her situation deteriorates, her only hope appears to lie in developing a friendship with the parking attendant.

His World Has Its Own Rules (Züli Aladag)
Politically correct attitudes are stretched to breaking point when a father attempts to humiliate his son’s tormenter, the son of Turkish immigrants. A vicious and dramatic cycle of anger and violence erupts that threatens to expose the father’s not so politically correct affair with his student.

Madonnen (Madonnas, Maria Speth, 2007)
On release from prison for theft, Rita resumes her family life with her four children and Marc, a US solider. However, once Marc is transferred back to the US, Rita’s life is again thrown into turmoil.

Pingpong (Matthias Luthardt, 2006)
Secrets and suppressed truths are explored in this drama centred on a troubled sixteen­year-old Paul. After the death of his father he goes to live with his aunt and uncle. When Paul’s uncle leaves for a business trip, Paul’s sexual attraction to his aunt escalates to potentially dangerous proportions

Yella (Christian Petzold, 2007)
Yella abandons her failed marriage for a new life in a new town with a new job where she finds everything she wants. But strange voices and sounds from her past begin to haunt her and she starts to worry that her new life could be too good to be true.

Hui Buh - Das Schlossgespenst (Hui Buh – The Goofy Ghost, Sebastian Niemann, 2006)
Hui Buh – The goofy ghost has been delighting German audiences for more than 30 years. Now, after haunting the halls of Castle Burgeck for over 500 years, Hui Buh is given the chance to prove his ghostly skills. Stars Heike Makatsch, a guest of the Festival of German Films, 2006.

TKKG und die rätselhafte Mind-Machine (TKKG and the Mysterious Mind Machine, Tomy Wigand, 2006)
More adventures from the young hobby detectives TKKG: Tim, Klumpling, Karl and Gabby, who discover a new prototype of the spectacular mind machine! It’s the beginning of an adventurous journey of discovery into a bizarre world of real and virtual surprises.

Offset (Didi Danquart, 2006)
Set in Bucharest, a city that has long lost its grandeur by a long reign of fear and repression, this is a tale of linguistic, cultural and emotional misunderstandings. When Stefan from Germany falls in love with a local girl and wants to take her back to Germany the fears and prejudices from the other players all rise to the surface.

Eden (Michael Hofmann, 2006)
When waitress Eden begins eating libido-enhancing delicacies served up by her boss, her sex love suddenly spices up. Her husband however, becomes very suspicious about the change to their love life, and the role of her boss, so he decides to take action. In a small town with no secrets, this unusual ménage-a-food take unexpected, bittersweet twists

Dresden (Roland Suso Richter, 2006)
Set in 1945 a young nurse mistakes a badly injured pilot taking refuge in her hospital as a German deserter and helps him. As the impending, Allied bombardment of Dresden nears and her relationship with the Englishman becomes closer, Anna is faced with physical danger and the fear she will be exposed as a traitor.


Amanda said...

Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) isn't here but I guess that will be getting a wider release. It won the Oscar this year and comes recommended by my German teacher.

Thanks for the heads up on the Festival, its playing at the Chauvel in Sydney so I'll have to pop along.

Amanda said...

Also, I have no recommendations on these but anything with a "goofy German ghost" has got to be worth checking out.

Paul Martin said...

Amanda, I've posted the release date for The Lives of Others (29/3/07) which happens to be the last day of the Festival of German Films. I also highly recommend it. Not without flaws, but it's strong narrative (edge of your seat) and characterisations are emotionally gripping and greatly overshadow any weaknesses. You wouldn't think it was they director's first film, as it is very self-assured.

Personally, I have a keen interest in ethnic and cultural diversity. So even if a film may be no better than its Hollywood equivalent, often times it is more 'watchable' because of the cultural specificity that we don't always have regular access to. The whole world (pretty much) has grown up on a diet of US TV and film, so this sector gets a bit hackneyed.

I haven't checked the classifications, but anything with a classification offers the opportunity to take kids along. A goofy ghost sounds like a good candidate.

Christian said...

I´m from Germany and last year I've seen 13 of the 20 feature-length films that are playing at the Festival. So I can give you some recommendations, distinguishing them in true German critics style - although I don't really like this differentiation - between "E" films (meaning ambitious, artsy, intellectual or highbrow) and "U" movies (meaning entertaining or lowbrow). My favourite films in the former category are "Valerie" and "Summer 04", my favourites in the latter category are "FC Venus", "Grave Decisions", "Heavyweights", "Four Minutes" and "The Wedding Party".

With a ratings system of 0 to 4 stars I would rank the films that I've seen as follows :

- Valerie (****)
- FC Venus (****)
- Grave Decisions (****)
- Sommer 04 (****)

- Heavyweights (***)
- Four Minutes (***)
- The Wedding Party (***)
- Can (***)
- Emma's Bliss (***)
- Hui Buh (***)
- Eden (***)

- Dresden (**)
- A Friend of Mine (**)

From the other seven films I would like to see "Yella", "Pingpong" and "madonnas", which are supposedly pretty good. They all belong to the "E" category.

It's a pity though that the Festival doesn't show two of the best (and grittiest) German films of 2006 : "Knallhart" and "Prinzessin".

Paul Martin said...

Thanks for going to the trouble of ranking all those films, Christian, though it'd be good to have some context to your ratings.

I see you've rated Grave Decisions and Can quite highly, whereas I wasn't impressed by either (even though Oktay Özdemir who plays Can is excellent).

Christian said...

Paul, with Grave Decisions which was a real word-of-mouth hit here in Germany we seem to have a classical case of "lost in translation". Even an Austrian who posted a user's review on the IMDB (and obvioulsy understands the language) apparently didn't "get it". The two reasons why I and many other Germans simply LOVE this film are the humour (mainly stemming from the Bavarian dialect) and the general Bavarian sensibility : The relaxed sensual way of live in small villages, the catholicism and the baroque imagination resulting from it (which reminded me of Terry Gilliam's "The Fisher King").

"Can" had its flaws but for a TV-movie it was pretty good and most notably very topical. It dealt frankly with themes and problems that are hotly debated in Germany right now ("multiculti"-society, integration of foreigners, Rütli school, etc.). If you liked Oktay Özdemir try to find the aforementioned "Knallhart" (English title : "Tough Enough") where he plays a similar role in a much better film.

If you can bear with my bad English I'll try to give some context and explain why "Valerie" and "FC Venus" are my favourites in the Festival (hopefully without major spoilers).

"Valerie" is a small film that will grow on you because of the main character (who is not 100% likable, but very beautiful and interesting) and because it says a lot about TODAY's Germany (like "Can" or "Head-On") and not about the past (like "The Lives of Others", "Downfall" or "Sophie Scholl"). It is about the changes that the economic crisis of the last 7 years brought to German society (unemployment, HartzIV, etc.) It was also interesting to get an insight into the real life of a high-fashion model (in contrast to the fantasy world of "Germany's Next Top Model" on TV).

As a football fan (I refuse to call the game "soccer") I simply LOVED "FC Venus" but even football haters will like it (I've tested this with relatives) because at the core it's a very funny romantic comedy. But it lives and breathes football and does many things right that were done wrong in "Bend it like Beckham" or other football-related movies. For example:

a) Football is not presented as a civilized sport that anxious American "soccer-moms" can take their kids to safely instead of more "brutal" games. On the contrary, football is shown as a sport where you get hurt and learn to swear and rant (but which is still so much fun to play that you will be addicted immediately : the proverbial "beautiful game").

b) The prejudices against women's football ("ridiculous pastime" but not a real sport in the eyes of most - not only male - football fans, mostly lesbian players, etc.) are not swept under the PC rug like in "Bend it like Beckham" but addressed head-on (often in hilarious ways). That doesn't mean that the men are not scoffed and ridiculed as well.

c) There are many allusions and references to famous events, quotes or songs in football history that only the true fans will identify (Klinsmann's kick into the barrel, Gerd Müller's infamous song, the Wembley goal, the result of the final match, etc.)

d) The players in this film are no pros and so the film doesn't pretend they are. They play as good as you and I which makes the premise credible in the first place.

Besides there are some hilarious roles (the referee, the priest) and some very cute girls (Nora Tschirner, Katrin Wrobel) in this film. And in contrast to many other German comedies it doesn't just rely on ONE funny idea that is stretched to 90 minutes, but there are many many side-gags and corner-of-the-eye moments. I could go on and on ... I just LOVE this movie :-)

Paul Martin said...

Thanks once again for your detailed posting, Christian. Yes, Wut was made for television, and I think it's quite good for that medium, though I'm not really a television-watching person.

I did see Knallhart at last year's MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival) and I walked out on it. It was only the fifth time I've walked out on a film. Partly it was because I didn't like it, and partly because I saw it mid-week during the evening with work the next day. I didn't see enough value in it to get a late night. I found it started with some gritty realism but went down the Hollywood cliche route and I lost all interest. It would have worked better for me if it had stayed true to it's original social realism and not strayed to popularism.

I appreciate your enthusiasm and tips, and welcome any other's tips as well.

I was thinking of seeing Four Minutes tonight, but as it has a theatrical release, I'll see it later and I'm going to ACMI instead for the del Toro season. I'm hoping to catch one or two films at the FoGF over the weekend and then again next weekend.

LenKa said...

Wow! Ukraine is only 2 months behind Australia:) The festival is in Kyiv, 17 to 22 May . I've heard about sensational (?) Houellebecq's screening...