Dienstag, 31. Mai 2011

A month of movies: May.

In order to deal with what I previous month coined "Leipzig's critical lack of movies presented in original language", I decided to change the rules of the game and start presenting mini-reviews of recent DVD releases as well. This will also allow me to get to some of the... shall we say more popular titles, as witnessed in this installment, in which I say a few words about two movies I've been wanting to see for quite a while and fewer words about two I didn't really feel like watching. You may guess which is which. On to the show:

The short -
Go and see: /
Well worth watching: Passione & Im Himmel, Unter der Erde (In Heaven Underground).
Also deserving a chance: Lebanon (DVD).
Average: Un Homme Qui Crie (A Screaming Man), Utopia Ltd., Buried (DVD).
For lovers of German comedy: Polnische Ostern, Vincent Will Meer (Vincent Wants To Sea).
For the Action Man® in you: Robin Hood (DVD), The A-Team (DVD).
For documentary enthusiasts: Kleinstheim.
Forget about: V Subbotu (Innocent Saturday).

The long -
The rules: Only movies seen at cinemas during the month referred to in the post title and recent DVD releases (which will be noted as such) are eligible. This excludes films seen on video or television. Also excluded are movies from festivals, which may or may not get treated in separate posts. Premieres and previews, however, are fine. The reviews are listed in alphabetical order. Finally, ratings are given on IMDB's 1-10 scale. These rules, likely to be broken at the discretion of yours truly, solely exist because no rules are fun, and we cannot have that here, now can we?

Buried (DVD release). An original idea, to be sure: An American is captured in Iraq and buried alive. So far, so interesting. However, it gets too boldly political in more than one scene, for example when it screams understanding for the Iraqi hostage takers, which very well may be right in intention, but feels terribly unsuited for the situation the hostage finds himself in. Also, the claustrophobia and growing tension doesn't really get transmitted to the viewer. In that aspect, the movie fails dramatically. 6/10

Im Himmel, Unter der Erde (In Heaven Underground). A well-meaning and well-shot film documenting the Jewish cemetery in Berlin Weißensee during the city's and the city's Jews turbulent history. While different governments came and went around it, it stayed largely the same quiet, peaceful place that, as many of the people interviewed state, resembles more a forest monument than a normal cemetery. While the attempts to blend the look of graves fallen into disrepair with photographs showing them in their time of glory sometimes look a little awkward, the visual atmosphere of the movie is mostly awe-inspiring and making this one worth seeing at the cinema. 8/10

Kleinstheim. A documentary with an interesting promise that at multiple times felt very wrong. Despite the filmmakers' insistence to the contrary, in several scenes they seem to breach borders the young protagonists weren't quite ready to give up yet. The questions asked by the two directors feel violating and when a twelve-year-old being cornered aggressively asks "Any more questions?" perhaps the limit has been passed and gone. Besides all that, I wasn't convinced by the cut and the occasional image of natural beauty that may have been intended to give the documentary a background setting but which seemed an indulgence of the directors. 5/10

Lebanon (DVD release). The unique perspective of this movie heightens the images seen in countless other war movies to a new intensity and manages to make them haunting again. It focuses the viewers' attention on what usually gets lost in the visual noise. And of course, that technique also allows for the radical shift in perception when the soldiers trapped in the tin can that is the tank lose control and sense in geography. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't convince as much as a psychological study of young soldiers in a situation they can't deal with it. For that, the dialogue feels too contrived and the acting over-the-top. 7/10

Passione. John Torturro's homage to Napoli and its music enchants and inspires with warmth. Collecting the beautiful, the dramatic and the odd, and combining it with views of the streets and the people on it, he draws a picturesque yet real view of life in the city. When asked who's the best singer Napoli has brought forward, there is much disagreement among the interviewees, and it's colourful and friendly and molto simpatico. 8/10

Polnische Ostern. I really like Henry Hübchen, and I like the admittedly stereotypical characters he usually plays, as he does here, but I couldn't warm to this. It's not playful enough, more reminiscent of family feel-good movies that don't quite take off, and it assembles the usual elements, as well as most of the weaknesses that this type of film falls prey to. 5/10

Robin Hood (DVD release). It's a Ridley Scott movie, starring Russell Crowe. All has been said. 5/10

The A-Team (DVD release). With a little less bang and a little more effort, this could have been a fine action movie. As it stands, it's a good and for the most part fitting remake/reboot/whatever the latest buzzword in film marketing is, and that's more than what you can say for most others. 5/10

Un Homme Qui Crie (A Screaming Man). This had me irritated. The director insists on a distant camera, when every other sign points to immediacy: the lack of background music, as well as quite often sound, the slow pace and the focus on one character at a time. Seldom do scenes get close, for example when the younger main character's girlfriend, realizing her loss, starts to sing, which is repeated in the outro, or when the father finally and literally lets go. 6/10

Utopia Ltd. Following a young band's first steps in the music business, this documentary illustrates how quickly ideas get under pressure from financial concerns. Utopia is limited indeed. And while two of the band's members are building up a fallback plan, to the third one there doesn't seem to be an alternative to a career in music. It becomes clear that at some point, his unwillingness to compromise will either have to be sacrificed to that fact, or that he'll be left behind instead. 6/10

V Subbotu (Innocent Saturday). Superfluous. This movie about the Chernobyl disaster manages to bore and annoy with hysteric people at the same time. But make no mistake: They're not hysteric because a nuclear power plant blew up, but because they're Russians, and drunk, and the Soviet Union is about to collapse. Lengthy takes of fist-fighting, dancing, staggering, drumming and running ensue, leaving the viewer's interest somewhere back at the first overly expositional exchange of lines. 2/10

Vincent Will Meer (Vincent Wants To Sea). I was expecting more from this. Three troubled young people flee from the psychiatry to go on a road trip to Italy. The characters at first seem interestingly drawn and then overdone, when the filmmakers use every chance and moment to further accentuate their peculiarities. Optimistic road movie traps are frequently sprung and fallen victim to, with all too familiar exchanges of highs and comedowns and the occasional montage and too much cheap comic relief. All this to a very bad soundtrack that fills every scene with extra pathos, bringing some of them down to a level comparing to cheesiness. 5/10

Previous months of movies: January, February, March, April.

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