Duty! Or enchanted by Nora.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung’s Sascha Lehnartz met Nora Tschirner (in German), whose performance in Kebab Connection I was very impressed with, and fell in love with her zestful and melancholic but rather mature nature.

His impression of “Kebab Connection” mirrors mine –

“the film is rather funny for a German comedy. Which means as much as: for an Italian car it doesn’t need to go to the garage too often.”

But the article is not about the film, it is about a seemingly thoughtful aspiring actress who admits that she – after playing the leading role in a film set in the Hamburg immigrant milieu – discovered only last week at a German Volksmusik event in Berlin what the term “parallel society” really means. But – not too surprisingly – Mr Lehnartz is most excited about Ms Tschirner’s approach to “responsibility” – her role in Kebab connection is that of a young mother to be who – sort of – puts off her acting education to keep the baby. His conclusion – if everone in the “Generation Nora” were like her, we would not have to worry too much about Germany’s future. I suppose that’s a pretty big compliment coming from the FAZ, the central organ of enlighted German conservatism, and probably an expression of excitement about another perceived victory in the ongoing conservative battle against the seeming hedonistic irresponsibility exhibited by everyone under, say, 40 these days.

But there’s a chance that – blinded by excitement -, Mr Lehnartz wasn’t able to read between the lines:

“… of course it’s a generational thing that not everyone is screaming ‘I want all responsibility’ these days, but rather ‘alright, if I have to’. But in that case, we can do it. And to be able to do it in that situation is what counts in the end.”

It’s not too difficult to imagine why the FAZ believes that it’s clear to see that the time has come again for Kant’s sublime and mighty name, that has nothing charming or insinuating but requires submission. But I’m guessing we’ll very soon see Ms Tschirner choose a couple of roles that she’s got her own mind – and my bet is, at 23, she won’t think about Kant just yet.

And in my book, that’s reason not to worry too much about Germany’s future.


Immigrant Connection.

Immigrant Connection.I’ve just come back from watching “Kebab Connection”, a new semi-independent movie following on the heels of last year’s surprise comedy success “S�perseks” and, – less obvious – Fatih Akin’s smash hit “Gegen die Wand” (Head On). The Kebab Connection is set in the Akin urban immigrant universe, is partly payed by Akin-Alumni like Sibel Kelkili, has been co-authored by him, and yet he did not direct the movie.

cinema, compulsory reading, US Politics, USA

Bowling For Criticism

A Canadian article criticising Michael Moore’s film “Bowling For Columbine” has made to the top ranks of the MIT’s blogdex today. It’s easy to see why given the linking-power of anti-Moorians on the web. But they, like most of those getting at Moore miss a rather important point:

Bowling For Columbine” isn’t a documentary. The film is essentially a sort-of fact based cinematographic, cleverly positioned, political pamphlet. It is a well done, important film – but it is hardly a documentary in the classic sense of that term. It is well worth ciriticising that Moore continually claims it is. But that’s about it.

Moore’s main points are important even if, as the Canadian newspaper Star reports among other points,

“[a]ctor Charlton Heston, the head of the National Rifle Association, did not callously go to Denver 10 days after the shootings simply to proclaim to cheering fellow NRA members that he was going to keep his gun until it is pried ‘from my cold, dead hands.'”

This simply doesn’t matter for the film’s fundamental messages.

Moore claims that there is a much higher (physical, not economic) risk aversion in the US than in Europe which is responsible for a lot of paranoid behavior. I have to say, the highly emotionalised American discourse regarding the dangers of rogue states post 9/11 probably underscores this claim – if you want to see it that way.

Moreover, Moore claims that this higher risk aversion is a consequence of what he claims is the central social cleavage in the US – an unresolved racial conflict based on ritualised and inherited slave owner vs. slave identities. A possible conclusion, which I really cannot really say a lot about. But his claim is – here in the realm of social policy – supported by important allies, as for example this paper by Alesina, Glaeser, and Sacerdote indicates. To them, racial animosity is the principal answer to the question “Why Doesn’t the U.S. Have a European Style Welfare System?”. Charlton Heston somehow made the same point in the film – and, if I remember correctly, that section was not even cut in a particularly distorting manner.

Bowling For Columbine” is not a scientific elaboration. It is an opinionated, scary, but also entertaining film that expressed some of the fundamental anxieties a non-negligeable part of Americans seems to have with regard to the society they live in as well as an attempt to explain some of the fears the rest of the world recently developed with respect to the former land of unlimited opportunities. And – being cleverly marketed by a director who increasingly presented himself as the bearer of truth in a time when people readily swallowed everything that would “verify” their gut felt opposition to the Texan way of life – the film was turned into a huge commercial success.

Again. It is an important film. It is film whose message deserves to be taken seriously. It is a non-fiction film. But is hardly a documentary in the classic sense. Moore deserves criticism for telling the world it is, but again – that’s about it.

almost a diary, cinema

The Bourne Identity

Can you believe it – Franka Potente is the German movie industry’s darling to the extent that cinemas have scheduled an additional 0:01 showing on the opening day of her latest film, “The Bourne Identity” in which she is acting alongside Matt Damon. Potente plays Marie Kreutz, a Swiss-German loafer who happens to open her car in the very second that amnesiac Jason Bourne needs a ride. I dire need of cash Marie accepts $20.000 in return for driving Jason to Paris, where both soon find themselves in the middle of some serious secret service trouble. It’s no cineastic marvel, but its a decent action film which always tries to keep the moral ambiguity surrounding the main character. One never really gets to know who’s the good guy and who’s the bad. Somehow all participants have to work with the moral hand they have been dealt. That is true even for Marie, who decides to stay in the car with him when Bourne tells her to get off. For a $75m film, moral ambiguity is quite an achievement, in my opinion.

The things in find most remarkable in this film? Firstly, the car chasing scene in Paris. It’s hilarious. They jump from one end of the city to the other within seconds. I guess that’s what “beaming chases” will look like in the future. Secondly, the French, especially, the French police get a decent amount of bashing for no apparent reason. Finally, the CIA, their technological abilities as well as their organisational imperfections, are portrayed in a scary way.

Summary: Two hours of decent entertainment. IMDB rating 7.5/10, my rating: 6.5/10. That, as well, is quite an achievement for an action film.


Minority report: ‘Signs’

Apparently, most people like ‘Signs’, Mel Gibson’s latest film. An rating of 7.5 is illustrative. But I don’t. Why? Because it’s simply a bad film. I am right, and the others are wrong.

Has anyone ever heard of vampire style bad-guy aliens able to fly zillions of miles in warp-speed-vehicles with the intention to kill humanity only to give up and fly another zillion of miles back home because they could not manage to enter a room protected by wooden boards nailed to the door? Can anyone believe that mind reading aliens in possession of mind blowing technology that would, according to the film, change everything ever written in (human) science books – but who are, unfortunately, lethally allergic to water – could actually be stupid enough to go on a largescale manhunt on a planet that largely consists of water without ever thinking about how to protect themselves? I’ll stop here, gentle readers, for your and my brain’s sake.

It’s a bad, bad film. And it’s even worse because of all the religious allusions trying to tell the viewer that God has accorded humanity a special status even with respect to the rest of the universe. Everything is taken care of in a big masterplan in which we are lucky enough to be on the right side. As long as we believe.

When Mel’s wife dies in a car accident she utters strange last words. Because of her early death, Mel loses his faith, quits his position as reverend and becomes a farmer only to discover the extraterrestrial signs in his field (which, as a footnote, the aliens use as navigational devices, because their mind blowing technology is unable to provide sufficient electronic landing information). Of course, neither his wife’s death nor her last words, nor his son’s asthma, nor his daughter’s eating disorder (she puts half-full glasses of water everywhere), nor his brother’s talent to play baseball are actually random – they’re the most important pieces in the puzzle leading to the defeat of the last alien vampire, gracefully left behind by his fellow invaders to die and thus help end the film. After his dead wife’s last words prove to be the clue to killing this last stupid alien, Mel can rediscovers his faith and resume his position as a reverend.

So what is the gist of the film, for those of you who will wisely decide not to see it. The truth is I don’t know: If this was supposed to be a film about the special bond between humanity and God then the clearly stated complete predetermination of events does not make any sense. Predetermination cannot create a bond, not even dependence. It reduces agents to puppets of their principal in any context.

If this was supposed to be a film about a lonely widower fighting alien vampires to protect his family, then the religious allusions seem misguided.

And if this was supposed to be a film which wants to scare humanity with the abrogation of free will, then it is helpless. Matrix did a much better job there. It’s a stupid film which does not know what it wants. Not that this would reduce its box office potential, although, in an ideal world, it should.

But that’s just my opinion. And it’s apparently a minority report.


Kissing Jessica Stein.

Last week I saw the film “Kissing Jessics Stein” (aka “Kissing Jessica” in Germany – note: German film distributors often use parts of the original title instead of a) coming up with something useful in German or using the entire English title. You think this is weird? You are right).

“Kissing Jessica Stein” is a postmodern romantic comedy about a woman, Jessica, in her late 20s who is exploring her sexual horizon by replying to a classified ad by lesbian Helen.

The film depicts in an extremely witty way how she gets involved deeper and deeper in the relationship, eventually comes out as a lesbian to her conservative family and moves in with Helen. In the end, however, she realises that Helen is much more of a friend than lover. Helen, of course, feels the same way and so they split as a couple but remain close friends.

While I really liked the film it made me think about two things. The first of which is the production budget, or rather, the entire history of its making. The two protagonists not only wrote the script while in acting school and later performed it in an off-Broadway theatre. They were actually involved in financing the film’s budget of unbelievable 1m USD. Distributed by Fox Searchlight pictures, the film has grossed about 7m so far in the US alone.

That is a return on investment which should silence all those who bought tech stocks back in october 1999, even if the production budget probably doesn’t account for marketing expenses. Interestingly, I (and no one of those I know who have seen the film) remarked anything negative with respect to its technical perfection. The minimal budget for professionally looking dialogue-based films without stars has apparently come down to about 1m USD thanks to technological advances. This heralds great things for films from smaller markets than the US – even if they won’t be able to keep up with Jessica’s ROI, for most of those films will lack the support of Fox Searchlight’s international marketing clout.

The second thing Jessica made me think about was the amount of estrogene the late nineties and early post millenium years have shed on the screens. The entire Western hemisphere has been familiarised with the most intimate feelings of the likes of Ally McBeal, Carrie Bradshaw, or now, Jessica Stein. We have indulged in their post-post-modern feminism and realised that today’s tv-heroines will tell everybody exactly what they want – even if everybody is no longer interested.

There is a direct line from Sally “having a salad” after meeting Harry to Jessica Stein’s lesbian exercises. I can’t really tell you why, but seeing Jessica Stein trying to convince herself that she can be a lesbian, too, made me realise that the days of estrogene on the screen are likely to end rather sooner than later. All that had to be said has been said by now.

So my bet is a return of testosterone on the screens. But in 2 years we will definitely know more…