Thursday, December 02, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks (Oscar Winners Edition): Best Foreign Language Films


For the 48th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We return to the subject of Oscar winners in the Foreign Language film category as it is an award that celebrates the best of what countries outside of America and other English-language speaking countries have to offer as some of those films are usually better than the American films as it has recently been renamed as the Best International Feature Film. Here are my three picks:

1. Nights of Cabiria
While Federico Fellini has won the award four times in such classics as La Strada, 8 ½, and Amarcord, it is the film where he won the award the second time around that kind of gets overlooked as it doesn’t have the ambition of the latter 2 films nor the whimsical melodrama of its predecessor. Yet, the film is this touching story about a prostitute who is trying to find love in Rome as she is mistreated and shamed through a series of events. It is the performance of Giulietta Massina that is the heart of the film as her performance as the titular character is full of heartbreak but also charisma.

2. Z
Costa-Gavras’ political drama about the assassination of a left-wing activist and the government’s attempt to cover it up is definitely a groundbreaking film that explores this growing political discord that is to come in not just in the 1970s but also in today’s climate. Set in Greece, the film stars Yves Montand as this activist who is killed where a magistrate investigates the assassination but also the government’s role in this plot. It is a film that definitely showcases the power of government and how someone who doesn’t fit in with their agenda could be a threat with an outsider being more troubling.

3. Dersu Uzala
Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of Vladimir Arsenyev’s novel is an unusual bio-pic of sorts as it came at a time when many thought Kurosawa’s time had come following the poor reaction towards his last film and his falling out with 20th Century Fox during his early involvement in Tora! Tora! Tora! Teaming with Soviet producers for this film, it is a film that explores a friendship between Captain Arsenyev and the titular character who is this eccentric guide as the film is set during the 20th Century. There’s not much plot in the film where Kurosawa would favor settings and themes about nature and the modern world. The film would give Kurosawa his second win in the category just 22 years after his first win with Rashomon.

© thevoid99 2021

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

2022 Blind Spot Series Announcement


Another year is coming to an end and this one was difficult though it is likely to be harder considering that there's a lot of films that I wanted to see but I have no access to with torrents no longer becoming an option at this point. With this year's Blind Spot Series set to end with Sergei Bondarchuk's near-7 hour epic take on Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. The time has come to get ready for what is to come in the new year despite the threat of a new COVID variant as it is clear the pandemic isn't over and we need to be ready. For the 2022 Blind Spot Series, I hope to never go through another snafu like what happened this past summer where I was forced to delete my illegally-downloaded copy of Werckmeister Harmonies and then watch it on YouTube for free but with a score that wasn't in the final film. My choices this time around are all based on films that I have purchased on DVD/Blu-Ray as well as films I hope to purchase on DVD/Blu-Ray. My choices aren't just based on availability but also films that are diverse in genre but also in the time period as I also wanted to go into different places around the world but also do films by great filmmakers that I am enjoying but also some I haven't discovered as all of these films are from the Criterion Collection. Here are the films for the 2002 Blind Spot Series in chronological order:

Westfront 1918 by G.W. Pabst

Bringing Up Baby by Howard Hawks

The Bigamist by Ida Lupino

Devi by Satyajit Ray

Mandabi by Ousmane Sembene

Army of Shadows by Jean-Pierre Melville

The Merchant of Four Seasons by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Celine and Julie Go Boating by Jacques Rivette

Boat People by Ann Hui

Dreams by Akira Kurosawa

Flowers of Shanghai by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Letters from Fontainhas Trilogy (Ossos - In Vanda's Room - Colossal Youth) by Pedro Costa

© thevoid99 2021

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Films That I Saw: November 2021


Another year is coming to close in the coming month as it has been insane though this month did start well with the Atlanta Braves winning their second World Series championship. Unfortunately, the celebration didn’t last here at home as this Thanksgiving was a bit of a downer because my mother got COVID though she is recovering and is starting to get her sense of smell back a bit as well as taste. I was tested negative following a recent test which is good but I’m now worried that 8-month old niece as she also got COVID though she is doing OK. This is not the way I had hope to start the Xmas holiday season as I was in a good mood and hoped to see a few more films but I ended up staying home to help my mother.

Now that there’s a new COVID variant emerging, it is clear that this pandemic is far from over as I’m now preparing for the worst and it’s a shame that there’s still a bunch of fucking morons who are going to fuck this up as usual. I’ve become used to wearing a mask whenever I go out in public and it does make me feel safe but I take great comfort in knowing that I’m keeping people safe as well. It’s these small things that I hope at least people are aware of what is going on though I do live in a state that do have stupid people.

Then there’s this recent incident in Houston involving Travis Scott and his music festival as this was something that could’ve been avoided yet the fact that 10 people have died so far including a child is just devastating. Scott should be in prison for the fact that he encouraged a large crowd to get rowdy while they’re getting crushed and did little to stop the concert. People have compared this to Altamont in 1969 with the Rolling Stones, the 1979 Cincinnati stampede for a concert from the Who, and the 2000 Rokskilde festival during Pearl Jam’s performance. This was worse considering that the Stones tried to calm things down to an unruly crowd while Pearl Jam tried to stop the crowd from surging. The Who didn’t know what happened until after show as it was a traumatic event for them. This isn’t some generational thing but rather how one handles these incident as Scott’s response was poor not to mention that his dumbass girlfriend in a Kartrashian was taking selfies while all of this was happening.
In the month of November 2021, I saw a total of 22 films in 12 first-timers and 10 re-watches with five of those first-timers being films directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Not a bad month considering that I spent part of the month taking care of a 2 year old and an 8-month old as the latter is trying to learn to crawl. The highlights of the month definitely has been my Blind Spot pick in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s BRD trilogy as it now increased my interest in the late German filmmaker. Here are my top 5 first-timers that I saw for November 2021:

1. Shiva Baby
2. Sunset
3. What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael
4. Ciao Alberto
5. Eternals
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’ve Been Watching

The Melies Mystery
Georges Melies is a pioneer in cinema that deserves a lot of credit as this documentary is about his life’s work and the films he’s made but it is also a film about how they got lost as well as the race to restore the many films that are still found. It is an intriguing film but it is really uneven in the fact that it wants to be a profile on a great filmmaker but it also wants to be this study on restoration and events that played into Melies’ fall from the world of cinema. While it does feature interviews from film critic/historian Leonard Maltin as well as filmmakers Costa-Gavras and Michel Gondry, it is a film that could’ve been more about Melies rather than be all sorts of things as the restoration stuff could’ve been another film.

Ciao Alberto
One of the things that I love about Disney+ isn’t just the quality content it has in things to watch with children but also presenting new things such as this short film that is a mini-sequel to Luca. It is about Alberto living in Portorosso where he is trying to win the approval of Massimo by being his assistant. It is a short that is funny as well as touching that is something that fans of Pixar and the film itself should watch where it is just this nice little short.

The Juniper Tree
This film from Nietzchka Keene that was made in the late 80s and released in 1990 is a unique take on a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm about two sisters whose mother had been burned at the stake as they’re taken in by a man who marries the older sister while his son is convinced that she’s a witch. Starring Bjork as the younger sister, it is a film that has an incredible look though it is sluggish in its pacing and doesn’t have much plot. Yet, it is a film worth watching largely because of Bjork just before she would join the alternative group the Sugarcubes as the film would be released years before she became the artist everyone knows and loves.

Shiva Baby

Shiva Baby by Emma Seligman from NYU Tisch Undergrad Film & TV on Vimeo.

Given the major buzz and acclaim Emma Seligmann’s film had gotten, it is worth nothing that the film was based on a short that she had made a few years earlier that also starred Rachel Sennott. It is the same story as the feature but only in a smaller version with Sennott’s character learning that her sugar daddy is a married man with a child as they attend this Shiva. It does have a few difference but it is worth watching for anyone that loved the film or haven’t seen the film yet.

Olaf Presents
Another new thing from Disney+ is a series of 30-45 second short films that has Olaf interpreting other Disney film classics. It is enjoyable and fun as it showcases what Olaf would do with Sven in some bits. Olaf is a polarizing character for some but my nephew enjoyed it as it is just harmless fun while credit should go to the animators for making Olaf show that he is an imaginative snowman.

The Mandalorian
I had been hearing about this show for years as I have to say that this is the best thing that the Star Wars franchise have created since Empire and I am eagerly anticipating both a third season and The Book of Boba Fett. It is a show about a bounty hunter who is tasked with an assignment to retrieve something for a man played by Werner Herzog who works with remnants of the Imperial Empire. That something turns out to be Baby Yoda, who is later known as Grogu, as they would embark on an adventure evading the Empire and other bounty hunters as he would seek help from others including others Mandalorians (played by Katee Sackhoff and Sasha Banks) as well as Boba Fett and Rosario Dawson as the Jedi warrior Ahsoka Tano. The second season finale is definitely an episode for the ages with one of the greatest and tearful endings ever.

Acapulco (season 1, episodes 6-9)
If there’s another reason to have Apple TV+ aside from Ted Lasso and some movies (that I hope to watch ASAP), it is this show as my mother really loves the show not just because it is funny but it also has a lot of heart. The recent episodes show what a young Maximo had to do to please the hotel guests but also the sacrifices he needed to make for the greater good. The show also does a lot to flesh out the characters more such as Don Pablo, Maximo’s friend Memo, the love interest Julia, her clueless but well-meaning boyfriend Chad, Maximo’s mother, his sister Sarah (who was played by Salma Hayek in How to Be a Latin Lover), and others. I hope the show gets another season as it’s something that I can watch with my mother.

Hawkeye (episodes 1 & 2)
The new show from Disney+ that is part of the MCU from showrunner Jonathan Igla is definitely a much more upbeat and charming series so far with two episodes premiering last week. It largely revolves around the Xmas holidays where Clint Barton is taking his kids to the city as he’s dealing with PTSD while a young woman who saw him fight at the Battle of New York in Kate Bishop has become a skilled archer/fighter as she is not enthused about her mother’s new boyfriend. It is a show with a lot of wit as both Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld are a joy to watch together with Lucky the Pizza Dog also being part of the fun. So far, the show establishes what is going on with its second episode ending with an introduction of a new character in Maya Lopes/Echo who is played by Alaqua Cox. It’s still early to tell at the moment as there is a lot of intrigue and suspense while fans are definitely anticipating the arrival of Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova character and what she is planning to do.

Top 10 Re-watches

1. The Wolverine
2. The Way Way Back
3. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
4. Day & Night
5. La Luna
6. Feast
7. Lava
8. Hawaiian Vacation
9. Small Fry
10. Frozen Fever
That is all for November 2021. The first thing in December that I will do is announce the line-up for the 2022 Blind Spot Series with War & Peace being the final Blind Spot for this year. I hope to watch some films as I plan on renting a couple on YouTube such as No Time to Die and Last Night in Soho as well as whatever new films are coming in the theaters such as Spider-Man: No Way Home. I will also announce plans for the next year after I finish my Blind Spot assignment while I am also watching The Beatles: Get Back at the moment as I am making notes on what happened so far as I am enjoying it. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2021

Sunday, November 28, 2021

2021 Blind Spot Series: Lola (1981 film)


Based on Heinrich Mann’s novel Professor Unrat, Lola is the story of a cabaret singer/prostitute who decides to pit two men against each other as a way to become independent on her own in late 1950s West Germany. Directed and co-edited by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and screenplay by Fassbinder, Peter Marthesheimer, and Pea Frohlich, the film is a loose take on Mann’s novel as well as a homage to Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel in the third and final film (second chronologically) in a trilogy that explores women trying to find themselves in postwar West Germany as the titular character is played by Barbara Sukowa. Also starring Armin Mueller-Stahl, Mario Adorf, Matthias Fuch, Helga Feddersen, Karin Baal, and Ivan Desny. Lola is a ravishing and enchanting film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Set in late 1957 in the small town of Coburg, the film revolves around a cabaret singer/prostitute who becomes the object of affection towards a new building commissioner from East Prussia as he deals with her current lover in a corrupt property developer who also owns the cabaret club she sings at. It is a film that explores a woman who is trying to maintain control of her own fate as she is having an affair with this man whom she works for while is also intrigued by this new figure who is a straight-laced, moralistic individual that wants to clean things up. The film’s screenplay is largely straightforward in its narrative though it’s more of a study of people trying to be involved this power play for change in a new Germany just a few years before the Berlin Wall would be this symbol of the Cold War. The titular character is at the center of this emergence of a new West Germany as it’s been more than a decade since the war ended as she is just this cabaret singer who plays in a club while is a prostitute who gives her services to people in power including the club owner Schukert (Mario Adorf).

The arrival of building commissioner Von Bohm (Armin Mueller-Stahl) changes things as he is someone that is simple man from a different part of Germany that had its own unique history while he would live at a house where Lola’s mother (Karin Baal) would be his housekeeper unaware that she’s Lola’s mother since she refers to her daughter in her real name in Marie-Luise. Von Bohm would get Schukert’s longtime assistant/cabaret band drummer Esslin (Matthias Fuch) to be at his side where Von Bohm is aware of Schukert’s dirty tactics while he is fascinated by Lola unaware of her real job. Yet, Von Bohm would meet Lola under her real name as he sees her as this idea of purity and innocence with a young daughter whose father’s identity unknown except for her mother and other locals.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s direction definitely has a lot of style in its imagery as he imagines this small town as this vibrant town that is about to enter the modern age while retaining elements of the past with its desire to move away from the horrors of World War II. Shot on locations around Munich and Eichstatt in the Bavarian area of then-West Germany, Fassbinder does give the presentation a colorful vibe where there is a lot of stylish lighting for many of the interior/exterior scenes at night while he also play into this sense of decadence that has gone on for too long with Lola being part of it. There are some wide and medium shots to get a scope at the locations including scenes at the town square with the latter playing into the look of the cabaret club that Lola performs at. There is also these moments that do play into this idea of capitalism as it is a major theme in the film where Fassbinder showcases a lot of the scheming that goes on involving Schukert and other political officials involving a major project that would get them into this modern West Germany.

There are also these close-ups that Fassbinder creates as it relates to Von Bohm’s fascination towards Lola where Fassbinder does some unique compositions that play into the world of melodrama. It is among these moments that do play into a world that is incorruptible that includes a scene inside an office where the camera moves around the table on a dolly-track as it play into Von Bohm wanting to take control as a big “fuck you” to Schukert and everyone else who is corrupt. Still, Fassbinder reveals that someone like Von Bohm with all of his ideals is someone that is disconnected with the forces he is dealing with and the fact that he’s in a world where everyone uses everyone including Lola who uses sex and her beauty to get what she wants. Overall, Fassbinder crafts a luscious yet riveting film about a cabaret singer who pits her corrupt club owner lover against an idealist building commissioner for her affections.

Cinematographer Xaver Schwarzenberger does incredible work with the film’s cinematography as it is a major highlight of the film with its candy color-like lighting schemes for some of the interiors as it helps heighten the mood and look of the film as well as aiming for a naturalistic look for some of the daytime exterior scenes. Editors Rainer Werner Fassbinder (in his Franz Walsch pseudonym) and Juliane Lorenz do excellent work with the editing as it is stylish as it has some stylish transitions that play into some of the melodrama while also adding some ambiguity into the film with some jump-cuts that play into some of the intense moments of the film. Production designers Rolf Zehetbauer, Udo Kier, and Raul Giminez, along with art director Helmut Gassner, do amazing work with the look of the cabaret club as well as the house that Von Bohm lives in and the home where Lola and her mother lived in that also includes an American GI. Costume designer Barbara Baum does fantastic work with the costume from the stylish clothes that Lola wears from the more innocent and refined clothes she wears for Von Bohm to the lingerie and cabaret-style clothing for Schukert.

Makeup artists Anni Nobauer and Edwin Erfmann do terrific work with the look that Lola would sport in her different personas as well as the look of some of the cabaret players. The sound work of Vladimir Vizner is superb for the atmosphere of the cabaret club in the way music is presented as well as the sound effects for some of the scenes in the film including a traffic jam. The film’s music by Peer Raben is amazing for its playful cabaret style music with elements of dramatic string arrangements that play into the melodrama while its soundtrack feature an array of cabaret songs and traditional pop songs that play into that world of decadence as it is another highlight of the film.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Udo Kier as a waiter at the cabaret club, Ulrike Vigo as Lola’s daughter Marie, Nino Korda as a TV deliveryman, Herbert Steinmetz as the doorman who works at Von Bohm’s building, Harry Baer and Rainer Will as a couple of protesters who side with Von Bohm, Karsten Peters as a newspaper editor, Gunther Kaufmann as an American GI who lives at the home where Lola’s mother lives in, Christine Kaufmann as a prostitute whom the GI often sleeps with, Isolde Barth as the mayor’s wife, Y Sa Lo as a prostitute who works at the cabaret club, Karl-Heinz von Hassel as the corrupt police chief Timmerding, Elisabeth Volkmann as a prostitute/cabaret performer in Gigi, Hark Bohm as the mayor Volker who likes to go to the cabaret club and doesn’t mind taking payouts, and Rosel Zech as Schukert’s wife who either has no clue that her husband is cheating on or is indifferent as someone who enjoys the lifestyle she’s living in.

Helga Feddersen is fantastic as Von Bohm’s secretary Miss Hettich as a woman who always bring something while is an ardent supporter of Von Bohm while Ivan Desny is superb as the bank president in Wittich who is intrigued by Von Bohm but warns him about Schukert. Karin Baal is excellent as Lola’s mother as a woman who wants her daughter to find happiness where she works as a maid of sorts for Von Bohm whom she believes is a good influence for Lola. Matthias Fuchs is brilliant as Esslin as an assistant to Schukert who becomes frustrated by him where he finds some hope in Von Bohm while he also works as a drummer for Lola’s cabaret performances. Mario Adorf is amazing as Schukert as a property developer who is eager to use his pull to create a building that would put Cobert into the modern world while is also a man of corruption as he is also using his affair with Lola for personal and financial reasons.

Armin Mueller-Stahl is incredible as Von Bohm as an East Prussian building commissioner who arrives to the town wanting to clean things up as he’s intrigued by Lola in the hope he can give her a better life unaware of what she really does with her life. Finally, there’s Barbara Sukowa in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as this cabaret singer/prostitute who is eager to move up for something bigger as she is torn with her affair with Schukert as well as a life outside of decadence that Von Bohm has to offer though there is a lot more that she wants as it is this radiant and exuberant performance from Sukowa.

Lola is a spectacular film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder that features a sensational leading performance from Barbara Sukowa in the titular role. Along with its supporting cast, themes on greed and corruption, Xaver Schwarzenberger’s lush cinematography, dazzling art direction, and Peer Raben’s offbeat music score. The film is a fascinating and compelling film that presents itself as an offbeat melodrama that also play into this study of a woman wanting to get something for herself as she pits two men against each other for her affection. In the end, Lola is a tremendous film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Films: Love is Colder than Death - (Katzelmacher) - (Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?) - (Rio das Mortes) - (The American Soldier) - (Whity) - (Beware of a Holy Whore) - (The Merchant of Four Seasons) - The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant - (Jailbait) - World on a Wire - Ali: Fear Eats the Soul - (Martha (1974 film)) - (Effi Briest) - (Fox and His Friends) - (Mother Kuster’s Trip to Heaven) – (I Only Want You to Love Me) – Satan's Brew - (Chinese Roulette) - (Germany in Autumn) - (Despair) - (In a Year of 13 Moons) – The Marriage of Maria Braun - (Third Generation) - (Berlin Alexanderplatz) - (Lili Marleen) – Veronika Voss - Querelle

© thevoid99 2021

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

2021 Blind Spot Series: Veronika Voss


Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and written by Fassbinder, Pea Frolich, and Peter Marthesheimer, Veronika Voss is the story of a once-revered starlet who has faded in obscurity in 1955 Munich as she begins a relationship with a sportswriter while dealing with events that lead to her declining career. The second film (third film chronologically) of a trilogy of films about women and their identities in postwar Germany as it is partially based on the life of actress Sybille Schmitz who was a popular actress though her association with the Third Reich lead to the end of her own acting career as the titular character is played by Rosel Zech. Also starring Hilmar Thate, Cornelia Froboess, Annemarie Duringer, and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Veronika Voss is an intoxicating yet eerie film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

The film revolves around a once-famous actress during the days of Nazism as she has faded into obscurity where she meets a sports reporter as she deals with an escalating morphine addiction and delusions about returning to her film career. It is a film that is about a woman who is eager to return to the world of film but is unable to deal with reality as she also dependent on a neurologist who is feeding her morphine addiction. The film’s screenplay has a narrative that is largely straightforward but also bits of flashbacks as it play into the life that the titular character once had but also a life she wants to be part of. The film opens with her at a screening at one of her older films as she remembers the time she was filming it as she was this big star whose films were funded by the Nazis until the end of the war as she had faded into obscurity. Upon meeting the sports reporter Robert Krohn (Hilmar Thate) at a bus during a rainy night, she is surprised that he has no idea who she is or was as they become friends where Krohn learns more about her.

Yet, he is also wondering if some of the things she says are true where he learns that she frequently visits a neurologist in Dr. Marianne Katz (Annemarie Duringer) who is treating her. Still, Krohn is unsure about Dr. Katz’s methods including the fact that she’s supplying Veronika’s morphine addiction where his concerns for her begins an affair. The affair would be tumultuous where Krohn’s girlfriend Henriette (Cornelia Froboess) becomes suspicious about Voss yet is fascinated by her lifestyle and life while is also becoming aware that another of Dr. Katz’s patients are involved with opiates. The addiction would only increase Veronika’s own delusions including claims she is to come back though the reality is far more troubling as her ex-husband in screenwriter Max Rehbein (Armin Mueller-Stahl) warns Robert to not to get too close.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s direction definitely has style as it evokes elements of classical old Hollywood films with its stylish lighting and presentation while playing up this world of postwar West Germany as it is shot on location in and around Munich. There is an element of style in Fassbinder’s compositions in the way he would frame his actors in a shot as well as the presentation of a room or a restaurant where he would use a lot of wide and medium shots to capture the scope of the locations but also the world that Voss lives in. There are close-ups in the film that do play into the melodrama while there are also some stylish shots including a few slanted camera angles as it add to this warped reality that Voss is in. Even as there’s flashbacks of the life she once had as there’s a scene at her apartment as it’s full of posh antiques and such while it then cuts to the apartment without all of those things as she’s spending time with Robert who gets a closer look into her troubled mental state.

Fassbinder also evokes elements of suspense as it relates to Robert trying to find out about Voss’s mental state, her past as an actress supported by the Nazis, and her time with Dr. Katz. Notably as there are these offbeat elements as Dr. Katz’s office as it feels like this posh hospital which includes an American GI (Gunther Kaufmann) helping her out as he barely says anything. It’s among these quirks that Fassbinder puts in as well as the fact that Robert is somewhat out of his element since he’s a sports reporter but he’s determined to seek out the truth. Even in the third act where there is this absurdity as it relates to Dr. Katz’s methods and this sense of an end for Voss who is forced to accept reality about her fleeting fame. Overall, Fassbinder crafts a majestic yet haunting film about an actress’ descent into madness in her attempt to return to the world of films.

Cinematographer Xaver Schwarzenberger does incredible work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its dazzling usage of interior lights for some of the flashbacks and interior settings including Dr. Katz’s office as well as some stylish exterior shading for some of the scenes at night. Editor Juliane Lorenz does brilliant work with the editing as its stylish usage of transition wipes help play into the film’s stylistic presentation along with some rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and drama. Production designer Rolf Zehetbauer and art director Walter Richarz do excellent work with the look of the places the characters go to including the stylish apartment office that Dr. Katz lives in as well as Voss’ home in its glory days and ruined state. Costume designer Barbara Baum does fantastic work with the costumes as it features a lot of the stylish and expensive clothing Voss wears as well as the ragged look of Robert in his ordinary suit and such.

The makeup work of Anni Nobauer and Gerd Nemetz is terrific as it play into the beauty of Voss but also moments where she becomes mad where the makeup starts to fade away. The sound work of Vladimir Vizner is superb for the way some of the sparse moments sound at Dr. Katz’s office as well as the volume of the music as well as maintaining a natural approach to the sound. The film’s music by Peer Raben is amazing for its offbeat score that is this mixture of country and the pop music of the times with some eerie piano-based pieces while the soundtrack features elements of American country and standards music that often plays on the radio or sung by Voss.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Rainer Werner Fassbinder as a man at a movie theater sitting behind Voss, editor Juliane Lorenz as a secretary, Volker Spengler and Peter Zadek as a couple of film directors Voss would work with as the former during her prime and the latter in her comeback attempt, Hans Wyprachtiger as Robert’s editor-in-chief, Elisabeth Volkmann as a co-worker of Robert in Grete, Sonja Neudorfer as a saleswoman at a posh restaurant, Lilo Pempeit as a manager of the restaurant who recognizes Voss, Gunther Kauffman as an American GI who works for Dr. Katz, Johanna Hofer and Rudolf Platte as an old couple who are patients of Dr. Katz, Peter Berling as a film producer who wants to help Voss in finding the right role for her comeback, and Erik Schumann as Dr. Edel who is an associate of Dr. Katz.

Doris Schade is fantastic as Dr. Katz’s assistant Josefa who does a lot to lie and help out Dr. Katz as well as also do a lot of the cleaning up. Armin Mueller-Stahl is superb as Voss’ ex-husband/screenwriter Max Rehbein as a man who used to bring the best in her as he would warn Robert about getting too close to her knowing a lot about her madness up close. Annemarie Duringer is excellent as Dr. Marianne Katz as a neurologist who is treating Voss in order to deal with her madness though she has ulterior motives of her own while her own methods including supplying morphine to Voss makes her a chilling figure in the film. Cornelia Froboess is brilliant as Robert’s girlfriend Henriette as a woman who is fascinated by Voss though is troubled by her drug abuse, association with the Nazis, and the methods of Dr. Katz where she tries to get proof of her abuse.

Hilmar Thate is amazing as Robert Krohn as a sports writer who meets Voss though has no clue of who she is as he gets to know her only to put himself in trouble as it relates to Dr. Katz where he also deals with her troubling methods. Finally, there’s Rosel Zech in a tremendous performance as the titular character as this once-famous actress during the era of Nazism who deals with her fading celebrity and growing dependency on morphine as she meets this man hoping he would help her where Zech displays that aura around her as someone who is this great yet controversial figure but is one step away from just losing it.

Veronika Voss is a phenomenal film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder that features a spectacular performance from Rosel Zech in the titular role. Along with its ensemble cast, dazzling presentation, study of fading stardom and madness, and its offbeat yet riveting music score and soundtrack. The film is a ravishing film that explores a woman dealing with her own madness as well as trying to get a writer to help her only to bring more trouble. In the end, Veronika Voss is a sensational film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Films: Love is Colder Than Death - (Katzelmacher) - (Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?) - (Rio das Mortes) - (The American Soldier) - (Whity) - (Beware of a Holy Whore) - (The Merchant of Four Seasons) - The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant - (Jailbait) - World on a Wire - Ali: Fear Eats the Soul - (Martha (1974 film)) - (Effi Briest) - (Fox and His Friends) - (Mother Kuster’s Trip to Heaven) – (I Only Want You to Love Me) – Satan's Brew - (Chinese Roulette) - (Germany in Autumn) - (Despair) - (In a Year of 13 Moons) – The Marriage of Maria Braun - (Third Generation) - (Berlin Alexanderplatz) - (Lili Marleen) - Lola (1981 film) - Querelle

© thevoid99 2021

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

2021 Blind Spot Series: The Marriage of Maria Braun


Directed and co-edited by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and screenplay by Peter Marthesheimer and Pea Frohlich with additional dialogue and story by Fassbinder, Die ehe der Maria Braun (The Marriage of Maria Braun) is the story of a woman whose marriage to a soldier during the final days of World War II leaves her lost as she tries to reinvent herself following the post-war years while being devoted to the man she is married to. The first film in a trilogy of films set during the post-war years of West Germany and how it would affect the life of a woman in her new surroundings. Starring Hanna Schygulla, Klaus Lowitsch, Ivan Desny, and Gisela Uhlen. Die ehe der Maria Braun is a majestic yet evocative film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Set from the final days of World War II to the early 1950s, the film follows the journeys and evolution of a woman who would marry a soldier in those final days only for him to disappear where she would take part in other ventures during his disappearance as a way to be part of this new economic miracle in postwar Germany. The film is an exploration of a woman in the course of her life from her wedding day to the culmination of everything she has worked for while maintaining her loyalty to her husband. The film’s screenplay that features additional work from Kurt Raab as it begins in 1943 Berlin during a battle where the titular character (Hanna Schygulla) and Hermann Braun (Klaus Lowitsch) are getting married while all of this chaos happens around them as he would leave the next day and then disappear as Germany would lose the war. During the course of the next eight years, Maria would do things to survive following news that claimed that Hermann has died where she engages in a brief romance with an African-American soldier in Bill (George Byrd) and then meet a wealthy industrialist in Karl Oswald (Ivan Desny) whom she would become his personal assistant.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s direction definitely has an air of style in terms of the way he moves his camera for a shot or in a location as well as play into this world of an old Germany during the final days of the war and the economic re-birth it would be a part of after the war. Shot largely on location in Coburg in then-West Germany and parts of West Berlin, Fassbinder plays into this period of World War II where it begins with Maria and Hermann being married while air raids are happening as it sets the chaotic tone of what is to come from the film. While there are some wide and medium shots to get a scope of the locations and places that Maria and other characters go to, there is a sense of style in the way Fassbinder would shoot a scene where he would use dolly-tracking shots to move the camera from one area and into another for a single take as it play into some of the drama.

There are some close-ups in the way Fassbinder reacts not just towards a character but also an object whether it’s a carton of cigarettes or an appliance as it would play into something that would foreshadow a lot of what it to come. Sex is a major proponent of the film in how Maria would use her sex appeal to get what she wants but it also plays from a woman that wanted to be love only to then use sex to get what she wants. The direction also play into her evolution where Fassbinder would slowly play into the changing times though not revealing when these events happen as it’s more about this woman being part of the times and finding herself although it would come at some major costs of her own sense of morals. Even towards the end as she becomes successful on her own yet there is still the matter of Hermann whom she is still married to as it play into his own existence and role in their marriage. Overall, Fassbinder crafts a captivating and mesmerizing film about a married woman trying to find her identity during the postwar years of Germany.

Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus does amazing work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward for many of the daytime exterior scenes along with some stylish lighting for a few of the interior scenes at night. Editors Rainer Werner Fassbinder (in his Franz Walsch pseudonym) and Juliane Lorenz do excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward as it allow shots to linger for a bit as well as cutting to play into some of the dramatic moments. Production designer Norbert Scherer, with set decorators Arno Mathes, Hans-Peter Sandmeir, and Andreas Wilms, does fantastic work with the look of the home where Maria lived with her mother as well as the home of Oswald and the house that Maria would buy late in the film. Costume designer Barbara Baum does brilliant work with the costumes in the dresses that Maria wore as it play into her evolving style from being a woman who wore ragged dresses to high fashion towards the end.

The makeup work of Anni Nobauer is terrific as it play to the look of the characters including Maria early in the film during her attempt to get a job. The sound work of Jim Willis and Milan Bor is superb for the natural approach to sound including some of the sparse moments as well as how music is presented. The film’s music by Peer Raben is wonderful for its low-key piano-based music as it help play into the drama along with some orchestral pieces while the soundtrack feature a lot of the big band and swing music of the times as well as some classical pieces.

The film’s marvelous ensemble cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Rainer Werner Fassbinder as black markets dealer, Peter Berling as a club owner for American GIs to attend to, Hannes Kaetner as the justice of the peace in the film’s opening scene, Kristine de Loup as the notary in the opening scene, Gunther Kaufmann as a drunken American soldier on a train, Volker Spengler as a train conductor, Bruce Low as an American prosecutor in a trial that involved Maria, Karl-Heinz von Hassel as the German prosecutor, Sonja Neudorfer as a Red Cross nurse, Lilo Pempeit as Maria’s secretary in the third act, Isolde Barth as a woman who accompanies Senkenberg late in the film over business matters, Claus Holm as a doctor that Maria frequently visits, Anton Schiersner as Maria’s grandfather who lives at the apartment with her mother, and Gunter Lamprecht as Hans Wetzel whom Maria’s mother begins to have a relationship with in the film’s second half. George Byrd is superb as an African-American GI named Bill whom Maria would have an affair with early in the film until a major revelation would change everything while Hark Bohm is terrific as Oswald’s bookkeeper Senkenberg as someone who isn’t entirely fond of Maria but realizes her worth in terms of influence as well as admire her ambition.

Gottfried John and Elisabeth Trissenaar are fantastic in their respective roles as longtime friends in Willi and Betti Klenze as a married couple who joins Maria’s ascent with the latter being someone who wants more while the former is someone who just wants simple things as he was also close to Hermann. Gisela Uhlen is excellent as Maria’s mother as a woman who encourages Maria to succeed but then feels alienated by what success has turned Maria into. Ivan Desny is brilliant as Karl Oswald as a textile industrialist who befriends Maria in a train as they later engage in their own affairs while he deals with his own mortality knowing he doesn’t have much time to live.

Klaus Lowitsch is amazing as Hermann Braun as a soldier that Maria would marry as he would be seen briefly for a bit as someone who is a man that is devoted to Maria as he would be this symbolic figure of love whom Maria is often attached to. Finally, there’s Hanna Schygulla in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as this woman who gets married only for her husband to disappear where she tries to find her identity where Schygulla displays a radiance to her role as well as this air of evolution from being a prostitute to a woman of power who still clings to her love for Hermann while coping with the affairs she engages in.

Die ehe der Maria Braun is a tremendous film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder that features an incredible leading performance from Hanna Schygulla. Along with its ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, a lively music soundtrack, and its theme of a woman trying to find her own identity during the postwar era. It is a film that explores this journey a woman takes where she becomes part of this economic rebirth while dealing with the fact that she is a married woman whose husband is lost with his own uncertain fate. In the end, Die ehe der Maria Braun is a spectacular film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Films: Love is Colder than Death - (Katzelmacher) - (Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?) - (Rio das Mortes) - (The American Soldier) - (Whity) - (Beware of a Holy Whore) - (The Merchant of Four Seasons) - The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant - (Jailbait) - World on a Wire - Ali: Fear Eats the Soul - (Martha (1974 film)) - (Effi Briest) - (Fox and His Friends) - (Mother Kuster’s Trip to Heaven) – (I Only Want You to Love Me) – Satan's Brew - (Chinese Roulette) - (Germany in Autumn) - (Despair) - (In a Year of 13 Moons) - (Third Generation) - (Berlin Alexanderplatz) - (Lili Marleen) - Lola (1981 film) - Veronika VossQuerelle

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, November 22, 2021

Girl Week 2021: Shiva Baby


Written and directed by Emma Seligman that is based on her 2018 short film, Shiva Baby is the story of a young Jewish bisexual woman who attends a Shiva as she deals with family and others where she copes with her lack of direction in life as well as everyone else around her. The film is a coming-of-age story of sorts set almost in one entire location where a young woman is still trying to figure herself out while attending college and uncertain about her own relationship status. Starring Rachel Sennott, Molly Gordon, Polly Draper, Fred Melamed, Danny Deferrari, Jackie Hoffman, Sondra James, Deborah Offner, and Dianna Agron. Shiva Baby is a riveting yet chaotic film from Emma Seligman.

The film revolves around a young college student who attends a Shiva with her parents as the guests include not just relatives but also a former girlfriend and a man, who is her sugar daddy, who is also married and has a baby. It’s a film that takes place almost in real time where a young woman attends this Jewish funeral observance known as a Shiva for a relative where she deals with people around her as they question about what she’s doing as well as her lack of direction with her former girlfriend already going to law school. Emma Seligman’s screenplay is straightforward as it opens with the protagonist Danielle (Rachel Sennott) having sex with an older man as she is a sex worker of sorts where she gets the call to attend a Shiva with her parents in Joel (Fred Melamed) and Debbie (Polly Draper).

Much of the story is set at a house where there is a lot happening with Danielle having to talk with relatives and family friends where they ask her a lot of questions about her future as she is finishing college. Yet, a lot is happening with the presence of her former girlfriend Maya (Molly Gordon) and the man she had sex with earlier that day in Max (Danny Deferrari) who is revealed to be married to a successful entrepreneur in the non-Jewish Kim (Dianna Agron) and with an 18-month old baby.

Seligman’s direction is largely straightforward but also claustrophobic in its setting as it is shot largely on location in Brooklyn inside an actual house. While there are a few wide shots including the film’s opening shot of Danielle having sex with Max as it goes on for a few minutes. Much of Seligman’s direction relies on close-ups and medium shots to not just play into this air of claustrophobia that Danielle is dealing with but also the number of people inside this small house. The usage of hand-held cameras and Steadicams add to the sense of movement within the house as there are a few moments where Danielle and other go outside as much of the action at the house takes place in real time. Notably as there is a lot of talking and overlapping dialogue where there’s one scene of Danielle eating while two women talk in front of her as she’s looking at someone else.

These moments occur often while there are also these moments of tension between Danielle and Maya as it is clear there is still feelings but the latter is still upset over some things and acts out quietly which only adds to the anxieties that Danielle is dealing with. Even as an hour at the event goes by where she thinks about having a moment with Max but also has to deal with Kim and their baby who constantly cries throughout the film where Seligman uses it to create some tension and chaos that looms throughout the film. Overall, Seligman crafts an evocative and compelling film about a young woman’s attendance at a Shiva and how it confronts the lack of direction in her life.

Cinematographer Maria Rusche does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely low-key for much of the film’s interior settings as the film takes place during the day with some natural lighting for a few of the film’s exterior shots. Editor Hanna A. Park does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts and a slow-motion sequence of sorts that play into Danielle’s anxieties. Production designer Cheyenne Ford and art director Jack Dobens do fantastic work with the interiors of the house in how small the rooms are as well as some of the small details in the rooms the characters go into.

Costume designer Michelle J. Li does nice work with the costumes with everyone wearing black as part of this religious gathering with some of the dresses to be fashionable while much of it is just a bit casual. Sound editor Hunter Berk does superb work with the sound in the way a group of people can sound inside a small room or in a kitchen as it adds to the film’s claustrophobic tone. The film’s music by Ariel Marx is incredible for its disconcerting string-based score that play into the dramatic tension with pieces that are haunting as it is a major highlight of the film.

The casting by Kate Gellar is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Deborah Offner as the family friend Ellie, Ariel Eliaz as the rabbi for the Shiva, Cilda Shaur and Glynis Bell as a couple of chatty relatives, Edgar Harmanci as Max and Kim’s wailing baby Rose, Sondra James as an elder relative in Maureen whom Danielle and Maya are fond of, and Jackie Hoffman as Maya’s mother Susan. Dianna Agron is fantastic as Kim as the non-Jewish entrepreneur who attends the Shiva as she talks about her own accomplishments while offering to give Danielle some advice in a well-meaning way. Danny Deferrari is excellent as Kim’s husband Max who is also Danielle’s sugar daddy as someone who isn’t this great man that Danielle thought he is despite his own minimal success which is small compared to what his wife does.

Fred Melamed and Polly Draper are brilliant in their respective roles as Danielle’s parents in Joel and Debbie with the former being the father who is often forgetting things and often rambles while the latter is a control freak while trying to help Danielle where she becomes concerned over what Danielle is doing with her life. Molly Gordon is amazing as Maya as a former girlfriend of Danielle who is about to enter law school as she has managed to get her life together yet has a lot of bitterness towards Danielle over the fall-out of their relationship though she still cares about her. Finally, there’s Rachel Sennott in a phenomenal performance as Danielle as a college senior, who is also an escort of sorts, who is dealing with her own lack of direction as her time at a Shiva just adds to this anxiety as there’s a bit of wit but also a lot of anguish into a young woman that has little control about her life as well as the many revelations she is dealing with at the Shiva.

Shiva Baby is a sensational film from Emma Seligman. Featuring a great leading performance from Rachel Sennott as well as an incredible ensemble cast, a simple yet effective presentation, Ariel Marx’s eerie music score, and its exploration of a young woman dealing with a lot at a Shiva. It is a film that has a lot of wit but also compelling moments that play into this Jewish funeral ritual with a young woman being surrounded by relatives, an ex-girlfriend, and others that just bring up a lot of anxiety. In the end, Shiva Baby is a phenomenal film rom Emma Seligman.

© thevoid99 2021