Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

American guests have no idea who Sissi is when they visit Bavaria/Austria for the very first time. Much to the (somewhat acted) shock of local guides, who refer to her quite a lot and then dramatically shout: “You mean: you don’t know Sissiiiiii ?”

The classic Sissy trilogy is not known to American audiences. There’s an abbreviated English dubbed version which is terrible. So never – ever – watch Sissi: Forever My Love. Just watch the original trilogy, in German, with subtitles.

Growing up in Europe, this trilogy is shown almost every year on several tv channels around christmas. Its success is a bit like The Sound Of Music, which was never popular in Austria and Bavaria by the way. Maybe a new generation has never seen the movies, but if you’re over forty, you must have at least seen parts of it.

The first movie: Sissi *** is still a great joy to watch. Camp isn’t the correct term. It’s more cheesy and corny. It’s a idealized portrait of the future Austrian empress from the moment she first meets Franz Joseph to her wedding. It’s a romcom that still works well 7 decades later. There is some efficient slapstick humor, the acting is deliberately over the top, Romy Schneider looks gorgeous and it has all the elements of a fairytale: the bold and adventurous princess, the charming prince (well…) and the evil stepmother. It’s really not a bad movie at all.

In Sissi, die junge Kaiserin **(*), there’s less comedy (although there are attempts) and more drama. Sissi is empress now and has a hard time with the strict life at court. When her first-born is taken away from her, she flees home. Time for Franz Joseph to gain her back. No wedding at the end, no divorce either. But the (very long) crowning of the couple as king and queen of Hungary. Lots of patriotism in this episode. Lots of postcard settings in cities and nature. Lots of Romy looking exactly how everyone wants to remember the empress.

Sissi, Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin ** is the third installment and the worst. Even though the first two movies were also not historically correct, they weren’t so historically incorrect as this one. This is pure fiction at times. The comic relief is gone and it just basically shows Sissi abroad. First during her lengthy stay in Hungary, then her trips to Madeira and Corfu (to cure from a lung infection) and then her trip home via Milan and Venice. This must have been like watching the Travel Channel back in the fifties, but anno 2019 it’s not really fascinating. Especially since all these nationalities are introduced in the most stereotypical way possible. No. This is not a good one, but Romy Schneider is absolutely gorgeous in every single scene. So. Watch it while doing something else. Like reading online what really happened to Sissi and Franz Joseph.

 

 

Weird.

A director from the French-speaking part of Belgium made a movie about the life of Jewish businessmen in Germany, just after the end of the second world war.

The international title is Bye Bye Germany, which isn’t really a good translation of the original title. It should have been Once Upon A Time In Germany. The English title however explains a bit more about what the movie is all about though.

After having been rescued from the camps, the remaining Jews in Germany wanted to leave to the USA or (then) Palestine as soon as possible. Some of them decided to stay in Germany and do a little business to make money before emigrating. One of them was David Bermann, who – together with a group of aspiring emigrants – starts selling linen to the Germans. Any trick in the book was worth the try and they did succeed in making good money fast.

However, the memories of the atrocities of the war are still very fresh and not everyone can put the past behind them as easy as some others. Bermann himself on the other hand seems to only look at the future. Until an American investigator invites him to explain why his name is in a lot of Nazi documents. Was Bermann a traitor? Was he a collaborator? Or is he just a con, lying and cheating in order to survive?

The premise sounds intriguing, but the movie is a bit of a bore. There’s not a good balance between the storyline of the Jewish people trying to survive after the war and the storyline of the investigation. It starts of great though, with a lot of details on how these Jewish door-to-door salesmen managed to sell their goods. But then the focus shifts to the interrogation. The director decided to let Bermann explain what happened to him, accompanied with flashback scenes. Probably because he wants the audience to also doubt if the stories are true or not. But somehow that doesn’t really work that well.

Interesting, but not memorable. It wasn’t a success in Germany. Neither will it be in the rest of the world. It does look good though.

www.imdb.com/title/tt5609734/

1956, East-Berlin. Two students of a class finishing high school are able to sneak into West-Berlin to see a movie. The wall separating both parts of Berlin hasn’t been erected yet and it’s still possible to visit the other part. However, at the movie theatre they learn about a revolt in Budapest agains the Russian occupiers and once back in East-Berlin they inform their fellow classmates about the different reporting about what’s going on in Hungary.

The entire class decides to keep silent for 2 minutes in respect for what’s going on in Hungary. But the silly act isn’t met with much comprehension from their teacher and soon the principal and higher officials are informed. Keeping silent for 2 minutes as a protest is considered a political act and the consequences will be severe.

The story is based on true events, which makes the movie more intriguing than if it were pure fiction. It’s a history lesson and worth watching, but the storytelling isn’t that compelling and the acting or directing isn’t that extraordinary either. It does give you an idea of what life was like in the mid fifties in East Berlin, but it’s all pretty superficial. It’s a warning against propaganda and it does give some insight as to why a lot of people in the DDR were okay with being in the DDR. But it doesn’t really dig deep.

The book was probably better than the movie.

www.imdb.com/title/tt6576556

Passing by Leukerbad on the bus, I mention the remarkable stay of James Baldwin in this charming little town along the Rhone in Switzerland. Most of the time, the bus is very silent as if they’ve never heard of the man before.

Sure, he wasn’t Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, but he was nevertheless important as an African American activist. He was ‘just’ a writer and a homosexual on top of that.

This documentary is based on a book he never finished, in which he reflects on the legacy of the aforementioned leaders and the lesser known Medgar Evers. It’s a good documentary, because they use a lot of footage (especially pictures) from that era and it’s narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, who reads from the unfinished novel in the most surprising and fascinating way. Not sure if there are awards for narrators, but he deserves one.

You do need to have some background of the civil rights movement in the United States though. This isn’t a explanatory documentary about that fight. Nor will you learn much about Baldwin himself. You’ll want to learn more about him after this documentary and maybe that’s the point of this production. It’s interesting how the things he wrote about in the fifties are still relevant sixty years later.

www.imdb.com/title/tt5804038/

 

The Favourite – ***

Posted: February 22, 2019 in 18th Century, 2018, Dramedy, Historical, UK, XXX

This is an interesting costume drama. It has great acting performances by Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman and the period setting, costumes, make up and script are amazing. It’s not really a comedy though. The trailer and the Golden Globe nomination for best comedy don’t really do the movie justice. This is a pretty sad and tragic story about a lesser known British Queen, unfit to rule the country and unfit to produce an heir. It’s also not a historically correct movie, but just like with Marie Antoinette, some anachronisms work really well. The vogue dancing during a ball ! The compassionate ‘fuck’ through the hallway. And all the lesbianism.

There’s no proof that Queen Anne had lesbian affairs. But that doesn’t matter. The scenes aren’t explicit anyways. It just helps the viewer understand the intrigue. This pretty much feels like a story that could have taken place at the court of Versailles. So it’s interesting to see it happen at the British court.

Not all is good. The camera work isn’t the best. Those wide lenses shots are terrible and the shots towards the sunlight are a sore in the eye. It’s a daring move, but the cinematography just isn’t what you expect. That said the script isn’t what you expect either and some of the scenes and dialogues are memorable. They make up everything. So does the acting. But why are there two supporting actresses and one lead? Just to be sure to get the nods? All three play an equally important role and are equally good.

www.imdb.com/title/tt5083738/

Green Book – **(*)

Posted: February 13, 2019 in 2018, Civil Rights, Dramedy, USA, XX1/2

Mahershala Ali wins all the supporting actor awards this season for his portrayal of a black piano playing genius who wants to go on a tour in the Deep South. The story takes place in the sixties and a black musician touring in the south wasn’t the greatest plan at the time. He needed a good driver and found an uneducated, but tough Italo-American bodyguard who could do the job. That guy is interpreted by Viggo Mortensen, who is nominated a lot for his performance, but never wins. That’s a shame, because he’s doing an excellent job. In fact, he kinda outshines Mahershala in this gentle dramedy. Not that Mahershala isn’t doing a great job. He is. But he’s not the focus of the story.

It’s a nice movie. But it’s very superficial and predictable. It focusses on an idealized buddy relationship between two men that have almost nothing in common. It’s entertaining, but very light hearted. And just like with Bohemian Rhapsody, the homosexuality of the musician is briefly suggested, not shown at all and hidden behind the well pronounced fact that he was married to a woman at one time.

www.imdb.com/title/tt6966692

Django – (*)

Posted: December 19, 2018 in 1/2, 2017, Drama, France, Holocaust, Musical

Crap movie #1

There aren’t many movies dealing about the deportation of Roma & Sinti during the Second World War, so somehow, someone thought it would be great to use the story of the most famous Sinti musician, jazz guitar legend Django Reinhardt, as a tool to make an audience aware of this horrendous fact.

Okay, it’s understandable. Django Reinhardt is probably the only known Sinti in the world. But still, the story shown in this movie is not correct. He lived in France during the war and was quite successful, even when Paris was occupied by the nazis. In fact, there were some nazi officers who liked his music (when gypsy music and jazz were banned by the nazis).  He tried to escape, yes, but never managed to leave the country. So, this story is fictional! Oops. Spoiler. In this movie, Django leaves Paris, with the help of a weird character that is not only one of his lovers, but also works for the resistance and prostitutes herself to the nazis. He ends up near the Lake of Geneva and waits for a possible escape, while a nearby gypsy camp is under the threat of being deported.

This movie doesn’t work. The musical scenes are too long and not captivating at all. We don’t really get to learn anything about this jazz legend. All the side characters don’t really matter at all. The nazis are portrayed in a very stereotypical way. The editing is bad. There’s no drama, no tension, no emotion. It’s bland.

Here you have a jazz artist who is successful in a town that is occupied by people who hate his kind and the music he plays. Yet, he remains successful and is left alone. Now that’s a story worth telling. Not his fictional escape to Switzerland.

Another ‘famous’ Sinti is Marianne Rosenberg, a singer who’s only popular in Germany. Her father survived the death camps, so maybe that story would have more fascinating and a better source to make a Schindler’s List for the Romani people.

www.imdb.com/title/tt6247936