Archive for the ‘Belgium’ Category

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/

Kursk – *(*)

Posted: November 13, 2018 in 2018, Belgium, Disaster, Drama, Luxemburg, X1/2

Kursk is an ambitious movie about a Russian submarine disaster that happened not that long ago. It focuses on the crew that survived the initial blast and got stuck at the bottom of the sea waiting to be rescued. It also shows the despair and frustration of the family members waiting for news about their loved ones. And it’s a big critique to the malfunctioning Russian marine. So far so good.

However, this is a Belgian movie (!) with an international (European) cast who all speak English with an accent. They don’t even try a Russian accent. No, they speak English with a French, Swiss, German, Danish, Swedish, Flemish, Dutch accent. Oh, there are some British actors too, but they play  British navy staff so that’s ok. It’s initially very difficult to accept. Especially during the (overlong) character introduction. Here you have a bunch of Russian marines and their wives at a wedding in a remote Russian village and they all sound like exchange students speaking English as a common language.

But then the story moves forward as the submarine experiences a first explosion, which happens faster than expected once the ship sails out. Several crew members manage to survive the blast and are locked up in a small compartment trying to figure out how to get enough oxygen. Outside, the Russian navy is trying to figure out how they are going to rescue the survivors with their malfunctioning equipment. Further outside is the British navy offering help, to no avail.

The appreciation of the storytelling depends on your knowledge of the outcome of the events. The appreciation of the actual movie experience depends on what your expectations are of a disaster movie made with a budget of 20 million euro.

It’s not such a bad movie really. It’s not going to get a wide release though.

www.imdb.com/title/tt4951982

Niet Schieten – ***

Posted: October 21, 2018 in 2018, Belgium, Drama, Flanders, XXX

On November 9th, 1985 several people got shot at a local supermarket in the Flemish town of Aalst. It was the last of a series of attacks that were allegedly done by a gang called ‘De Bende van Nijvel’ (in Dutch) or ‘Les Tueurs de Brabant’ (in French). After all, this happened in Belgium, the bilingual mess it is.

Thirty-something years later, they still haven’t figured out who this gang is and the victims of the attacks still haven’t received any financial help whatsoever. It’s a disgrace.

A young boy survived the attack. He saw how his parents and sister were killed. He saw one of the attackers, but was never questioned by any authority. He himself was shot and learned how to live with a disability. He was raised by his grand-parents who lived across the supermarket and also had some important information that could have been investigated more thoroughly.

That kid, became a man who wrote a book about his struggle and the frustration about the failure of the justice system. That book has now been made into a movie. It’s a good one. It’s well-directed and very well acted. The main character isn’t the boy (played by three different actors at three different periods in their life), but is the grandfather, played by one of our best actors: Jan Decleir. He’s phenomenal. The movie is quite captivating and doesn’t shy away from showing the actual killing. It’s never sensational though and it’s brought with a lot of respect to the victims. Some emotions are told by images rather than dialogue, which works great.

By the end of the movie though, the frustration felt by the characters also transfers to the audience. This is a story without an end. A crime without a punishment. A killing without a murderer’s name. This isn’t Hercule Poirot solving a crime. This is a family learning to accept that they will never know who took the lives of their beloved ones. There is no happy end here.

Watch it. And feel upset and angry. That’s exactly the goal of this movie.

www.imdb.com/title/tt7534314

There’s no imdb page for this music documentary that got a theatrical release in Flemish cinemas. Which makes sense. Apart from the fans of this band, there isn’t really any other audience out there to recommend it to. It’s available on dvd now and it has English subtitles. But why? Why would anyone, who doesn’t know this band and doesn’t understand West-Flemish, want to watch it? The editing is kind of fun, but not spectacular and quite repetitive. So the only thing you’re left with is the humor. And it’s funny. But again, it’s only funny if you know the band and if you understand the most difficult of all dialects in the Dutch language.

I do. Hey, I know the lyrics of some of their early songs by heart. They are still hilarious, twenty years later. But this mockumentary just doesn’t deliver. The DJ of the band is also the director. His editing feels a bit like visual scratching. It’s fun. But compared to Part Of The Weekend Never Dies (the documentary of Soulwax’ international breakthrough) it all feels so unprofessional. Which isn’t necessarily bad. But to be honest, with the right tools, anybody can make a similar career overview. It’s chronological and there is a lot of focus on the early years, with clips of their first interviews, first performances and so on. It’s a bit nostalgic and it’s a great souvenir for the band members and their fans. But as a documentary is a bit boring.

Reviews rave about the mockumentary style and yes, the funniest parts are the fake interviews with other local artists (who are buddies of the band in real life). The part where Gabriel Rios pretends not to know them and then sees a clip by an Asian pop band who sampled one of their songs (quite bizarre) and he suddenly recognizes the song… it’s only funny if you know the song, if you know Gabriel Rios and if you get the humor. The whole documentary should have been like that.

So, in short: disappointing.

Luckily there’s the video of the live concert they gave earlier this year as an extra and it looks like a great best of gig.

 

30 years of New Beat. Especially in Belgium, this is a bit of a celebration. From 1985 to 1995 the country (well, Flanders and Brussels) were at the centre of the global music scene because they released successful vinyl tracks that sounded like nothing else before and became such a hype that pop music took over and killed it. However, this ‘new beat’ became a foundation of anything else that was produced in the club scene afterwards.

It’s a fun documentary if you’re interested in the topic. It actually starts with a short (but correct) introduction of Belgium, a fabricated buffer state in between England, the Netherlands, Germany and France. It talks about the yearly fairs, the barrel organs, the invention of bakelite by Belgo-American Leo Baekeland that was used to make vinyl, the opening of dance clubs along the highways, the import of international sounds by the port of Antwerp, the dj’s from the seventies, the popularity of disco and the counter-reaction of punk. And hup we are  in the eighties, where Belgian dj’s and producers start playing aggressive, dark dance music with an edge. They spin the records at a different speed and add all kinds of sounds to the music. It’s music made by producers and not by musicians! It’s Kraftwerk and Jean Michel Jarre, but with a rebel attitude. And that’s how we got to NEW BEAT.

It’s a good documentary, but the ‘sound of Belgium’ just focuses on new beat really. It doesn’t say anything about the indie rock scene or the mishmash of cultures we put together in the music is made in Belgium. There are influences from France, England, the US and Africa…. the entire world. That mix is what makes the sound of Belgium. So, this documentary has a wrong title. It’s also a bit patriotic/nationalistic. But that suits the scene well. Maybe the new beat was the only thing that united the Flemish and the French-Speaking Belgians! You hear both languages throughout the documentary. However, there’s no mention of other influencers from other countries. They even forget to mention that Baekeland was really an American from Belgian descent. Dance music really didn’t originate in Belgium either. The UK and Germany were as influential. And let’s not forget Chicago and New YOrk! And there’s an unnecessary diss to Depeche Mode by Sven Van Hees.

So, fun to watch, but pretty superficial. Give it a shot though.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2966298

The whole movie is available on this site:

https://boilerroom.tv/recording/sound-belgium

King Of The Belgians – **

Posted: November 10, 2017 in 2016, Belgium, Comedy, Satire, XX

The premise is good. The end result not so much. It’s an interesting mockumentary though that unfortunately looks too much like a movie.

The (fictitious) king of the Belgians, Nicolas, the third, is on a state visit in Istanbul when he learns that Wallonia (the French-speaking south of Belgium) decided to become independent ‘because they had enough’. He can’t return home because – due to a solar storm – all airports have closed. There’s only one way to get back and that’s via road through the Balkan! An idea of the movie maker that was filming a promo for the royal house in Istanbul. He’s also the one who registers and narrates the royal road trip.

There are some great moments, sure. It’s bilingual for instance. French/Dutch. In fact, it’s multilingual, because they speak English as well most of the time. Peter Van den Begin is really good as the king. Some situations and remarks/references are funny. My personal favorite is the encounter with a former Miss Serbia who’s now working as a customs officer ‘because just after she won the title, Montenegro became independent and she lost her title because of her Montenegrin roots’. Ha!

However, the voice-over doesn’t work. It’s annoying. And the social commentary is quite superficial. “Walloons are lazy and spongers. Flemish are arrogant. Walloons are warm-hearted. Flemish are innovative.” That’s about it when it comes to explaining the crisis in Belgium.

Nevertheless. An absurd, surreal tale about the king of an absurd and surreal country.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4818804

The remarkable thing about this new police thriller from Belgium is that it starts of really well and then falls totally flat by the end. Sadly, because the trailer looks promising.

A notorious chief of police is retiring to start a political career. But on the eve of his retirement he is tempted to do one last drug bust.  Not in the city of his jurisdiction (Antwerp), but in Charleroi. However, something is wrong. No drug lab is found. No drugs are found. A lot of people get killed and the informant seems to have damaging information about the soon to be politician. This does not look good…

Again, the movie starts of great. The tension and intrigue are built up well. The acting is good (Peter Van Den Begin is excellent in these kind of roles). Some of the scenes are shot in unique ways. The editing is excellent. The story lends well to an interesting collaboration between the movie industries from the north (Flanders) and the south (Wallonia) of the country.

But it’s all a bit predictable, and as the story comes to a climax it totally bombs.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5546540