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Entries in Germany (43)

Thursday
Apr132017

Michael Ballhaus (1935-2017)

by Nathaniel R

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus. The 81 year old artist was a crucial figure in making me the movie maniac that I am today. Michelle Pfeiffer on the piano top in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) -- hell the entire movie -- being a defining image in my life, after which I went from enthusiastic regular moviegoer to celluloid-devouring obsessive.

Ballhaus had retired after Martin Scorsese's The Departed (2006) making only one German movie in the last decade of his life and we had hoped each year that he'd be announced as an Honorary Oscar recipient. His three scant nominations -- The Fabulous Baker Boys, Broadcast News, and Gangs of New York -- do no justice to his long and gorgeous career. That's because they don't feel representative of his career as a whole and because, apart from his crowning glory (Baker Boys -- which ought to have walked away with Cinematography in just about any year, let alone 1989) aren't even his best work.

Ballhaus and Fassbinder worked together all through the 70s

Ballhaus got his start as a young man of 24 in German television but quickly graduated to features...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar072017

Second Take: François Ozon's Ravishing "Frantz"

Editor's Note: Nathaniel previously reviewed Frantz at TIFF. Now with its US release a week away, here's Eric with a second look.

Frantz, director François Ozon’s most recent picture, opens in limited release in one week and is also part of Lincoln Center’s current "Rendezvous with French Cinema" series.  Ozon is one of France’s most profilic filmmakers (he makes a film almost every year), and he’s given us many fine pictures, including the Charlotte Rampling chillers Swimming Pool and Under the Sand, the actressy 8 Women, and his deepest film, Time to Leave.  But Ozon has never made a film as ravishing and complete as Frantz.

This film, which was nominated for 11 César Awards and won the Cinematography prize at the ceremony, contains a simple story which keeps unfolding in complex and surprising ways....

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb022017

Watching "The Man in The High Castle" As Democracy Crumbles

by Deborah Lipp

It’s possible that The Man in the High Castle was born to drive us all insane. It’s possible that Philip K. Dick dropped a lot of acid, looked into the future, saw our current political situation, and sent The Man in the High Castle to try to save us. It’s also possible I have been watching too much cable news. 

The Man in the High Castle is the second-best show on Amazon Prime. Based on the 1962 novel by renowned mind-bender (and acid-dropper) Philip K. Dick (who brought us Blade Runner and Total Recall), the show depicts an alternate history, in which Germany and Japan won World War II, and divided the US between themselves. Our characters take us inside both the Japanese and German regimes, as well as inside the resistance movement operating against each. 

I am watching a TV show about resistance movements. My Facebook feed says “resist”. The “RESIST” sign in Washington Square Park, protesting on behalf of Muslim immigrants, glowed in the dark. Resist...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Dec102016

EFA ♥︎s Toni Erdmann

The 29th European Film Awards were held in Wroclaw Poland today and they went all in for the very popular German father/daughter comedy Toni Erdmann with five major prizes. It was also a huge night for women with wins in Direction, Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design and more! Super high profile titles like Isabelle Huppert & Paul Verhoeven's Elle and Pedro Almodóvar's Julieta went home empty handed, though.

Maren Ade was the belle of the EFA ball

The winners are after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct072016

NYFF: "Toni Erdmann" is Astonishing

Here's Jason reporting from the NYFF on a Cannes favorite and Oscar hopeful

It's not often you hear an audience of movie critics gasp out loud at something on-screen, but Toni Erdmann, the new comedy of forced familial closeness from German director Maren Ade, has a comic moment so perfectly timed that it got the civilized cinema-set of New York City to jump out of their seats like this was an Evil Dead movie in 3D. You know you've got 'em hooked when you can conjure up such a response - Hitchcock called it playing the audience like a piano. The fact that it comes via a comic-beat here, and not via a cat jumping onto a final girl's shoulder or a shower stabbing, makes it all the more astonishing.

And make no mistake - Toni Erdmann is astonishing...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep142016

More "Best Foreign Language Film" Oscar News

by Nathaniel R

Look at this cute still from Train Driver's Diary. That's Serbia's submission to the Foreign Language Film Oscar race which was announced yesterday. It won the audience prize at the Moscow Film Festival and tells the story of a retiring train driver training his son to take over. The old man holds an infamous record: the most accidental killings on the job. 

Forty-one countries have now made their announcements official including high profile choices like Chile's Neruda which stars Gael García Bernal and could put the auteur Pablo Larraín in contention for yet another nomination to whatever haul his brilliant Jackie picks up.

Spain's submission of Julieta, is even more high profile given Pedro Almodóvar's international statue...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jun222016

Best Shot(s): The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972)

Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Season 7 Episode 16


The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
Written and Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus 

When you watch a lot of movies you inadvertently end up drawing comparisons between films that you wouldn't have thought to put in conversation previously. It's as if you've accidentally become a guest programmer of a repertory theater or a local festival. Such was the case this week when I (not intentionally) watched Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) and The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972) nearly back to back and shook my fists to the heavens and cursed the name of anyone who ever regurgitated the lie that you have to "open up" stage plays to make them work on screen. 

Tears. not totally bitter yet but she's getting there.

Sometimes half the power of a text is in its site-specific constriction. So I went from George & Martha's messy drab campus housing with a bar (or at least its contents) in every room, to the stylish studio apartment of fashion designer Petra Von Kant which was paradoxically both over-decorated and minimalist, and both frozen in place and ever-shifting without explanation (Wasn't the bed over there in the last scene? Can these mannequins move around the room at will like the toys in Pixar movies?). I loved every second of both films and especially, perhaps paradoxically for someone who prefers short movies, the foreboding sense that there was no way to exit either film, ever, unless you accepted your fate and drowned in their contagious neuroses.

All it takes to make a play cinematic when it becomes a movie is great filmmakers. That's it. That's the whole formula...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb252016

Short Film Contenders Pt 1. Who Will Win?

Eric Blume reporting for duty. We hadn't yet reviewed the short film Oscar nominees so I binged all 15 of this week. Many minds and bladders wander away from the Oscar telecast during these three categories.  Even those of us who claim we’ve “seen everything” have rarely seen all of the entries in the three shorts fields. But pay attention because these winners can bring some of the best moments of the show:  remember the 1991 show when producer Debra Chasnoff won for Documentary Short Subject for the General Electric expose Deadly Deception?  She got to the podium and said “boycott GE!” with a cut to Barbra Streisand smiling and clapping with Kevin Costner right behind her decidedly smiling and not clapping.  We Oscar lovers live for moments like this.

There’s a lot of quality among the three categories this year.  Here’s a quick overview as well as thoughts on who might prevail and why on two of the categories.

Documentary Short Subject

Body Team 12 follows the only female Liberian Red Cross member of a team which comes to remove dead bodies during the Ebola outbreak.  It’s the shortest of the five nominees at only 13 minutes, and therefore it doesn’t have a strong driving narrative, nor does it culminate in a larger meaning.  It simply follows the team while they gear up and remove the bodies, interspersed with an interview from its main subject.  It’s focused and lovely in its simplicity, but it suffers from its brevity. 

Pro:  Ebola.  Con: Uncomplicated.

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness follows Saba, a Pakastani girl who is shot and left for dead by her father and uncle in an “honor killing” once she marries the young man she loves.  It’d be hard for anyone with a feminist bone or beating heart in them to not get riled up by this story, and it’s told with restraint and intelligence. 

Pro:  Angry.  Con: Angry.

Eight more shorts after the jump

Click to read more ...