Müllers Büro (1986)

Müllers Büro [literally Müller’s Office]
Director: Niki List, Hans Selikovsky
Writer: Niki List
Cast: Christian Schmidt, Andreas Vitásek, Barbara Rudnik, Sue Tauber, Maxi Sukopp, Gaby Hift, Jochen Brockmann, I. Stangl
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2016

Max Müller (Christian Schmidt) is a private detective, usually only barely skating by and always on the lookout for money. His best friend and partner Larry (Andreas Vitásek) works with him, and they are supported by Miss Schickel (Sue Tauber) a pretty, but not all that smart secretary. One day, a gorgeous woman finds her way into Müller’s office, introducing herself as Bettina Kant (Barbara Rudnik) and hiring Max to find her missing boyfriend. As Max starts to dig into the case, he soon realizes that nothing is as it seems.

I swear it was coincidence that I saw two idiosyncratic musicals in as many days, but Müllers Büro definitely falls into that category (as did Romance & Cigarettes). In any case, it might just be the finest Austrian musical parody of noir crime stories. I enjoyed it for the most part, although it is unbelievably sexist (again, like Romance & Cigarettes).

Noir crime stories are not really my thing, but Müllers Büro is an Austrian classic, so I wanted to give it a chance regardless. And it is a parody of the genre, after all. Unfortunately, even though I’ve seen more parodies of noirs, it seems, than actual noirs, I have yet to see one that doesn’t reproduce the toxic gender roles of the classic noir, but actually subverts them, too.

Müllers Büro is not that film either. Here, the women are all sexy and sex objects. Apart from the femme fatale client and the stupid secretary, there are only sex workers in the film – that’s the entire range women get. And especially Miss Schickel is treated like shit, by both the characters in the film and the film itself – towards the end, she’s simply forgotten, it seems. As if she wasn’t worth an ending. All that sexism got pretty tiring.

Fortunately the film also has very funny moments. Vitásek and Schmidt make for a good team, the music didn’t exactly blow me away, but it was good enough and it is clear that List knows the genre very well, so he manages to hit the right genre beats – up to and including the ending that surprised me with its meta approach.

I can see why Müllers Büro was such a success, although it doesn’t quite work as well for me as it seems to have done for most others. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t entertaining though.

Summarizing: Probably one of Austria’s must-see movies.

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