Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, fascism
Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas) is a “schlager” singer whose heyday has long been over. He lives in Rimini now where he barely gets by with performances for busloads of German-speaking tourists, the occasional sex work and renting out his house to fans while he himself goes to stay in a shabby room in one of the many hotels that are empty for winter. When his estranged daughter Tessa (Tessa Göttlicher) shows up to demand money from him, Richie needs all his (more or less sleazy) survival skills to comply with her request.
Rimini is a typical Seidl movie in a way, but there is an almost optimistic note at the end of the film that is rather untypical. In any case, it’s the portrait of a sleazy man that spares nothing, as it is the portrait of a tourist town without tourists.
Much like the title suggests, this is a film of places, with Rimini itself taking center stage, but also including Richie’s childhood home in Austria where he meets his younger brother Ewald (Georg Friedrich) – who, btw, will be the protagonist of Seidl’s next project – and the senior home where his father (Hans-Michael Rehberg) spends his last days confused and longing for a past that is long gone. This is a trait he shares with Richie, only while Richie wishes himself back to the days where he was successful and rich, his father sings Nazi songs (in one of the films most symbolic moments, Richie covers his fathers song with singing his own schlager) and cries for his mother.
But really what I was most impressed by were the locations the film found, the empty desolation that lurks everywhere in Richie’s world – whether Parndorf or Rimini. Hats off to the location scouts here, and to Wolfgang Thaler’s clinical photography that emphasizes the emptiness, peopled mostly by refugees who seem to lie in every entryway and are about as human to Richie as rocks.
It’s no wonder that Richie drinks all day every day and lives off the few bucks he makes here and there, without much hope for any kind of change or future ever. The sudden appearance of his daugher Tessa makes that stagnation impossible, and the ending seems to suggest that a little less loneliness might be possible for Richie, though it is a far call from actual redemption for him.
It is not a pleasure to watch Richie, but pleasure is not what you should expect from a Seidl film anyway. It is an accurate look at a man and a place, though, that both speak to the more unsavory parts of life. But those need looking at, too, I’d say.
Summarizing: not easy but good.