Leptirica [She-Butterfly] (1973)

Leptirica
Director: Djordje Kadijevic
Writer: Djordje Kadijevic
Based on: Milovan Glisic’ short story Posle devedeset godina
Cast: Mirjana Nikolic, Petar Bozovic, Slobodan ‘Cica’ Perovic, Vasja Stankovic, Aleksandar Stojkovic, Tanasije Uzunovic, Ivan Djurdjevic, Bogoljub Petrovic
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2021
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Plot:
A small town in the middle of nowhere is facing a problem: their millers keep dying, murdered, as they suspect, by a mysterious creature that seems to have ties to the village itself. Without a miller, there is no flour and without flour, the village is soon bound to starve. The men of the village think they have found a solution, though. As they look for the creature, they ask Strahinja (Petar Bozovic) to take over as miller. He is poor and needs something to prove himself so he may marry Radojka (Mirjana Nikolic), so Strahinja accepts. But the search for the creature is difficult and Strahinja may be in more danger than he realizes.

I really enjoyed Leptirica, especially because it gives us a very different take on a creature that is often referred to as a vampire (I’d argue, it’s something else entirely). Understandably a classic.

The film poster showing the film title as if written with wooden planks. A butterfly is impaled on the "T" and a moon dangles on a string from the "C". There is a skull in the moon, and below the moon, there is a village.
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The Green Knight (2021)

The Green Knight
Director: David Lowery
Writer: David Lowery
Based on: the legend of Gawain
Cast: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Ralph Ineson, Erin Kellyman, Joel Edgerton
Seen on: 26.8.2021

Content Note: mention of rape

Plot:
Gawain (Dev Patel) likes to drink and sleep with Essel (Alicia Vikander), a sex worker in the local brothel. He does not like to take things seriously or to take on responsibility. His uncle the King (Sean Harris) and his Queen (Kate Dickie) see something more in him though, and his mother (Sarita Choudhury) also has plans for him. But on Christmas, Gawain’s reckless fashion leads him to accept a game from the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) in probably the worst way – with long-reaching consequences.

The Green Knight is an intense film with absolutely stunning images that did get a little exhausting for me at times. But I’d still recommend it, especially on the big screen.

The poster showing Gawain (Dev Patel) wearing a golden crown, a dark look on his face.
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Europa Europa (1990)

Europa Europa
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Writer: Agnieszka Holland
Based on: Solomon Perel‘s autobiography Ich war Hitlerjunge Salomon
Cast: Marco Hofschneider, André Wilms, Ashley Wanninger, Klaus Abramowsky, Delphine Forest, René Hofschneider, Julie Delpy, Hanns Zischler, Martin Maria Blau, Bernhard Howe, Klaus Kowatsch, Holger Kunkel, Halina Labonarska
Seen on: 19.8.2021

Content Note: holocaust, anti-semitism, fascism, sexualized violence

Plot:
Solomon (Marco Hofschneider), called Sally, lives with his Jewish family in Germany, but with the rise of the Nazis, the situation becomes ever more dangerous for them. After his sister is killed, the remaining family makes its way to Poland, hoping to be safe there. When the Nazis come to Poland, too, Sally becomes separated from the rest of his family. He first finds shelter in a Russian school, but after the Nazis catch up with him there, too, he doesn’t have many options left. When he finds himself face to face with German soldiers, he tells them that he is a “Volksdeutscher”, member of a German minortiy in Poland, and since his language skills prove him to be a valuable interpreter, he is taken in. But it’s not that easy to pretend that he isn’t Jewish.

Europa Europa gives us an important perspective on World War 2 – one on what it could mean to simply survive, and how hard even the “lucky” persecuted people had it. It’s a really memorable film with a memorable protagonist.

The film poster showing Solomon (Marco Hofschneider) leaning over Leni (Julie Delpy) to kiss her.
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Ammonite (2020)

Ammonite
Director: Francis Lee
Writer: Francis Lee
Cast: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones, Fiona Shaw, Alec Secareanu, James McArdle, Claire Rushbrook
Part of: Queertactics Festival
Seen on: 23.6.2021

Plot:
Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) lives in a small town at the sea with her mother (Gemma Jones). Every day, Mary goes down to the beach to look for fossils, having made many important finds already – not that the scientific establishment cares much about her. Nevertheless, one day a geologist, Roderick Murchinson (James McArdle) comes to her shop and hopes to accompany Mary to the beach to learn from her. He is willing to pay for it, and Mary is poor, so she agrees. A little while later, Murchinson leaves on a trip to the continent, but leaves behind his sickly wife Charlotte (Saorise Ronan). Mary finds herself suddenly responsible for Charlotte, a charge she resents at first. But slowly the two of them warm to each other.

Ammonite is a really nice film with excellent performances and good characters. It could have done with a little more happiness, but I did like it a lot.

The film poster showing Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) looking to the right and Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan) to the left. Their inages are pale apart from where their two faces intersect.
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Wuthering Heights (2011)

Wuthering Heights
Director: Andrea Arnold
Writer: Andrea Arnold, Olivia Hetreed
Based on: Emily Brontë’s novel
Cast: James Howson, Solomon Glave, Shannon Beer, Kaya Scodelario, Paul Hilton, Simone Jackson, Steve Evets, Lee Shaw, James Northcote, Nichola Burley
Seen on: 27.3.2021

Plot:
When Mr Earnshaw (Paul Hilton) brings home an orphaned Black boy who he calls Heathcliff (Solomon Glave), his daughter Catherine (Shannon Beer) is at first taken aback. But then the two become inseperable. But in their harsh surroundings, their relationship also becomes one of harshness. When they grow up (James Howson, Kaya Scodelario), it turns to bitterness, especially when the rich neighbor Edgar (James Northcote) starts courting Catherine.

Wuthering Heights does not have an easy start with me. I absolutely hated the novel. But I was hoping that Arnold would still manage to turn the story into something I’d care for. Unfortunately, my hopes were disappointed in that regard.

The film poster showing Heathcliff (James Howson) in a close-up and Catherine (Kaya Scodelario) walking away in two separate images.
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Pachamama (2018)

Pachamama
Director: Juan Antin
Writer: Juan Antin, Patricia Valeix, Olivier de Bannes, Nathalie Hertzberg
Cast: Andrea Santamaria, India Coenen, Saïd Amadis, Marie-Christine Darah, Vincent Ropion, Jean-Marc Pannetier [I saw the film in English, these are the French voice actors]
Seen on: 23.3.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) colonialism

Plot:
Tepulpai (Andrea Santamaria) wants to become a shaman like Shaman (Saïd Amadis). When its time to prove that he is willing to sacrifice his most treasured possession to Pachamama and thus prove that he is becoming an adult, he can’t do it – unlike Naira (India Coenen) who is ready to sacrifice her small llama Lamita. When a tax collector shows up in their village and takes not only more than the village can afford, but also their Huaca, a sacred idol, Tepulpai hopes he can prove himself after all – by bringing back the Huaca.

Pachamama is a really beautiful film with a political core, but the story and the voice acting didn’t quite work for me.

The film poster showing Tepulpai and Naira flying on a big Condor bird. Lamita is watching them from the ground.
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Die Deutschmeister [A March for the Emperor] (1955)

Die Deutschmeister
Director: Ernst Marischka
Writer: Ernst Marischka
Remake of: Frühjahrsparade (to which Marischka also wrote the script)
Cast: Romy Schneider, Magda Schneider, Siegfried Breuer Jr., Josef Meinrad, Gretl Schörg, Susi Nicoletti, Adrienne Gessner, Hans Moser, Paul Hörbiger, Gunther Philipp, Wolfgang Lukschy, Fritz Imhoff
Seen on: 14.3.2021

Plot:
After having her fortune told by a parrot, Stanzi (Romy Schneider) knows that she has to come to Vienna to visit her aunt Therese (Magda Schneider) who runs a bakery there. Right when she arrives, Stanzi gets caught up in a ball where she utterly confuses Baron Zorndorf (Gunther Philipp) who thinks her a countess. But the Baron is quickly forgotten when Stanzi meets the young drummer Willy (Siegfried Breuer Jr.) whose head is filled with music. When Stanzi sees an opportunity to help Willy by contacting the Kaiser (Paul Hörbiger) on his behalf, she takes it, even if that spells embarrassment for her aunt and the court counselor Hofwirth (Josef Meinrad) who is trying to court Therese.

Die Deutschmeister is a film that basically consists entirely of kitsch and is seasoned with a couple of charming characters. If you’re looking for Monarchy nostalgia and an intense dose of sugar, this is the film to turn to.

The film poster showing Stanzi (Romy Schneider) in the Prater with her date Willy (Siegfried Breuer Jr.).
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Wiener Blut [Vienna Blood] (1942)

Wiener Blut
Director: Willi Forst
Writer: Axel Eggebrecht, Willi Forst, Ernst Marischka, Hubert Marischka
Based on: Victor Léon and Leo Stein‘s operetta
Cast: Willy Fritsch, Maria Holst, Hans Moser, Theo Lingen, Dorit Kreysler, Fred Liewehr, Hedwig Bleibtreu, Klaramaria Skala, Paul Henckels, Ernst Fritz Fürbringer, Egon von Jordan, Fritz Imhoff
Seen on: 28.2.2021

Plot:
Countess Melanie (Maria Holst) and Count Georg von Wolkersheim (Willy Fritsch) have not been married very long, but are very happy with each other. Melanie is excited because they are about to arrive in her hometown Vienna for the first time since they got married. Georg has to attend the Congress of Vienna and Melanie can’t wait to dance again at Vienna’s lavish balls. But they quickly realize that Georg just wants to work and expects Melanie to have no fun either. This causes a rift in their marriage that they may not be able to repair.

Wiener Blut concluded the Willi Forst retrospective at the Filmarchiv and it’s probably the distillation of the films he is known for. But I thought that compared to some of his other films, Wiener Blut is just okay and not the best thing he ever made.

The film poster showing Melanie (Maria Holst) with Crown-Prince Ludwig von Bayern (Fred Liewehr).
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Bel Ami (1939)

Bel Ami
Director: Willi Forst
Writer: Hans Fritz Beckmann, Axel Eggebrecht, Willi Forst
Based on: Guy de Maupassant‘s novel
Cast: Willi Forst, Olga Tschechowa, Johannes Riemann, Ilse Werner, Hilde Hildebrand, Will Dohm, Lizzi Waldmüller, Marianne Stanior, Aribert Wäscher, Hubert von Meyerinck, Hans Stiebner
Seen on: 25.2.2021
[Here’s my review of the 2012 film.]

Content Note: colonialism, racism

Plot:
Georges (Willi Forst) just returned to France after serving as a soldier in Algeria. Pretty much penniless, he tries to get by on his looks when he runs into an old colleague, Forestier (Will Dohm). Forestier invites Georges into his home, introduces him to his wife Madeleine (Olga Tschechowa) and several other influential people. Soon Georges’s luck is looking up, as he sleeps his way up the ladder: he starts an affair with Clotilde (Hilde Hildebrand) and works at the newspaper La Vie Française, though his articles are written by Madeleine who has her own goals.

Bel Ami wasn’t my cup of tea and probably the weakest of the Forst films I saw so far. Part of that reason was that Forst didn’t work for me as Georges. Another part was that I was a little (very) weirded out by the political angle here.

The film poster showing drawings of the main characters, above all Georges (Willi Forst) and the women around him.
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Rebecca (2020)

Rebecca
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writer: Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse
Based on: Daphne du Maurier’s novel
Cast: Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ann Dowd, Tom Goodman-Hill, John Hollingworth, Keeley Hawes, Sam Riley, Bill Paterson
Seen on: 20.2.2021

Plot:
Working as a companion to Mrs van Hopper (Ann Dowd) has brought the unnamed protagonist (Lily James) to Monte Carlo where Mrs van Hopper spies Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer), whose somewhat tragic story precedes him: he is a widower and lives at the grand estate of Manderley, now all alone. When Mrs van Hopper falls ill, the protagonist and Maxim de Winter start to spend more time with each other and finally he asks her to marry him. But living in Manderley, where the shadow of Maxim’s deceased wife Rebecca hangs over everything and her housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas) makes sure it doesn’t leave, proves quite a challenge for them.

Rebecca is an okay adaptation of a really excellent novel. That squandered potential leaves a film that is decidedly meh, but very pretty.

The film poster showing Maxim (Armie Hammer) looking into the distance as he holds the protagonist's (Lily James) face. She is looking up at him.
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