Maurice (1987)

Director: James Ivory
Writer: Kit Hesketh-Harvey, James Ivory
Based on: E. M. Forster‘s novel
Cast: James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves, Denholm Elliott, Simon Callow, Billie Whitelaw, Barry Foster, Judy Parfitt, Phoebe Nicholls, Patrick Godfrey, Mark Tandy, Ben Kingsley, Kitty Aldridge, Helena Michell, Catherine Rabett
Seen on: 22.4.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, classism

Maurice (James Wilby) meets Clive (Hugh Grant) at Cambridge University where they connect over philosophy and music. Their friendship quickly deepens and when Clive confesses his love for Maurice, Maurice is thrown at first but finally able to admit his love for Clive as well. Only that Clive wants to keep sex out of their relationship, especially since homosexuality is still forbidden in the UK. Trapped between (internalized) denial and a longing for happiness, Maurice and Clive have to make some important decisions.

Maurice is a beautifully crafted film that – given the time it is set in – I thought would be much sadder. Instead it is a powerful and very romantic call to live your truth.

The film poster showing Maurice (James Wilby) leaning over Clive (Hugh Grant) who is turning his face away.
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Der Himmel über Berlin [Wings of Desire] (1987)

Der Himmel über Berlin
Director: Wim Wenders
Writer: Wim Wenders, Peter Handke
Cast: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander, Curt Bois, Peter Falk
Seen on: 28.6.2018

Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander) are two angels, tasked with watching over the people of West Berlin. They walk through the city and try their best to bring comfort, relief and general goodness, but aren’t always successful. Damiel increasingly feels that he doesn’t want to do it anymore in any case and when he sees Marion (Solveig Dommartin), the trapeze artist of a struggling circus, his attraction to her is the final push he needs to make it official: he wants to live as a human with all the emotion that brings with it and that are not accessible to him now.

Der Himmel über Berlin was recently restaurated and got to tour cinemas again. Given that the best thing about it is the spectacular cinematography, it was very nice to be able to see it on the big screen. Other than that, it didn’t entirely work for me, but it’s definitely interesting.

Film poster showing Bruno Ganz with wings looking of a the edge of a skyscraper.
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Re-Watch: Dirty Dancing (1987)

Dirty Dancing
Director: Emile Ardolino
Writer: Eleanor Bergstein
Cast: Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, Jerry Orbach, Cynthia Rhodes, Jack Weston, Jane Brucker, Kelly Bishop, Lonny Price, Max Cantor
Seen on: 19.1.2018

Baby (Jennifer Grey) is going to a holiday resort with her family for the summer. Big things are expected of her: her adoring father Jake (Jerry Orbach) sees her rescuing the world pretty soon, a fact that her sister Lisa (Jane Brucker) who is more interested in boys than politics, sees with jealousy. Baby stumbles into the lives of the resort’s dance instructors during her stay. Trying to help with their problems, it puts her in the path of Johnny (Patrick Swayze). They fall in love, but things are not easy.

I have watched Dirty Dancing approximately a million times, but I think when I saw it this time, it was the first time that I didn’t see it in the German dub, but in the English original. That, combined with the fact that I’m a little older now, gave me an entirely new appreciation for the film: it’s not only a perfectly wonderful romance, it’s a huge political and feminist statement as well.

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Moonstruck (1987)

Director: Norman Jewison
Writer: John Patrick Shanley
Cast: Cher, Nicolas Cage, Vincent Gardenia, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello, Julie Bovasso, John Mahoney, Louis Guss
Seen on: 30.12.2017

Loretta (Cher) is a bookkeeper who lives with her parents (Vincent Gardenia, Olympia Dukakis). Her boyfriend Johnny (Danny Aiello) is slightly boring, but definitely dependable. And he just proposed to Loretta. Loretta agrees to marry him but insists on following the old traditions because she is sure that her first husband died because they didn’t stick to traditions. Johnny agrees, but has to leave to go to Sicily to tend to his dying mother. In the meantime, he asks Loretta to see his brother Ronnie (Nicolas Cage) and invite him to the wedding. Loretta does so and finds a passionate, hot-headed man who turns all her plans upside down.

I can imagine that Moonstruck came across as charming when it came out, but I don’t think it aged very well. I didn’t get into it in any case.

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Cry Freedom (1987)

Cry Freedom
Director: Richard Attenborough
Writer: John Briley
Based on: the autobiographical books by Donald Woods
Cast: Kevin KlineDenzel WashingtonPenelope WiltonKevin McNallyJohn ThawJosette SimonJohn MatshikizaTimothy WestJohn HargreavesZakes Mokae
Seen on: 10.4.2017

Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) is a journalist in South Africa. He’s part of the white establishment, but despite his own critical views of the black population’s struggles for equality and freedom, he is professional enough to listen what they have to say. When he meets Steve Biko (Denzel Washington) in person, he is finally convinced of the worthiness of their cause. After Biko is killed in police custody, Woods writes a book about him that brings a lot of trouble to himself and his family.

Cry Freedom is a film about an important and fascinating issue with a great cast that, unfortunately, chose the wrong perspective to tell its story. It could have been so much more if it had actually been about Biko and his activism, and not Biko’s effect on a white man.

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Yeelen [Brightness] (1987)

Director: Souleymane Cissé
Writer: Souleymane Cissé
Cast: Issiaka KaneAoua SangareNiamanto SanogoBalla Moussa KeitaSoumba TraoreIsmaila SarrYoussouf Tenin CisséKoke Sangare
Seen on: 10.8.2016

Niankoro (Issiaka Kane) and his mother (Soumba Traore) have fled from his father Soma (Niamanto Sanogo), a powerful sorcerer. When Soma is starting to catch up with them, Niankoro departs on a journey to visit his uncle and get his advice. In his pocket is a magical artefact that could potentially give him the power to beat his father – and is the reason that he is pursued so relentlessly by him.

Yeelen draws on Malian myth(s) to tell a story that is deeply embedded into Malian culture and tradition and to tell it in a way that is decisively not “Western”, not Hollywood. To the European eye, that makes it sometimes a little harder to understand, but also fascinating.

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Prince of Darkness (1987)

Prince of Darkness
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: John Carpenter
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jameson Parker, Victor Wong, Lisa Blount, Dennis Dun, Susan Blanchard, Anne Marie Howard, Ann Yen, Ken Wright, Dirk Blocker, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, Peter Jason
Seen on: 22.5.2016

After the death of a priest, Father Loomis (Donald Pleasence) goes to his church and finds a weird container full of a green liquid in the basement. Nonplussed, he asks university professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) for help in analyzing whatever that liquid is. Birack packs up equipment and a group of grad students from various fields. They set up camp in the church and get to work. But it seems the liquid isn’t something that science can deal with, but evil itself.

Prince of Darkness didn’t impress me much, I have to admit. While I enjoyed the science and religion blend at first, I just thought that it all got a bit much – and I wasn’t really able to go along with a lot of it.

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Near Dark (1987)

Near Dark
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Kathryn Bigelow, Eric Red
Cast: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein
Seen on: 21.4.2016 (totally missed to review this one, so a late addition)

Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) lives a rather quite life with his family on their farm. But then he meets Mae (Jenny Wright). She’s beautiful and mysterious and he falls for her head over heels. Happy with any way that means spending time with her, he offers her a ride home. As dawn is fast approaching on their ride, he asks her for a kiss – but Mae bites him instead, turning him into a vampire. Before the sun rises, Caleb finds himself with Mae and her group, facing a completely new life that is much more than he bargained for.

I had never seen Near Dark, so when the Filmmuseum showed it, I jumped at the chance. But this might be another instance where you have to have seen the film in younger, more formative years to really fall in love with it. I enjoyed it, but not much more.

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Re-Watch: Spaceballs (1987)

Director: Mel Brooks
Writer: Mel Brooks, Thomas Meehan, Ronny Graham
Cast: Bill Pullman, John Candy, Daphne Zuniga, Rick Moranis, Mel Brooks, Dick Van Patten, George Wyner, Michael Winslow, Joan Rivers, Lorene Yarnell Jansson, John Hurt
Seen on: 22.12.2015

Planet Spaceball has a problem: they are running out of breathable air. That’s why President Skroob (Mel Brooks) sends Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) to the neighboring planet Druidia to take their air. Dark Helmet kidnaps Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) of Druidia to ransom the air, but her father King Roland (Dick Van Patten) decides to hire Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his trusted sidekick Barf (John Candy) instead to rescue Vespa.

I watched Spaceballs a lot when I was a kid (certainly more often than Star Wars which it spoofs) but it has been years since I last watched it (it is still one of the films that gets quoted in my friends’ group from time to time). And I don’t think I ever saw it in English before. So when they showed it for a night in the Gartenbaukino, in honor of the release of Episode VII I figured it was the perfect moment to revisit it. And I still loved it.



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Re-Watch: Masters of the Universe (1987)

Masters of the Universe
Director: Gary Goddard
Writer: David Odell,Stephen Tolkin, Gary Goddard
Based on: the action figures
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, Meg Foster, Billy Barty, Courteney Cox, Robert Duncan McNeill, Jon Cypher, Chelsea Field, James Tolkan, Christina Pickles
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 19.9.2015
[Review by cornholio.]

Skeletor (Frank Langella) has taken over He-Man’s (Dolph Lundgren) world which is slowly falling to pieces. But Skeletor’s claim to fame can be halted if He-Man manages to break his hold on the throne of Castle Greyskull before the moon is properly aligned for the last transfer of power. But backed into a corner, He-Man has no choice but to flee through a portal opened by Gwildor’s (Billy Barty) cosmic key. Together with Duncan (John Cypher), Teela (Chelsea Field) and Gwildor himself, He-Man finds himself stranded on our earth and the cosmic key lost. Will he be able to return in time?

We used to love He-Man when we were children and we watched this film so often, my parents still quote “I HAVE THE POWER” at us. But it had been 20 years or so since I last watched the film, so I was extremely excited when I saw that it was included in the /slash’s program this year (preceded by a hilarious, if slighlty overlong, live enactment with action figures of one of the audio plays that were also produced in the franchise). But there was also a sense of trepidation there: how bad would it really be? How many of my fond memories are tainted by nostalgia and how much is actually fun?

It turns out, I need not have feared. While Masters of the Universe isn’t exactly a cinematic masterpiece, it is an extremely decent film, with a high entertainment factor and a lot of heart.

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