Lone Star State of Mind: Hotel Dallas is in Romania

Livia Ungur from Hotel Dallas
Livia Ungur guides us through Hotel Dallas.

I saw some documentaries at this year’s Berlin film festival ‘Berlinale’. As this year’s winner of the Golden Bear is another documentary by Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi I felt motivated to write a rating for Hotel Dallas. A Romanian- American production by Sherng-Lee Huang and Livia Ungur.

The semi-documental film circles around the fact that the famous series Dallas was the only western show allowed on Romanian television in the 1980s. The Ceaușescu regime wanted to demonstrate the corruption of Western lifestyle and made it paradoxically a role model for many Romanians.

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Pick Up the Pieces: Leonardo DiCaprio is The Revenant

Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeks vengeance.
Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeks vengeance.

Alejandro González Iñarritu is the most versatile director of our time. After the highly complex Birdman, which reflects on media and show business in a self-referential way, he surprises the public with a movie which couldn’t be baser. It reminds me of the famous quote by Auguste Rodin, ‘I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.’ Because the director has gotten rid of anything in the movie that could be considered superfluous.

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Lost in Darkness: The Cruel Post-war Germany of Finsterworld

There are dark secrets hidden in the German woods.
There are dark secrets hidden in the German woods.

Finsterworld by Frauke Finsterwalder is a movie that tells a lot about Germany to foreigners as well as to the homegrown. Scripted by the director’s husband, the renowned Swiss author Christian Kracht, Finsterworld provides a broad kaleidoscope of German life today. Through several entangled stories the viewer is drawn into a world of ugliness, fetish, and callousness. Please do not consider this a tour guide to Germany.

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The Midget’s Lament: Tod Browning’s Freaks, or the Birth of Cinema from the Spirit of the Fair

The midget Hans (Harry Earles, left) is ridiculed by the trapeze artist Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova, right).
The midget Hans (Harry Earles, left) is ridiculed by the trapeze artist Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova, right).

Every once in while movies give a new direction to pop culture by starting a new epoch. Take A Clockwork Orange (1971), which influenced the punk movement by providing a new dress and language code for youth culture. Moreover, a hip-hop culture without Scarface (1983) would be hard to imagine. The movie I am going to discuss in this article is not only such an epoch-making movie but also the maker of a new medium known as ‘cinema.’

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The Doors of Perception: Nietzsche Revisited in The Diving Bell & The Butterfly

Jean-Dominique Baudy (Mathieu Amalric, right) and his wife (Emmanuelle Seigner).
Jean-Dominique Baudy (Mathieu Amalric, right) and his wife (Emmanuelle Seigner, left) feed each other.

Le scaphandre et le papillon by the American artist and director Julian Schnabel is a good example of what cinema is able to accomplish. Based on a novel by Jean-Dominique Bauby, the former editor-in-chief of the French magazine Elle, the movie is depicting his real and unique destiny.

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The Musical Box: Marion Cotillard Plays Wicked Games in Love Me If You Dare

Julien (Guillaume Canet, left) and Sophie (Marion Cotillard, right) can't stay away from playing their dares game.
Julien (Guillaume Canet, left) and Sophie (Marion Cotillard, right) can’t stay away from playing their dares game.

Jeux d’enfants by French director Yann Samuell begins as a rather sad version of Amélie but develops a dynamic of its own which leads to catastrophe. The young Julien Janvier (Guillaume Canet), whose mother is on the brink of dying from cancer, meets Sophie Kowalsky (Marion Cotillard), a Polish classmate who is bullied. They become friends und develop a dares game which has only one rule: Whoever gets the musical box must do whatever he is asked.

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Pleasure to Kill: Winona Ryder and Christian Slater Get Rid of the Heathers

Veronica (Winona Ryder, left) and her boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater, right) have grand plans.
Veronica (Winona Ryder, left) and her boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater, right) have grand plans.

Heathers is maybe the first realistic high-school movie and – at the same time – the most sophisticated. Due to its highly intelligent script, this movie has the depth and the wit of a Shakespearean play.

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