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Berlinale’s first Victim of Cinema has apparently been my glasses, as you can see above, so I suppose you’ll have to take all future observations with a grain of salt or, if any of my readers should possess one, a very tiny screwdriver. I knew there was a good reason that I kept a drawerful of eyeglass temples around, though that doesn’t explain my closet’s worthy of expired cocoa.
And speaking of closets, American filmmaker Ira Sachs is considered a cornerstone of gay cinema, and not without reason, but is it appropriate to say that he’s better than that? Along with Nicole Holofcener he is our great documenter of upper middle-class NYC morés (aka lower middle-class everywhere else in the world) but with his Southern masterpiece The Deep and the very hetero Forty Shades of Blue (featuring a great role for Rip Torn), that’s not really accurate. Unlike Holofcener, he’s more filmmaker than writer though his latest, Love is Strange, doesn’t really break out the filters until the very end. Strange sticks to the Manhattan milieu of 2012’s Keep the Lights On, a thinly veiled roman a’ clef about his relationship with crackhead literary super-agent Bill Clegg, though the characters – a newly married gay couple long in tooth, played by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina — are considerably more sedate in their inner lives, though, ironically, more distraught in their outer ones. Transformed into light turmoil machines enacted upon their closest ones by an unfortunate political agenda outside of their control, it’s really a reserved comedy of manners concerning the perils of general interaction. John Lithgow is born to play the older half of the couple and, in fact, has played this role before. It’s his official role! The film’s social satire is subtle while its social commentary weighs heavy, which may be why the film, so affecting upon viewing, fades in significance upon reflection. Like life in Manhattan, itself.
Bethold Brecht’s play Baal was written in 1919 and as director of the restored 1969 film Volker Schlöndorff, present at the screening at Haus der Berliner Festspiele, along with stars Hanna Schygulla, Margarethe von Trotta and composer Klaus Doldinger noted, it’s amazing that he was able to anticipate the personality of star Rainer Werner Fassbinder so completely. Fassbinder is, of course, as much a legend as the actual mythological deity (aka Satan) Brecht absconded with, a deeply loved asshole who manages to dominate the alcoholic world through his poetry. Fassbinder himself would direct a masterpiece of slapstick hysteria entitled Satansbraten just a couple of years later and the film revels in the (hopefully superseded) German concept of poetry as a by-product of irrational anger in nature. Hey, Brecht wasn’t the only one keen on that idea… There is absolutely nothing likable about Brecht’s Baal (short of his self-negating integrity), yet everyone desires him and it’s no wonder that the role is a perennial fav of rock stars such as David Bowie. This was originally a TV movie, folks. A TV movie that pointed the way for the next decade of German cinema, including Schlöndorff’s The Tin Drum. That film’s Oscar was also sort of an asshole, wasn’t he?
Love is Strange screens Feb 07, 21:00 (Zoo Palast 1), Feb 08, 12:45 (CinemaxX 7), Feb 09, 17:00 (Cubix 9), Feb 16, 19:00 (Zoo Palast 1)
Baal screens Feb 08, 18:00 (Cubix 8), Feb 09, 13:30 (Haus der Berliner Festspiele)