Tag: romance

Movie Review: Im Juli (2000)

As I am learning the German language and will be studying there next semester, it follows that I am a pretty big fan of German culture, particularly its movies! There are a lot of great ones out there, old and new, but none that I’ve seen are straight-up comedies. Im Juli, a comedic road trip through Eastern Europe, broke that mold for me. Most of the film is a frame story in which hitchhiker Daniel (Moritz Bleibtreu) tells driver-with-dead-body-in-his-trunk Isa (Mehmet Kurtulus) about how he came to be abandoned in Bulgaria. Daniel is a fairly conservative high school Physics teacher, ready to spend the spring holiday week alone at his house in Hamburg. Adventurous Juli (Christiane Paul) has the hots for him and in a scheme to get his attention she ends up sending him into the arms of another woman, Melek (Idil √úner), who is leaving for Istanbul to meet someone under the bridge on Friday at noon. Propelled by his instant fascination with her, Daniel decides to drive to Istanbul and declare his love, accompanied by hitchhiking Juli (who coincidentally is also going to Istanbul, well whaddaya know). As they get to know each other, they feel both frustration and attraction. They go through many changes of vehicle, lots of lost funds, a couple of problematic border crossings, and get separated more than once. And of course, they meet a lot of ca-razy people! In the end, everything comes full-circle as Daniel, Juli, Isa, and Melek all cross paths and everyone decides to continue their wandering ways together! With Love and Friendship!

Because of his Turkish heritage, director Fatih Akin often incorporates German-Turk relation issues into his films. I like the multi-national aspect of Im Juli, with locations in Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey (they went through Romania as well but weren’t allowed to film there so it’s shown as a series of photographs). I also like how the movie can acknowledge its own silliness: while getting high for the first time, Daniel literally floats; in an attempt to apply science to a car stunt, he fails miserably. And of course, Akin’s passion for music shines throughout. Melek serenades beach campers with a Turkish ballad, Daniel and Juli croon “Blue Moon”, and there are a couple cool club scenes. It’s got pretty much everything you need for a good road movie, with pretty landscapes, near-death experiences, comedic side characters, lack of proper hygiene, and a focus on the development of a relationship. If you’re looking for a German movie that doesn’t relate to WWII, the DDR, or general unsolvable Problems, then you are in the right cinematic location!


Suicide Swing“- J*Let (best song in the movie, from a great club scene where Daniel is hallucinating)

Movie Review: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

Well, I do so enjoy a movie that looks back to the fashionable- and which-boy-will-she-pick- and what-tune-will-she-sing- stories of a different time. Laden with high fashion (though I wasn’t a fan of this hat), 30’s slang, friendship, and Lee Pace, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day has a lot of things going for it. It tells the story of Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand), a newly homeless, unemployed governess who sneaks her way into the position of up-and-coming American stage actress Delysia Lafosse’s (Amy Adams) social secretary. Immediately, she is swept up into Delysia’s whirlwind triple love life: she is dating a young theater producer (Tom Payne) in hopes of scoring a lead role and a successful night club owner (Mark Strong) who funds her lifestyle, while simultaneously she strings along pianist Michael (Lee Pace), the man she loves. Guinevere feels very out of place and out of step in this fast-paced world of secrets and debauchery (the daughter of a minister, she had had a rather sheltered childhood), but her forthrightness, pragmatism, and quick-thinking become of indespensible use to the flighty actress. All in one day she is able to help Delysia sort out her career and romantic problems, give a lingerie designer (Ciaran Hinds) a new perspective on life, plus get a stylish makeover. A strong bond between Guinevere and Delysia is established early on, and the story is sort of told through the focus of female comraderie

Overall it is well-paced and well-acted, but unfortunately it wasn’t as well-developed as it could have been. I go by what a friend said to me when he watched it: It should have been a musical. I felt things moved a bit too fast at parts, and certain characters could have been expanded upon. In musical format the story could have been adjusted and broadened to give more information on people’s backgrounds, and everything would have just generally been better! More costumes, jazzy dance numbers, showing off Amy Adams’ talents (she only sang briefly at the end). It could have been like Miss Pettigrew Is Caught In A Rich Person’s Musical, with the high society folk she meets singing around her about how wonderful and hedonistic life can be, while she is thrown into a chair and looks around in fear and confusion, unsure why these people are singing at her. Yeah. Man what a good idea I just had.

Anyway it was very enjoyable, though nothing particularly special. I’ve never read the book so I don’t know how it compares, but I’ve seen some comments online that the movie had a lot more war-related stuff (there’s an air raid drill), and a generally darker mood than the very light-hearted novel. Also the whole “Let’s have American actors star in a movie about British people” was a little weird, but most of the supporting cast was from the UK. Either way, good times for any fan of love stories, classic comedies, happy endings, and 30’s fashion.

Hal Hartley Double Feature: The Girl From Monday (2005) and The Unbelievable Truth (1989)

You all might as well know that I have a pretty serious thing for Hal Hartley films. I don’t know whether it’s the highly choreographed conversations, the puzzling character motivations, the liberating musical scores, the frequently re-appearing actors, the grainy cinematography, or the way everything seems to work out, but not really, and how each story seems like it still has so many places to go. I’m sure it’s some combination of everything. His films affect me like no one else’s, and I can’t compare them to anything. Continuing my journey through his collection of movies and shorts, the other day I settled on The Girl From Monday, his most recent before Fay Grim and his only foray into science fiction. It’s also his least well-liked, if IMDB ratings are any indication.

Shot in loose, blurry, hand-held format, The Girl From Monday has an anxious, uncertain mood that’s perpetuated by the ambiguity and confusion of the plot. Set in a not-too-distant future where people are considered stocks and everyone has a barcode tattooed on their arms (showcasing their status as consumers), the story is narrated by Jack (Bill Sage), the inventor of this human-based market. People sleep with each other to increase their personal value, making sex for pleasure odd and “barbaric”. All pretty Brave-New-World-ish. Jack is feeling uncomfortable with the world he’s helped create and ends up secretly leading “Counter-Revolutionaries”, mostly teens who are anti-consumerism and pro-sex-for-fun. He ends up dragging coworker and crush Cecile (Sabrina Loyd) into their illegal activity. Simultaneously, a strange and beautiful woman (Tatiana Abracos, in her only film role to date) appears and ends up staying with Jack. She helps him unlock some buried secrets of his past and also enacts a subplot about alien life.

Overall it’s entertaining, funny, and has a good cast. The experimental cinematography was a little off-putting but interesting. The story was kind of shoddy, but the concepts were good. I can see why this is one of his lesser films, but at the same time it still satisfied my need for Hartleyesque storytelling.


Finding myself with some time on my hands after The Girl From Monday, I decided to follow it up with another Hartley movie, one of my favourites: The Unbelievable Truth. His first film, it follows serious, ex-con-turned-automechanic Josh Hutton (Robert John Burke) as he tries to start a new life in his old town, surrounded by people who think he’s a mass murderer. Meanwhile, Audry Hugo (Adrienne Shelly) is a highly intelligent, gorgeous high school senior with constant fears of world wide nuclear destruction. She starts to fall for Josh but is thrown off by his alleged past and by her father’s threats against the relationship. Eventually she ends up working successfully as a model to make money for college as Josh grapples with his inexperience with women, among other things. Various characters interact and intersect, truths are revealed, deals are made, conversations are repeated, and everything is pretty swell.

This movie is awesome. Unfortunately it is a little bittersweet as each viewing of it re-awakens my sadness over Adrienne Shelly’s death. Also when will it be released on DVD already? Sheesh. Not that I don’t love watching the trailer for Black Magic Woman on my VHS copy (seriously, it is pretty damn hilarious- just look at the tagline), but come on guys. Let’s give Hal Hartley some high-quality, extras-ridden love.