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 The Berlin School and Beyond 
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Also, here's some Ghosts stuff I forgot to post:

Berlin's Ghosts, Anke Leweke's article for Die Zeit:
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The filmmaker Jacques Rivette once wrote that the only justification for art is that it attempts to make people a little less blind, a little less deaf and a little less dumb. In this sense, cinema is like the other arts; one knows that leaves blow in the wind but suddenly, one sees it. The films of Christian Petzold succeed in showing the world in such a way that the viewer perceives it anew. His most recent film "Gespenster" ("Ghosts") begins in a car driving on the highway around Berlin. The exits fly past, the congress centre, the huge billboards on buildings. In the car, J.S. Bach's cantata "Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis" (I had much grief) is playing. The deeply sad music combined with a light that makes everything look a little sharper gives the banal drive added significance, transposes it into another mode. One begins to wonder what the man behind the wheel is thinking, and what feelings and stories hide behind those facades that are racing by. With this first shot, one enters the film without being pulled into it...
http://www.signandsight.com/features/375.html

And this, taken from the film's press kit:
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Very few of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales don’t start with ‘Once upon a time ...’. ‘The Frog Prince’ has one of the loveliest opening lines: ‘In olden times, when wishing still helped ...’. Ghosts has two roots. A good year ago, I was in Ardennen, in Sedan and Charleroi, and in a post office there, I saw photos of girls who had disappeared from Belgium and France. They had been gone a long time. There was always the last photo of them, and then a series of computer-generated images. The images showed the girls as they might have looked three and two years ago, and how they might look now. The computer-generated portraits were strangely ghostlike. In them, you saw visages without any traces of social experience, strangely pale, not of this world. In reality, dead. Ghost portraits...
http://www.gespenster-der-film.de/download/pdf/PH_Gesp1MB_N.pdf

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Wed May 01, 2013 6:07 am
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Good stuff, Jedi. I love that one so much.

Also, Ghosts isn't dull, no matter what your (crazy) definition of dull is.

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Wed May 01, 2013 6:41 am
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"I like characters who want to bring something together, who have a plan. I like their work on the plan, the scheme, but also their failures." So states Christian Petzold, admittedly in reference to his 2007 film Yella, but it is a concept that could just as easily be applied to any number of his works; this idea that everyone has an agenda in life that, whether consciously or otherwise, comes to define them. Perhaps even more important to Petzold's characters, however, is their history: ghosts of an obscured past and a looming closet full of skeletons, often hinted at but never fully revealed. Something to Remind Me, the first collaboration between the director and his Hitchcock-blonde muse, Nina Hoss, is then a prime example of this "Petzoldian" philosophy. The English title is lifted from a Dionne Warwick song we hear recurrently throughout, and that, given its high licensing costs, helped to confine the film to German television. In its original state, the title - Toter Mann, or Dead Man - instead refers to the prone floating position, used especially by beginner swimmers. It's a nice analogy, but one gets the impression with Petzold's characters that they are not just floating but treading water, and expounding a great deal of effort to not only realise their agenda but also keep up appearances. Leyla is out for revenge; revenge is her agenda, but she must become a seductress to do so - a femme fatale in the classical Film Noir vein. Appearances must be maintained not just to fit in but also to acquire what she wants. While Something to Remind Me is dramatic, and Leyla's agenda is vengeful, I like to think that her existence is Petzold referring to the loneliness and solitude that comes with a life in which our agenda defines us.
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Wed May 01, 2013 6:57 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
I like to think that her existence is Petzold referring to the loneliness and solitude that comes with a life in which our agenda defines us.
Totally!

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but she must become a seductress to do so
So hilarious that someone who looks like Nina Hoss needs a how-to book to do this. :D

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Wed May 01, 2013 7:12 am
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I was really hoping we'd get some full frontal Hoss, but alas...

Brought my rating down from an 8.7/11 to a 9.6/14.

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Wed May 01, 2013 2:14 pm
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B-Side wrote:
Checking the IMDb page I realized this was originally a TV movie, which it would seem Petzold has been known to do. Finding out that quality films were made for TV always kinda surprises me since I live in the US and very rarely is any film of worth made for TV. Considering people like Fassbinder also worked in TV, it appears this is not the case for Germany. I don't recall seeing anyone discuss this particular Petzold, so I grabbed it knowing he was pretty much the flagship director for this makeshift "movement". The previous descriptions of a cinema of following and watching and a certain stylistic austerity that isn't quite Bresson, but is still decidedly minimalist, if only in comparison to more mainstream fare, are all absolutely apropos here. From the brief snippets of descriptions I've read about the movement, I expected something more clinical and detached, but Something to Remind Me is kind of like a warm blanket... until it's not. And even after the big reveal, which precedes (and exceeds in quality) the ritualistic murders of Dexter, but with a more tragic final blow, the film doesn't lose that sense of comfort, even though its central preoccupation is that of loneliness. The manner in which Petzold weaves the fates of these characters together is effortless and fruitful. It's not going to blow any minds, but I can't summon the desire to criticize it any further. It's pretty great.

Late in replying to this, and for that I sincerely apologise! It's funny you should mention Dexter, because it's the first thing that came to mind after finishing Something to Remind Me. But, you know, not really in a good way. I can't really see the whole "warm blanket" thing, since the film is way too cold and clinical for that. The Warwick song is also somehow jarring in that respect: it doesn't quite fit the context, and becomes increasingly ironic each time you here it. Though, yes, perhaps the film is somewhat comfortable viewing initially. It lulls you into a certain sense of security before slowly chipping away at the feeling and culminating in this wrenching, improbable finale. It's also funny that you should bring up the whole "cinema of following and watching" thing, because that sequence in the film where he follows her from the bus stop is for me the high point. I love how Petzold's camera weaves in and out of the foliage, and how she isn't always visible. It has all the suspense of a chase sequence, only in slow motion. The bridge they eventually meet on, too, is like some place outside Berlin; indeed, outside the borders of the world itself, with a bridge that seems to curve away like some kind of land's end.

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B-Side wrote:
I was really hoping we'd get some full frontal Hoss, but alas...

Brought my rating down from an 8.7/11 to a 9.6/14.

Apparently, she plays the last 5-10 minutes of The Heart is a Dark Forest naked.

So, what are we watching next? :D

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Wed May 01, 2013 7:32 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
It's also funny that you should bring up the whole "cinema of following and watching" thing, because that sequence in the film where he follows her from the bus stop is for me the high point. I love how Petzold's camera weaves in and out of the foliage, and how she isn't always visible. It has all the suspense of a chase sequence, only in slow motion. The bridge they eventually meet on, too, is like some place outside Berlin; indeed, outside the borders of the world itself, with bridge that seems to curve away like some kind of land's end.
It's Vertigo!

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Wed May 01, 2013 8:41 pm
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
It's Vertigo!

Yes!

This is actually the one Petzold film where everything I read about it mentioned Hitchcock, but more in reference to its plotting and "psychological thriller" qualities, rather than anything so specific. I see some Chabrol here, too. Apparently, Petzold screened both Marnie and (?) Varda's Cleo for his cast before they started filming. Also, did you read his interview in Cineaste?

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I grew up in Hilden, a small town that did not have any movie theaters, at a time when West Germany had only two or three TV channels. So there were very few movies and images in my childhood. Towards the end of the 1970s, when I was still in high school, I began to drive to larger surrounding cities to watch films. My parents had given me Hitchcock by Truffaut (1967), a book of interviews of Hitchcock by Truffaut. I was fascinated by it. So even without having seen Hitchcock's films I already knew a lot about them. But I also recall two or three films I saw on TV. And then there was the Hitchcock retrospective at the Cinemathek inside the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, which is today the Museum Ludwig, located in Köln, the largest city of the region where I grew up. I think I watched forty-one Hitchcock films! I was seventeen. Subsequently I saw a retrospective of Fritz Lang's films. And I also began attending a small film club in Solingen or Wuppertal, which was run by a homosexual who loved to show F. W. Murnau's Tabu (1931). Tom Tykwer, who also grew up in the region, told me that he knew that guy as well, as he was in the same film club; he recalls also having seen Tabu there. So that's how it started.

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Wed May 01, 2013 9:06 pm
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Seriously though, what are we watching next? :-/

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Thu May 02, 2013 2:37 pm
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ur making subtitles ;)

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Thu May 02, 2013 2:48 pm
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Trip wrote:
ur making subtitles ;)

Boring.

How about this one? The poster reminds me of Martel, somehow.

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Thu May 02, 2013 3:01 pm
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I've seen that one. It's good.

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Thu May 02, 2013 3:15 pm
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Ending is sickeningly hilarious, love it. Film is, you know, plotty but nice.

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Thu May 02, 2013 3:37 pm
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"plotty"

like wearing a yellow badge in nazi germany

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Thu May 02, 2013 3:42 pm
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Summer on the Baltic coast and an adolescent couple are pushing their bikes up the rough, tree framed driveway of a great country house. There is an awkwardness in their gait, and their bikes bump together clumsily in a way that young lovers do. While they are still just children, both his extra head of height and her inexpertly applied make-up betray a distinct age gap. He is comfortable in his lanky frame, whereas she tries hard to hide a preteen ungainliness; he sees her as immature, whereas she has her sights set on someone even older. Given this initial setting and content, Stefan Krohmer's Sommer '04 instantly recalls the breezy vacations of Éric Rohmer - Claire's Knee, in particular - though there is none of the wordiness or worldliness of Rohmer here. There are one or two family dinners, but the two generations rarely communicate, let alone spout existential conversation deep into the sea-tossed night. Sommer '04 is more plot-driven, instead appearing to summon Max Ophüls' (also set seaside, if memory serves) The Reckless Moment, once it shifts focus from bored juveniles to middle-aged woman on the edge. Krohmer goes to great lengths here to expose his film's voyeuristic qualities, pairing idyllic exterior shots with revealing over-the-shoulder interior sequences to give the feeling that we are but prying neighbours. In what must now be seen as a key trait of the Berlin School, and to tentatively work in a crude maritime analogy, everything seems calm on the surface but there is danger in the depths and choppiness to come. Sommer '04 is principally a film about desires, most of which are sexual; variously suppressed and unsuppressed, grasped and ungrasped, justified and unjustified. The only exception being the Son character, whom one might even say represents the rational; he begrudgingly humours all around him, but would much rather be left to his literature and television.
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Fri May 03, 2013 1:16 am
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LEAVES wrote:
Ending is sickeningly hilarious, love it. Film is, you know, plotty but nice.

Did the film really need such a postscript, though? Hmm.

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Fri May 03, 2013 5:31 pm
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I'm trying to remember the end. I have a clear vision of a restaurant or cafe with the parents of the girl (?) and the women explains something to them, lies maybe?

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Fri May 03, 2013 8:07 pm
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Trip wrote:
I'm trying to remember the end. I have a clear vision of a restaurant or cafe with the parents of the girl (?) and the women explains something to them, lies maybe?

It's a hotel in America, and yes, the girl's mother. From the synopsis on Wikipedia:

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A few years later, Miriam and Bill, who are now a couple, visit with Livia's mother and her new suitor in Germany. Miriam and Bill left Germany in 2004 and have been living in the United States and traveling. Livia's mother reads them a letter her daughter wrote to a friend in August 2004. In the letter, Livia mentions how Miriam and her husband do not belong together, and she thinks Miriam and Bill would make a good match. She thinks she can help bring them together, to be "the happiest couple in the world." Livia's mother asks them if they are now indeed happy, and Miriam says, "Yes, we're very happy."

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Sat May 04, 2013 4:06 am
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:: turns back to camera ::


Mon May 06, 2013 1:09 pm
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Sorry, I forgot to put a spoiler around that bit.

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Mon May 06, 2013 3:23 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Did the film really need such a postscript, though? Hmm.
I guess it all depends on what you think the reason for the film's existence is. For me, it's just another log on the fire, not a postscript.

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Tue May 07, 2013 1:30 pm
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Next up, more Nina Hoss!

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Wed May 08, 2013 4:17 pm
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I would engage in coitus with her.

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Wed May 08, 2013 4:19 pm
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Nina BOSS

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Wed May 08, 2013 4:20 pm
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As unfair as it may be, much of the analysis in this thread has become and will continue to be the validation of certain films in the context of the Berlin School. This is also the case, and also somewhat unavoidable with actress-turned-director Nicolette Krebitz's second feature, The Heart is a Dark Forest, which opens with the kind of static, detached, geometrically precise shots that have become something of a Berlin School trademark. The subject of these shots is a sleepy bungalow in the suburbs of Hamburg; and, eventually, a young mother who has just groggily awoken to the cries of her two children, but who will eventually sleepwalk her way into her husband's "other" marriage. It is a bungalow that, given its unusually verdurous surroundings, could just as easily be the thatched cottage found in one of the Grimms' dusky wooded tales, and thus recalls the kind of classical, local mythology often used by Christian Petzold - indeed, the film also borrows its two leads from Yella. The film eventually reaches some kind of climax when its confused protagonist stumbles, somnambulistically, into the mansion and private party where her husband is working, in a sequence that brings forth yet another literary influence: Arthur Schnitzler's Dream Story, which was also the inspiration behind Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. This idea of the solitary woman fighting her solitary fight; the Medea-like mother, burning with a sense of injustice, is something we have seen before from the Berlin School, but ultimately The Heart is a Dark Forest is created to cater for a more mainstream audiences - something that is perhaps betrayed much earlier on by the appearance of Tom Twyker's name in the opening credits in an executive producer role.
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Wed May 08, 2013 7:26 pm
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Jedi, I’ve been sick and bailed on the Ade, but don’t give up on me. I've just gotten side-tracked by other Berlin School things. Windows on Monday had some nice bits, but was a little too dreary for my taste. Totally didn’t recognize Harry Baer in his small role. Afternoon was something else again – I thought it was great, and I’ll write about it tomorrow. And, next up is Sommer'04.

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Thu May 09, 2013 1:30 pm
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Oh good, Windows is what I intend to write about next!

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Thu May 09, 2013 3:28 pm
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:heart:

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Thu May 09, 2013 3:31 pm
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Afternoon is the one I never saw; will watch tonight!

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Thu May 09, 2013 3:32 pm
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To elaborate on the above in a frank manner, The Heart is a Dark Forest is an consistent, at times baffling film. As, perhaps, one might expect from such a mish-mash of different literary influences. Its earlier scenes are impressive, and act as a neat, effective preamble to the rug-pull that comes later - an event that, to be honest, doesn't seem at all out of place in the landscape of the Berlin School. The film does, however, become very provocative; it's consciously designed to provoke, after a third act that tries very hard to be ambiguous, and undoes much of the good work. Those who caught the Medea mention before will probably be aware of what happens once Hoss escapes her Eyes Wide Shut-like dreamscape, but I'll put these in spoiler tags regardless:

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As I said, it's a provocative ending. Still, there are some nice, infinitely more subtle touches early on. One that I neglected to mention above, and extending the aforementioned idea of incorporating fairytale and folklore, is a scene in which the protagonist is preparing food for her kids. She is shot directly behind in a third-person perspective, as Petzold often does with the same actress, and suddenly knocks an egg to the floor, then pauses, before hurriedly cleaning up. It's an unusually human mistake for a character and actor who is typically so precise in her actions, and of course brings to mind the classic nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty, who also had a "great fall" and - despite the attempts of others - couldn't be put back together again.

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Thu May 09, 2013 7:06 pm
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Afternoon surprised me. I expected a very loose riff on the characters or themes of the Chekhov play, but I got a clever transposition that's not only a careful tribute to the Russian writer, but also draws considerable emotional warmth from his humanistic style. The Seagull isn't my favorite from Chekhov, but this film increased its resonance for me, and that's a pretty huge compliment. I think this is Schanelec's most purely gorgeous film. The vacation atmosphere, heavy with longing and a deceptive peace, is in every sun-soaked frame. The relationships here, with Konstantin always at their affectionate center, are sharp and difficult. And when the dramatic moments happen, almost missed, it's with real power due to that believable base. There are so many small, clever nods to the play: the balcony like a stage overlooking the lake, the Mimmi/Masha correlation, Irene begging to borrow the car. And, of course, I loved the sparing but effective use of Bach. I find it interesting that, though Schanelec is herself an actress, her character's profession seems almost unimportant in this version. The aspect of performance is downplayed in favor of the audience's role, the importance of witnessing, as Irene says, of truly seeing others. I don't want to mislead anyone. The film's overall impact is ephemeral and (I'm guessing) heavily dependent on familiarity with the play. It's already fading in my mind. But, look how lovely—quick, before it's gone!


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Thu May 09, 2013 10:19 pm
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Will write about that, too! :heart:

Schanelec was quite the looker, wasn't she?

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Thu May 09, 2013 10:55 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Schanelec was quite the looker, wasn't she?
She's pretty cute. Why the past tense? That was only six years ago.

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Fri May 10, 2013 12:52 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
She's pretty cute. Why the past tense? That was only six years ago.

I mean, when she used to act. Not that she's not still attractive, just...

You know what I mean!

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Fri May 10, 2013 12:55 am
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Haha. I can't find pictures. Show me!

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Fri May 10, 2013 1:22 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
Haha. I can't find pictures. Show me!

Find pictures of what?

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Fri May 10, 2013 3:37 am
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Post Re: The Berlin School and Beyond

Schanelec naked and sprawled on your bed sheets.

No, seriously. Schanelec still being cute, presumably.


Fri May 10, 2013 6:06 am
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Don't cheat and show the back of her head, though.


Fri May 10, 2013 6:08 am
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Beau wrote:
Schanelec naked and sprawled on your bed sheets.
No, please. Anything but that!

If Jedi posts her naked she'll have a penis. :(
I'm still confused. I thought Jedi was saying she was only cute back in the day. Personally, I'm going to assume she still looks pretty much like she did in Afternoon. Six years isn't that long. :P

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Fri May 10, 2013 6:20 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
If Jedi posts her naked she'll have a penis. :(


W... why? I don't know, I don't keep track. Maybe Jedi is into that sort of thing nowadays.


Fri May 10, 2013 6:25 am
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Beau wrote:
W... why?
Don't go into the NSFW thread. :P

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Fri May 10, 2013 6:27 am
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Now you're making me out to be some kind of monster. :(

Want me to magic you a penis, too?

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Fri May 10, 2013 6:38 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Now you're making me out to be some kind of monster. :(
You're more like an old, crazy, Uno-playing uncle. :D

No, thank you! I'm perfect the way I am.

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Fri May 10, 2013 6:44 am
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My uncles don't play Uno, they just bitch fascistically all day long.


Fri May 10, 2013 6:46 am
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Haha. It was a Schanelec joke, though.

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Fri May 10, 2013 7:08 am
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I really, really liked Afternoon. No familiarity with Chekhov, mind you. Notice a character asks another to repeat what they had just said, to no reiteration, like three times? What's that about? Maiden used the word ephemeral, and I suppose this is part of that; the film is always in the present moment. Also, it does things with offscreen space that I like but can't connect to any meaningful concept. Like, the dog catching and retrieving the invisible ball in the play, which we only even hear about through dialogue, and all the tight framing throughout where people's heads are cut off and faces talk to disembodied voices, and when the girlfriend throws the hat and we hear it hit something before seeing it resting on the ground moments later, not unlike the ball, however physical when inside the frame. This is all bullshit of course. I like when the girlfriend interrupts the conversation with the boyfriend to rinse her bikini, then returns. It's kinda inexplicable but also he just delivered a truth to her about their relationship and it makes sense that she felt the need to distance herself for just a second. I don't know what I'm saying. The two blond dudes in this are pretty; Hitler was right, I mean. That was the son returning to the lake platform, right? Having overdosed? What was this film about? I really, really liked it.

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Fri May 10, 2013 2:54 pm
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
You're more like an old, crazy, Uno-playing uncle. :D

Thanks! I think.

My O.C. friend told me that all Americans have at least one uncle who is in jail, a pedophile, or rich. Is that true?

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Fri May 10, 2013 4:47 pm
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I don't have any uncles, therefore stereotype destroyed. You're welcome, America.

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Fri May 10, 2013 5:12 pm
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I have four very nice uncles who are none of those things. What is an O.C. friend?

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Fri May 10, 2013 9:41 pm
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Orange County.

But Obsessive Compulsive also works.

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Fri May 10, 2013 9:44 pm
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