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 The Berlin School and Beyond 
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"I often find a neck and ponytail much nicer and more fitting in the moment", responds Angela Schanelec in a 2001 interview with Revolver magazine when quizzed on her decision to obscure the faces of her characters, photographing them from behind: "I think you also then listen differently, if you cannot see the face". This is undoubtedly true of Schanelec's Places in Cities, which can perhaps be seen as something of an integral precursor to the Berlin School rather than an essential cornerstone. The film begins with an ending: a young man and woman engaged in sparse conversation, from which we soon glean that he loves her, but that she is too young for him. Agonisingly, Schanelec chooses not to frame her protagonist opposing this lover, but with her body turned away from us and ponytail occasionally bobbing. And sure enough, when Mimmi does finally utter her first handful of quiet words, we practically crane our necks to listen. So continues Places in Cities, tracking the movements of its protagonist but never fully revealing her round face. That is until around ten minutes in, when Mimmi sleeps with her driving instructor and we are plunged into torturous darkness for a full two minutes, before the light suddenly clicks on and she is standing there, fully exposed and staring at us almost judgmentally. Mimmi becomes that girl any man would strive for, attainable perhaps in body but never in heart and mind, and can perhaps be seen as a younger, more reckless version Sophie in Marseille, who crosses the border for different reasons. I also feel Schanelec's sparing use of music here is worth noting, in that it differs somewhat from her later films, yet represents what is perhaps the highlight of Places in Cities: two women, obscured slightly by a column and dripping with swimming pool water, dancing gleefully to the Joni Mitchell song that they had only moments before described as "pretty sad".
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Sun May 19, 2013 7:25 am
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I didn't even know about that film. Downloading.

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Sun May 19, 2013 11:02 am
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Found this on some forum while reading up on Places in Cities:

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We still do not see her face. She has not moved an inch, she has not turned around, we do not see her face and Schanelec keeps pushing her closer to us. We now see her as the girl, the idealized girl, the enigmatic girl, seen in dozens and dozens of films. The high school girl who sleeps with men, the girl who lets her mother argue with her while staying quiet, the girl who dreams, who desires, who journeys far from home and falls in love. It is the story told so many times by the commanding hands of a man. One hand cradling romanticism, the other hand tragedy. It may be the most familiar, most overwrought, and classic 20th century story to be told in the western world. Schanelec demystifies this, disregards each notion of who this girl must be, because she is not anything. And that is perhaps the most romantic, enduring thing of all. Our desire to know this girl does not go away despite our acceptance that we will never know her. This is what makes us fall in love. This is what makes us feel. There are times that there is a sense of no existence in life. And we know it. So by that turn, and quite suddenly, there is existence, or some notion of it, and that spurs us on to love. Wherever it may be found, wherever it may be cultivated or conjured. The girl desires this, we desire it, and here is Schanelec pulling it -- her -- further and further away.

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Sun May 19, 2013 6:12 pm
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Places in Cities didn't do much for me. I guess I didn't fall in love with Mimmi. I did fall in love with the way it looked though. Colors!!

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Mon May 20, 2013 2:26 pm
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This weekend I watched a portmanteu film from 2009 featuring shorts from 15 directors, including Schanelec.

Will post thoughts soon, then see if I can upload some of the better segments!

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Mon May 20, 2013 3:19 pm
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To provide its full title, Deutschland 09: 13 Kurze Filme zur Lage der Nation is a collection of 13 short films that combine to reach an arduous 150 minutes in length, created both as a (largely) satirical commentary upon the state of the nation at present, but also a nod towards the earlier authorial film, Deutschland im Herbst. As is usually the case with such sprawling composite productions, incoherence reigns supreme: there are a handful of highlights to be found, if one is patient enough, but far too much uncoordinated fluff to wade through in the meantime. Thus, it would perhaps be best to focus on those segments that are worth noting - that is, excepting Tom Twyker's Feierlich Travels, which might be the breeziest and shiniest of them all, but, quite ironically since Twyker himself instigated the Deutschland 09 project, appears to miss the point entirely. Firstly, there are the bookends: Angela Schanelec's First Day, which acts as a glorious but fleeting overture of sorts, set in the muted half-light that celebrates the end of one day and heralds the new dawn of another; and Christoph Hochhäusler's haunting Séance, an essayistic sci-fi finale that re-imagines German history by way of a moon colony, presented through a set of evocative photographs and cracked voice-over narration. Sandwiched somewhere between these two strong, but altogether too brief pieces is Domink Graf and Martin Gressmann's The Road We Do Not Walk Together, which immediately stands out, if only for its grainy footage that utilises a more traditional aspect ratio. The segment, which recalls the striking opening montage of Joachim Trier's recent Oslo, 31. August, displays the evolving faces of German architecture, and how such ruthless forward progress is coming at a cost to the country's heritage.
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Tue May 21, 2013 3:47 am
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I can't believe this slipped onto the second page! This thread can't die! (Though I'm as guilty of neglect as anyone. :( )

JediMoonShyne wrote:
Firstly, there are the bookends: Angela Schanelec's First Day, which acts as a glorious but fleeting overture of sorts, set in the muted half-light that celebrates the end of one day and heralds the new dawn of another; and Christoph Hochhäusler's haunting Séance, an essayistic sci-fi finale that re-imagines German history by way of a moon colony, presented through a set of evocative photographs and cracked voice-over narration.
Both of these sound intriguing. Any chance you'll be uploading them?

Also, speaking of Hochhäusler and guilt, I should be able to watch I Am Guilty tonight. :)

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Fri May 24, 2013 1:46 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
Any chance you'll be uploading them?

Sorry it took so long, but yes, here are the three segments I was most impressed by:

Schanelec



Hochhäusler



Graf and Gressmann


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Fri May 24, 2013 6:55 pm
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Ooh, I really like the Schanelec. Oda!

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Sun May 26, 2013 9:44 am
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I Am Guilty is the Berlin School's answer to Gus Van Sant, as we follow an alienated teen through his ennui-plagued existence. The dark humor of his hapless encounters keeps it engaging, despite his hard-to-read face. There's some Tsai here, too (I thought of Rebels of the Neon God), with the aimless wandering, the motorcycle vandalism, and odd sexual fantasies. I suppose it's possible that the ending is a fantasy, too? Either way, it's a rather cynical punchline, which I found a bit disappointing. Has anyone else seen this one?


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Sun May 26, 2013 9:44 am
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Nice, Maiden.

Will get to that after I've written something about Class Trip, which I watched yesterday.

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Sun May 26, 2013 3:51 pm
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hahahahaha class'n'fart

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Sun May 26, 2013 4:26 pm
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Knew that was coming.

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Sun May 26, 2013 4:29 pm
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the source shouldn't be surprising considering my avatar

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Sun May 26, 2013 4:31 pm
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The initially exciting, inevitably tedious nature of the school coach trip, with its crusty, patterned seats and overarching smell of sweat; its class clowns and quiet passengers, its disgruntled teachers and increasingly harassed driver. Then the always disappointing place of arrival: the youth hostel or cheap hotel, with its peeling walls and contemptible food; its curious lost property room and reeking rows of wellington boots. These are memories we've all experienced in some form, and they are memories that director Henner Winckler attempts to tap into and milk of their nostalgia in his 2002 film, Class Trip. The film, which centers on a quiet, fuzzy-faced teenager named Ronny, lives these memories from the point of view of an outsider; one that finds himself apart from both the popular and unpopular crowds, as depicted in an early scene in which Ronny is somehow confined to a hotel balcony, and unable to get back inside through either of the doors. There is a conspicuous lack of dialogue in the films of the Berlin School, so the inexpressive, grunting teenagers of Class Trip make perfect subjects - indeed, one wonders why the movement has not produced more teenage-centric films like this, Valeska Grisebach's Be My Star and Winckler's later Lucy, especially given the low average age of its contributors. While it could be said that Class Trip is about adolescent romance and its jealous, hormone-driven dance, it is a film ultimately defined by events in its latter act; particularly, one horrific event, that arrives like all disruptive and history-altering moments of the Berlin School: with zero back-swing. There is no preceding suspense here, nor is there any resultant action or dramatic fallout. What happens just happens, and although we are quiet witnesses to its inevitable unfolding - unlike in Schanelec's Marseille , for example - we might as well not be.
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Wed May 29, 2013 6:07 pm
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I wonder if there's any relation to Henry Winkler?

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Wed May 29, 2013 7:57 pm
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I watched Bungalow and really liked the shot that follows all the soldiers into Burger King at the beginning, and the mysterious final shot too.

If they'd cut the rest of the film out, it would have been great.


Wed May 29, 2013 8:15 pm
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klass'n'fart

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Wed May 29, 2013 9:00 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
There is a conspicuous lack of dialogue in the films of the Berlin School, so the inexpressive, grunting teenagers of Class Trip make perfect subjects - indeed, one wonders why the movement has not produced more teenage-centric films like this, Valeska Grisebach's Be My Star and Winckler's later Lucy, especially given the low average age of its contributors.
Don't forget Places in Cities.

How does this compare to Lucy? I know you like that one.

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Thu May 30, 2013 8:07 am
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Circus Freak wrote:
I watched Bungalow and really liked the shot that follows all the soldiers into Burger King at the beginning, and the mysterious final shot too.

If they'd cut the rest of the film out, it would have been great.

Does that mean you didn't like the rest? But yes, they're neat little bookmarks. I need to go back through the film and study Köhler's use of long shots, because I don't remember there being that many. As such, that final scene is even more unusual, in that we're so far away from the action. Does this dis-attachment refer us, the audience, finally leaving Paul's side, or Paul finally leaving his aimless life and running away for good? If you've seen Marseille, the ending is quite similar - though, not quite as mysterious. Another comparison I neglected to mention above, and one that I don't necessarily agree with but have seen a lot, is with Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces, and apparently the final scene in Bungalow is something of a nod to this.

Shieldmaiden wrote:
Don't forget Places in Cities.

How does this compare to Lucy? I know you like that one.

Very true. The Days Between as well, I suppose, and even Bungalow if you consider the disenchanted behaviour of the protagonist. Lucy is decidedly different from most of these in that the young protagonist has already been assigned a role: that of motherhood. Her general behaviour is really no different however, and she still appears to hold similar values and enjoy the same things as Winckler's teenagers in Class Trip. It's just, we have more of an idea of what is expected of her, and what she should be doing. Need to watch it again. Another thing to note about Class Trip is that is takes place outside Germany, transporting these Berlin kids to Poland in a similar manner to Hochhäusler's young characters in In This Very Moment. On the subject, I also found this, about Bungalow but it also mentions the Germany-Poland thing:

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Paul’s actions are imaged here and throughout the film not in terms of an active, conscious rejection of something in particular but in terms of an unexplained phlegmatism, exemplified by Paul’s deliberate, slow movements through the rural middle-class spaces he inhabits, his lack of emoting in his interactions with his do-gooder brother and his pretty Danish girlfriend, as well as his general indifference to how his behavior affects his surroundings. For the viewer, the strangeness of Paul’s behavior foregrounds also the strangeness of what otherwise might simply appear as the normal, mundane environment in which many middle class Germans dwell. In short, the Berlin School films’ ethnological gaze—which they frequently direct at in-between spaces, such as the border region separating Germany and Poland in School Trip and This Very Moment, or the socially and emotionally transitory spaces that one frequently finds within German cities in most of Petzold’s work—shows contemporary Germany as if from the perspective of a stranger.

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Sun Jun 02, 2013 8:42 pm
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Jerichow (Petzold, 2008)

My favorite shot of the movie comes when Ali "accidentally" tumbles over the cliff edge. I like watching Laura who's anxiously anticipating whether or not Thomas will help him or let Ali plunge to his death. I also admire such a lean cut of the source material (90 minutes). There's no running off with circus trainers or Audrey Totter. No code-enforced persecution or comeuppance for the schemers. And the ending is so good in its differences from the other pictures.

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Thu Jun 13, 2013 7:37 pm
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dreiser wrote:
Jerichow (Petzold, 2008)

My favorite shot of the movie comes when Ali "accidentally" tumbles over the cliff edge. I like watching Laura who's anxiously anticipating whether or not Thomas will help him or let Ali plunge to his death. I also admire such a lean cut of the source material (90 minutes). There's no running off with circus trainers or Audrey Totter. No code-enforced persecution or comeuppance for the schemers. And the ending is so good in its differences from the other pictures.

yaay, am glad you liked it and couldn't agree more on the ending :)

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Thu Jun 13, 2013 8:39 pm
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charulata wrote:
yaay, am glad you liked it and couldn't agree more on the ending :)


The only thing that bothered me was that damn red sports car cigarette lighter. :P

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Like Someone in Love (Kiarostami, 2012) 4/10
Killing Them Softly (Dominik, 2012) 2/10
The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (Pal/Levin, 1962) 6/10
The Dark Past (Mate', 1948) 7/10
New Rose Hotel (Ferrara, 1998) 3/10


Thu Jun 13, 2013 8:46 pm
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Gespenster | Christian Petzold | 2005 | GER | 85 min | 2013-06-28 | DVD | Home, Junius Heights | INDIFFERENT

I liked some of the technique and most of the atmosphere/tone and any of the shots outside with the women walking around the city. The Persona echoes and orphan storyline were tedious though. If the rest is so disaffected/numb, why try to take it into those psychological/emotional places? Just vibe out...


Sat Jun 29, 2013 4:35 am
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Sat Jun 29, 2013 5:59 am
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lol


Sat Jun 29, 2013 6:06 am
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ololof


Sat Jun 29, 2013 6:07 am
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:lol:


Sat Jun 29, 2013 12:44 pm
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List for reference.

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Sat Jul 06, 2013 7:39 am
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LEAVES wrote:

Bookmarked, thanks!

The banner image is from Above Us Only Sky, which is worth seeing if you haven't.

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Sat Jul 06, 2013 8:00 am
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What about Hat Wolff von Amerongen Konkursdelikte begangen? Looks interesting.

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Sat Jul 06, 2013 8:09 am
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Bandy Greensacks wrote:

I already have that, somehow. Oh wait, yeah, it was a KG free-leech at one point.

Ever seen a German doc called Our Daily Bread?

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Sat Jul 06, 2013 8:21 am
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LEAVES wrote:
His Schanelec ranking is strange.

JediMoonShyne wrote:
The banner image is from Above Us Only Sky, which is worth seeing if you haven't.
Mmm, that looks interesting. Maybe it's time for another Berlin School film. :)

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Sat Jul 06, 2013 8:23 am
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I've heard of it, but no. Is it any good?

And that's Austrian, you confused, racist Italian

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Sat Jul 06, 2013 8:25 am
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Bandy Greensacks wrote:
I've heard of it, but no. Is it any good?

And that's Austrian, you confused, racist Italian

It's good, if you can stand that kind of imagery.

And shush, they're all the same, really.

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Sat Jul 06, 2013 8:31 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
Maybe it's time for another Berlin School film. :)

I think you could be right.

I have the recent Totem to watch, which looks very BS from the opening credits.

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Sat Jul 06, 2013 6:45 pm
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Stopped on Track and Requiem being so high up on that list surprises me. Extreme indifference, although the former is really good for the first five minutes and the latter has Sandra Hüller being generally awesome.

I recently watched A Fine Day and was indifferent towards it. Why is everyone so robotic in these films? At least in this one there is the suggestion of an answer to this question, but still...Achselzucken. Totally humourless as well.


Sat Jul 06, 2013 8:38 pm
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Circus Freak wrote:
Achselzucken.
Such a great word. Takes twice as long to say it as to do it. :P

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Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:21 am
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Circus Freak wrote:
I recently watched A Fine Day and was indifferent towards it. Why is everyone so robotic in these films? At least in this one there is the suggestion of an answer to this question, but still...Achselzucken. Totally humourless as well.

You are aware, yes, that most Berlin School films have a tendency to take place in Germany, and that they primarily feature Germans?

And it's the disenchanted youth, isn't it? A rudderless generation. Not all German films about teenagers can be Good Bye Lenin! Only one film can be Good Bye Lenin!, and that's Good Bye Lenin!

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Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:11 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
You are aware, yes, that most Berlin School films have a tendency to take place in Germany, and that they primarily feature Germans?

Germans have weird humour, but they're not really humourless. I imagine some of it gets lost in translation, though.


Sun Jul 07, 2013 8:04 am
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There's definitely a situational type of humor in several of the films I watched – in a slow build to embarrassment, say, or in light irony. I think Köhler probably has the most humor, out of all that I've watched for this thread.

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Sun Jul 07, 2013 9:35 am
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I like disenchantment/detachment/alienation etc when it's crushingly oppressive or amusingly absurd. Most 'Berlin school' films that I've seen are just dull with the exception of the occasional scene here and there. Like whales coming up for air.


Sun Jul 07, 2013 9:14 pm
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Circus Freak wrote:
Most 'Berlin school' films that I've seen are just dull with the exception of the occasional scene here and there. Like whales coming up for air.
Hahaha!

I was going to suggest Jerichow as one that wouldn't bore you, but I see it already did, haha. I still think you'd like Sleeping Sickness, though (even if I'm not sure what you consider superfluous nonsense). And everyone should see Ghosts, just because.

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Sun Jul 07, 2013 9:54 pm
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
And everyone should see Ghosts, just because.


as germany a third world country ran by a dictator in 2005

cuz if not then i can't watch it

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Sun Jul 07, 2013 10:34 pm
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It was run by a dictator a while ago. :P

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Sun Jul 07, 2013 10:46 pm
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but not in 2005 right

good movies aren't made in prosperous and free nations

socrates proved this back in 1843

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Sun Jul 07, 2013 11:43 pm
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
And everyone should see Ghosts, just because.

Not exactly the most apt of suggestions, given the dullness/humourlessness criticisms. :P

Speaking of Ghosts, one thing I've not touched on much so far is the importance of gay themes to the Berlin School. In addition to Hochhäusler's I Am Guilty, which I watched last night and plan to write about shortly, there are a number of films that appear to centre on gay relationships, or young people coming to terms with homosexual feelings. The films of Angelina Maccarone, Unveiled and Vivere, both look interesting. Also, Marco Kreuzpaintner's Summer Storm, Kirsi Liimatainen's Sonja, Jan Krüger's Light Gradient and Andreas Dresen's A Summer in Berlin.

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Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:21 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Not exactly the most apt of suggestions, given the dullness/humourlessness criticisms. :P
Yeah, I didn't meant to imply it had humor. But, do people find that one dull, too? I thought it was electric. There's so much tension in all the relationships. And that atmosphere!

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Mon Jul 08, 2013 4:01 am
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I found parts of it dull (the audition, the lady) but the atmosphere and their relationship and the third persona (TM) shots were all great

edit: i liked way more than Yella and plan to see the other one in the trilogy


Mon Jul 08, 2013 5:20 am
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hirtho wrote:
the third persona (TM) shots were all great

It's catching on!

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Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:25 pm
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