Lars Rudolph

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Werckmeister Harmonies Review


Essential
At two and a half hours, Werckmeister Harmonies is an eye-blink in comparison to director Béla Tarr's seven-hour-plus epic Sátántangó (which was acclaimed by Susan Sontag as the future of cinema and ripped off by Gus Van Sant in Elephant, Last Days, and Gerry). Tarr actually surpasses himself in this condensed format, and what felt bloated and hectoring at epic length feels precise here, and engaging on every level. The tale is told through extremely long, unbroken and fluid camera movements, some drawn out as long as 15 minutes.

Sátántangó opens with 10 minutes of cows emerging onto the muddy landscape of a farming community, which let you know you had to have a saint's patience to endure the rest of the movie. Werckmeister Harmonies, on the other hand, has a more arresting and immediately engaging sequence. It helps that Tarr follows one central protagonist this time, one János Valuska (Lars Rudolph), whom many critics have referred to as a "Holy Fool." But in fact, this supposedly simpleminded guy is a practitioner of the theatrical arts. He has more in common with great Polish theater directors like Grotowski and Artaud than he does with holy fools, and he is first glimpsed staging a bit of performance art for the drunken patrons of an alehouse right before closing time.

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The Inheritors Review


OK
In 1930s rural Austria, a crazy old peasant woman kills the farmer who runs the estate on which she works. The misanthropic farmer leaves the land to the peasants on his staff just out of spite for humanity, and sparks fly among the dim-witted "one-seventh farmers" and their greedy next-door neighbor, culminating in one tragedy after another. A not entirely successful trip from comedy to drama, though the first half is a far more interesting picture.

Think of it as Animal Farm without the animals. Which I guess just makes it Farm.

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The Princess and the Warrior Review


Grim
German auteur Tom Tykwer downshifts from the frenetic pace of Run Lola Run, landing solidly back in first gear -- if that -- with The Princess and the Warrior, a glorified and conceited film school project if ever I've seen one.

Tykwer reunites with Lola star Franka Potente, casting her as Sissi (the princess, presumably) a troubled mental ward nurse who probably ought to be a patient herself. After a morose 20-minute setup wherein the players are cryptically introduced, we find Sissi lying near death under a semi truck, run down in a city street. To her rescue comes the unlikely hero Bodo (the warrior?), played by the Gary Oldmanesque Benno Fürmann (also Potente's Anatomy costar), a two-bit crook who indirectly caused the collision in the first place. Bodo saves Sissi's life by giving her a homemade tracheotomy, and after a long recovery, the already unstable Sissi soon finds herself obsessed with her savior.

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Buffalo Soldiers Review


Grim

A dark comedy about "soldiers with nothing to kill except time" -- convicted felons, junkies and high school dropouts serving in West Germany just before the fall of the Berlin Wall -- "Buffalo Soldiers" has designs on being a incisive satire somewhere between "M*A*S*H," "Catch-22" and "Dr. Strangelove."

But in its cheeky skewering of the U.S. military (which saw the movie much delayed in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks and subsequent hawkish patriotism) its provocative ambitions are dragged down by characters as cartoonish as those in lowbrow in-the-army-now laffers like "Stripes" or "Private Benjamin."

Our anti-hero is a battalion clerk named Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix) who is serving his country to avoid serving time. Being of a criminal mind, he's found his access to base goods and equipment a lucrative source of extra income on the East-West black market and he's got his fingers in everything from Mop 'n' Glo to guns and drugs to the base commander's bitter, frustrated wife (Elizabeth McGovern).

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The Princess & The Warrior Review


Weak

The second collaboration between German writer-director Tom Tykwer and his muse, actress Franka Potente, "The Princess and the Warrior" couldn't be a further departure from "Run Lola Run," the influential and groundbreaking piece of kinetic, adrenaline-fueled pop cinema that put them both on the map.

In that 1999 hit, Potente played a boyishly sexy post-modern alt-punk trying to save the life of her petty criminal boyfriend, who lost a cash delivery for his gangster boss. Set to Tykwer's own rave-styled soundtrack and edited to match, "Lola" followed Potente as she marathoned across Berlin seeking desperate last-minute solutions before the scheduled money drop. It's not quite an all-out assault on the senses, but it's nothing if not hyperactively energetic.

By contrast, "The Princess and the Warrior" is eerily serene, deliberately paced (135 minutes to "Lola's" 84), deeply reflective and intensely psychological.

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