Ulrich Muhe

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Funny Games (1997) Review


Good
What happened to the good old fashioned insane killer? Where did he go? Can we get him back? Hell, it can even be a she these days. Come on, people, aren't you a little tired of being told "everything is OK?" Earlier this year, Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects had a family of murdering hillbillies that slashed and mutilated without rhyme or reason: They just liked it and, sometimes, it served a purpose. But we weren't given a real reason, and it made it all the more chilling. Think of the recent films that have been short of classic because of worn-out explanations; it really is heartbreaking (best example: Mark Romanek's One Hour Photo). Truth be told, you have to look at a movie like Michael Haneke's Funny Games and question what you think about cruelty, brutality, and safety, with stories like these running around.

So, everyone needs eggs, regardless of the cholesterol scares in the country. It is this need that brings Paul (Arno Frisch) and Peter (Frank Giering) to the summer home of a well-to-do couple and their son. Peter, a shy, young man, asks for a few eggs and is given them, but he drops them by accident. This continues to happen until Anna (Susanne Lothar), the wife, gets frustrated and asks him to leave. Then Peter enters, with the homicidal swagger of Frank Sinatra playing Hannibal Lecter. Peter thinks Anna is being rude to his friend and demands more eggs. What happens next? Details shouldn't be discussed further, but Peter and Paul put Anna, her husband Georg (Ulrich Mühe), and their son Georgie (Stefan Clapczynski) through a series of games that range from perverse to blood-curdling.

Continue reading: Funny Games (1997) Review

The Lives Of Others Review


Essential
The Lives of Others is a rare film. It's a solemn work of art, a thrilling piece of entertainment, and a heart-wrenching portrait of both compassion and oppression. Set in East Berlin in 1984, the film starkly dramatizes the atmosphere of secrecy and paranoia enshrouding the totalitarian German Democratic Republic, and in so doing it betrays a strange German cultural taboo: The Lives of Others speaks ill of the living.

As writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has noted in several interviews publicizing The Lives of Others, most German films made since the reunification portray East Germany comically, even nostalgically. Exemplifying this trend is 2003's casually ironic Goodbye, Lenin, whose plot centers on a young man's attempt to keep the fall of the Berlin Wall a secret from his mother after she wakes from a lengthy coma. It's a sweet, quirky movie, and many of its pleasures are derived from the bizarreness of its premise -- that a sane and decent person might rue the demise of the G.D.R. However, in Germany today, the prevalence of this curious, backward-seeming attitude extends far beyond film. Germans even have a name for it. They call it ostalgie (ost is the German word for east). Hip Berliners throw G.D.R. parties where they smoke notoriously awful East German cigarettes and drink East German rotgut while singing along to socialist party songs. One reason for these complicated feelings has to do with the present existence of the "villains" of the former government. Military officers, government officials, and members of the Stasi, the East German secret police, are still alive today, living normal lives among the rest of the German population, and as the years pass it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the bitterness and scorn that these people once deserved.

Continue reading: The Lives Of Others Review

Benny's Video Review


Weak
It's long been a staple of psychological profiling and often debated furiously, but the assumption that violent movies actually make people violent has some merit. How could it not, to some degree? I can remember very clearly stepping out of Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles in high school and hoping, praying, that someone would try to jump me on the way back to my car so I could get into some sort of kung fu fight. Sure, it would have been geeky, spastic kung fu, and, sure, I would have been beaten senseless, but I was just so pumped up I would've taken on Jet Li. The question isn't does violence inspire violence. The question is: To what extent? Where does that influence end?

We're bombarded almost daily with disturbing news snippets about teens run amok, filming their attacks gloatingly and enjoying them at parties. Forget Girls Gone Wild, nowadays it's Teens Gone Wilding. Is this the end result of a violent movie culture? Bad parenting? Terrible genetics? All of the above? If I watched Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles enough times (I know, I know, it's a PG movie with puppets, but still...) would I be transformed into the sociopathic killer at the heart of Michael Haneke's Benny's Video?

Continue reading: Benny's Video Review

Funny Games Review


Good
What happened to the good old fashioned insane killer? Where did he go? Can we get him back? Hell, it can even be a she these days. Come on, people, aren't you a little tired of being told "everything is OK?" Earlier this year, Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects had a family of murdering hillbillies that slashed and mutilated without rhyme or reason: They just liked it and, sometimes, it served a purpose. But we weren't given a real reason, and it made it all the more chilling. Think of the recent films that have been short of classic because of worn-out explanations; it really is heartbreaking (best example: Mark Romanek's One Hour Photo). Truth be told, you have to look at a movie like Michael Haneke's Funny Games and question what you think about cruelty, brutality, and safety, with stories like these running around.

So, everyone needs eggs, regardless of the cholesterol scares in the country. It is this need that brings Paul (Arno Frisch) and Peter (Frank Giering) to the summer home of a well-to-do couple and their son. Peter, a shy, young man, asks for a few eggs and is given them, but he drops them by accident. This continues to happen until Anna (Susanne Lothar), the wife, gets frustrated and asks him to leave. Then Peter enters, with the homicidal swagger of Frank Sinatra playing Hannibal Lecter. Peter thinks Anna is being rude to his friend and demands more eggs. What happens next? Details shouldn't be discussed further, but Peter and Paul put Anna, her husband Georg (Ulrich Mühe), and their son Georgie (Stefan Clapczynski) through a series of games that range from perverse to blood-curdling.

Continue reading: Funny Games Review

Amen. Review


OK

Relentlessly heavy-handed but quite compelling nonetheless, "Amen" is a loosely fact-based drama about a German SS officer's clandestine attempts to stem the Holocaust, and about the complaisance he encountered when trying to alert the world -- and more specifically the Vatican.

Adapted in part from the eyewitness accounts written by Nazi lieutenant and chemist Kurt Gerstein (played by Ulrich Tukur) while in a French prison after World War II, the film asks the question, What's a newly-advanced Nazi with a conscience to do when exposed to the horror of Jews being gassed by the thousands with chemicals he's been ordered to provide?

In "Amen," the answer is that he confides in a fictionalized, idealistic young priest (Mathieu Kassovitz) with direct connections to Pope Pius XII, so cowriter-director Costa-Gavras can get the pontiff on record saying nothing more than "My heart prays for the victims," while his cardinals deflect follow-up questions.

Continue reading: Amen. Review

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Amen. Movie Review

Amen. Movie Review

Relentlessly heavy-handed but quite compelling nonetheless, "Amen" is a loosely fact-based drama about a German...

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