Phoenix (Film) Review

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This week’s movie, picked by Jillian, wasn’t her first choice (I messed that up single-handedly by being a prize dufus) but I’m so glad we finally got the opportunity to see it, as I know we’ve both had it on our lists for a while. Ever since we both fell a little in love with Nina Hoss in Barbara which, funnily enough, was the first film we reviewed in 2016.

Barbara itself didn’t set our lives alight, though it definitely had some good bits. Will 2014’s Phoenix be any better?

*Spoilers ahead*

Phoenix (2014)

Director: Christian Petzold
Stars: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf

IMDB Synopsis: 

A disfigured Holocaust survivor sets out to determine if the man she loved betrayed her trust.

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Bad face day

My Review

Nelly Lenz (Hoss) is a Holocaust survivor with a seriously fucked up face thanks to a gun shot wound. Following the end of World War II and the closing down of the concentration camps, she returns to Berlin to undergo radical facial reconstruction. She’s staying with her friend Lene (Kunzendorf), who is understandably protective of Nelly (I read a bit of sexual attraction on Lene’s part but that might just be me).

Nelly, incidentally, has lost every one of her family and as a result is quite well off now. Which is why she can pay for the best surgery and is talking about starting a new life with Lene in Tel Aviv. She’s holding back on leaving her old home behind though (even though their apartment has been bombed to the ground) and it’s only because she wants to find her husband, Johnny (Zehrfeld), who may or may not have sold her out to the Nazis. This betrayal resulted in her being sent to the camps.

The bastard.

Rubble Girl

Johnny is played by the same actor who played the love interest in Barbara and at the time I likened him to Brendan Fraser, which totally put me off him. In this there’s a bit of Brad Pitt to him too, which also makes me feel uneasy. It’s fine though because Johnny is not a likable man and he’s probably a no good double crosser too.

As Nelly heals slowly from her surgery (and looks beautiful) she also starts going out at night looking for Johnny. Johnny is a pianist so she starts her search in the jazz clubs of Berlin. Nelly, it is worth mentioning, is a cabaret singer herself.

Lene has actually seen Johnny in passing but has purposefully kept it from Nelly. Later she admits it’s because he’s a goddamn fucking pig traitor (to paraphrase) and that she has no time for his bullshit. She also reveals that Johnny believes Nelly to be dead and is therefore after her money.

Nelly’s surgery means that she doesn’t quite look like she used to. So when she finally finds Johnny in da club, he doesn’t recognise her and takes her for a complete stranger. Nelly doesn’t correct him. Johnny does however tell her that she reminds him of his (dead) wife – and that he has a plan to help her make some money if she’s up for it.

Boy is she up for it.

“I loved you in Bedazzled.”

So the plan is this: Johnny, who knows Nelly as ‘Esther’ will keep Esther indoors for a few weeks, train her up to pull off the role of his wife Nelly, returned safe from the camps (not dead after all), so they can get their hands on Nelly’s inheritance and split the proceeds, finally going their separate ways.

You with me? Cool.

Nelly or Esther now, practices Nelly’s handwriting, her walk, her mannerisms while Johnny is frankly ungrateful. She dyes her hair and puts on make-up to resemble Nelly, wears her dresses and her shoes – and Johnny still has beef. In all this time, Nelly remains convinced that he didn’t turn her in and relays as much to Lene, who is very against the whole thing.

Nelly seriously believes she and Johnny will be together in love again soon, and I have no idea how exactly this is meant to play out, but women in love and all that, am I right?

Forget the zero and get with the hero, Nelly

Lene is a wonderfully poised angel of a woman who I really love. Her gentle care of Nelly is beautiful to behold and it kills me that she doesn’t get the peaceful ending she deserves. Unfortunately, Lene is too pure for this world and the inherent sadness within her catches up with her.

This is key as following on from Lene’s tragedy, she leaves Nelly a very clear note confirming something that Johnny did before she was arrested and taken away by Nazi scum. She’s left in little doubt now that her man is a treacherous prick.

Nelly/Esther meanwhile is really nailing her Nelly performance, and Johnny is finally pleased with her progress. So they cement their plans for her ‘return’, which requires her to convince their friendship circle that she is back, baby and better than ever.

Will the plan work though? Will Nelly/Esther convince everybody that Nelly is back from the dead? Will Johnny get his hands of her cold hard cash? And what the hell is the bloody truth, Johnny? You surely owe us that.

Only one way to find out, yo.

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Angry AND disappointed

My Thoughts

I liked the slightly nuts premise of this film and although at times it just sort of drips along, you can feel the longing in its tone. It’s sad and frustrating and beautiful at points.

Nina Hoss is very expressive and I’d love to see her in more, though the stand out for me is Nina Kunzendorf, whose strength and sadness just made me want to watch only her. What a character and what a badass wardrobe she rocks (call me superficial).

Johnny too is played with care (nice one Zehrfeld). You really do root for his ploy to be uncovered and for him to get his comeuppance. Will he though?

I was disappointed to begin with that Nelly came out of her surgery so facially unscathed, it just seemed a little too neat to me but I know the story wouldn’t have worked if she’d not looked vaguely similar to herself. I guess the macabre side of me wanted something a bit darker. Always.

My Rating:

4/5. A bit slow-paced but beautiful and tense. I’m still annoyed that I didn’t get more Lene but I’m happy with the final scene, which is wonderfully executed. Fuuuuuck you, Johnny. Seriously, go fuck yourself with a chainsaw.

What did my Queen think? Would she stab this one in the back or protect it at all costs? Find out right here, right now. ❤

Barbara (Film) Review

Barabara_Plakat_07_Layout 1Welcome to our first collaborative review of 2016! Last year’s Collab was a blast as far as I’m concerned, featuring many, many films I never would have picked to watch myself but I’m glad I’ve seen. Yes, even the really awful ones.

I’m excited to see what this year will bring in terms of hidden gems, heinous mistakes and everything in between.

We’ve agreed that this period is about doing whatever the fuck we want, so I think it’s a bolder version of Blog Free & Die Hard. Blog Free & Die Even Harder, if you will (and in lieu of anything more imaginative, it’s been a really aggy day.)

This week we’re watching a German film (Jill’s choice) and I have high hopes for a decent rating. Let’s see shall we?

Barbara (2012)

Director: Christian Petzold
Stars: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Rainer Bock

IMDB Synopsis: A doctor working in 1980s East Germany finds herself banished to a small country hospital.

My Review:

Barbara is a chain-smoking doctor, recently moved to a rural town having just been released from being incarcerated.

Incarcerated?! I hear you cry. Well, because I’m quite dippy and was texting at the beginning of this movie (bad Christa), I missed why she was locked up and thought it was for some dark and twisted reason. In fact, according to Barbara’s Wikipedia page, she was punished for applying for an “Ausreiseantrag” – an official request to leave the country, and specifically, East Germany. I never knew of such a thing, so I’ve learnt something new here. Oo-er.

Anyway. Barbara is treated like scum by local police officers who continually hang around her home and randomly search her premises, looking for contraband and anything they can pin on her. They also subject her to humiliating cavity searches, seemingly for their own shits ‘n’ gigs. It’s all very perverse and these man are pigs, unsurprisingly.

On her first day at her new hospital posting, Barbara stands out, and not in a particularly good way. The other doctors mutter things about that being “Berlin” for you and basically they think she’s a stuck up cow. Maybe she’s just sick of shit and wants to be left the fuck alone, you bitches.

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“I am smokin’ a faaaaaaaag.”

My first observation about Barbara is superficial AF: she dresses cute and I like her accessories. She also looks cool smoking, which is a bad message but I don’t care. If I thought I looked as good, I would start myself (but probably with candy cigarettes).

B quickly catches the eye of nice Doctor André Reiser who tells her she shouldn’t stay so “separate”. This unwarranted advice does not go down very well (and rightly so, mate). Plus, he lets slip while giving her a lift home that he already knows where she lives, and therefore everything else about her.

Our heroine warms somewhat when a young patient called Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer) turns up, thus demonstrating she isn’t the Ice Queen we all think she is (or rather the hospital team think she is).

Stella has meningitis and is also pregnant. B goes out of her way to ensure she’s taken care of, until she is rudely dragged back to the labour camp in which she’s being kept. Stella’s options in life are rather limited it would seem: if she decides to keep the baby and stays in the country, she will have it taken away from her, no questions asked.

“Most people text their dick pics these days, love.”

In the midst of the drams, Barbara correctly guesses that Doctor Reiser is reporting back to the authorities on her behaviour and has been tasked with trying to get her to change her mind about leaving Germany. He tells her a horrific story about boiling babies in an incubator (accidentally) to explain why he’s agreed to do this.

He’s also obviously smitten with her but too much of a wet blanket to do anything about it. There are lots of lingering looks and secret smiles, and at one point he sends over a piano tuner to fix her piano. Barbara is not impressed with the unexpected surprise.

I would think André was fit if he didn’t so resemble Brendan Fraser who does zilch for me. There is a frisson between Barbara and André though, espesh when he talks to her about art and literature. Hey, she plays the piano and came from a prestigious hospital before this one, okay? She’s cultured, innit.

Up to no good but looking fucking fabulous

But Babs already has a West German lover called Jörg (Mark Waschke) who sends her money and gifts, and sometimes meets her for secret rendezvous’ in woodland clearings and hotel rooms. I’m not really sure what or who he is but he’s trying to smuggle B out of the country so they can be together.

One night, in a motel room, Jörg explains that the following Saturday night, Barbara must be at a certain meeting point on the beach, (between a big boulder and a small boulder). There she will be picked up by a sailor who will take her to Denmark, where he’ll be waiting.

Barbara also meets a prostitute on the same night which has little bearing on the story, other than to emphasise the fact that even if she marries her lover (Jörg’s friend Gerhard (I think) played by Peter Benedict), he still can’t save her from East Germany politics. She also assumes B is a hooker*.

“I loved you in George of the Jungle…”

Barbara is surprised at how fast everything is moving but is prepared to roll with it. She books the weekend off work with Doctor Reiser, telling him she will be doing up her flat. Thing is,  the hospital has just admitted a new patient, a failed suicide, and the doctors are reluctant to operate on his head injury unnecessarily. Having monitored him for several days, however it becomes clear that they have no alternative but to crack him open like a walnut.

André asks B to be the anesthetist on call the night they operate. And what night will that be, do you think? Hmmmmm.

Meanwhile, Stella escapes from boot camp again and runs off to find her old friend Barbara… Gonna park this here, but not before a round of you-know-whats!

“We’re all going on a Summer Holiday…”

My Questions: 

Does Babs dig the Doctor really? What will become of Stella? Will Barbara abandon her new duties in favour of a new life with Jörg?

What will happen to the head patient Mario (Jannik Shümann)? And will you care by the end of it all?

*At one point the prostitute, Steffi (Susanne Bormann) enters Jörg’s hotel room, not realising Babs is under the covers in bed – and sniffs his suits. I took this in my suspicious mind to assume there might have been something between them, or at the very least that Jörg isn’t that trustworthy. Was that just me, Jill? 

My Thoughts:

This wasn’t a bad film to start the year on. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped either. The performances are good. I find Nina Hoss quite fascinating. All in all I expected more.

My Rating: 3/5. Bit dull TBH but it means well. 

Does Jillian agree or she more sophisticated than me in her cinematic tastes? Find out here.

Wetlands (Film) Review

feuchtgebiete_ver4After a week’s break, Jillian and I are back with a bang. A finger bang if you will.

I should say here if you don’t want to hear sexual talk from me then you should probably skip this post altogether as it’s going to be very hard not to sound crude whilst reviewing a very graphic film indeed. This week was my choice and we’re still in international waters, with a critically-acclaimed (?) German film.

As always *spoilers!* – also, let’s slap a little *NSFW* on here too, so you’re under no illusion.

Off we go!

Wetlands (2013)

Director: David Wnendt
Stars: Carla Juri, Christoph Letkowski, Marlen Kruse

IMDB Synopsis: The adventures of an eccentric girl who has strange attitudes towards hygiene and sexuality longs for the reunion of her divorced parents.

My Review:

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You know she’s eccentric ‘cos she’s got a skateboard

Underneath all the masturbation, dirty underwear and anal fixation lies a heart. A broken one, but a heart nonetheless.

Helen is 18 years old, sexually ‘creative’ and a little lax in the hygiene department. Considering her mother’s OTT attitude to orifice cleanliness this is hardly surprising. Having to present your butt hole for inspection before bed every night as a child must surely take its toll.

She also has hemorrhoids which presents its own challenges. We open with Helen walking barefoot into a public toilet that makes the loo in Trainspotting look like Mariah Carey’s en suite. It’s the kind of place people are regularly murdered but this doesn’t bother our heroine, who’s only there for the momentary relief offered by a tube of Anusol (or Germany’s version).

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This looks like my first hostel in Vancouver

Helen immediately reveals herself to be a game girl with her own strong attitude towards sexuality and her own body. Reluctant to wash very often, she’s not afraid to recycle the same pair of knickers for who knows how long. This doesn’t scare away the boys; quite the opposite in fact, Helen believes her personal aroma attracts potential mates. She’s probably right there, we ain’t nothing but animals after all.

I’m going to try to avoid bullet-pointing every sexual act one by one because I don’t want this review to read like a list, but there’s plenty to be had here, something for everybody if you will. Though, despite the graphic nature of the film and its content, looking back I don’t remember that much full sex and I think that’s quite telling. Perhaps I’m over thinking it but I’m sure that’s a comment on our protagonist.

Anywhoo. There are scenes involving root vegetables (that GO BACK IN THE FRIDGE!), a brothel, lesbian undertones (and overtones), casual wanks in the park; the list goes on and on.

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“Billy Elliot, you’ve sure grown up!”

But what Helen wants more than sexy sex is for her parents to get back together. Like badly. Like so badly that she’s got a plan to force them to live together miserably in the same bed until they die, chained together like prisoners. Funnily enough, neither parent is really up for this arrangement, so it looks set to remain firmly in her fantasies.

We’re given lots of flashbacks that show Helen as a youngster, which act to give us a painful insight into the breakdown of her parent’s marriage. Helen’s father (Axel Milberg) is largely absent and sometimes hurts her without even registering it, while her mother (Meret Becker) comes across as a bit of cold fish, one who’s turned to Christianity and a round of douchey boyfriends since the divorce. She’s obviously deeply depressed and following the birth of her second child, Toni (Ludger Bökelmann), things don’t look any better.

BUM BUM BUM BUM... BUM!
BUM BUM BUM BUM… BUM!

One day Helen suffers a shaving injury that exacerbates her hemorrhoids issue and she has the option to either bleed all over her classroom or take herself to the hospital; luckily she chooses the latter. Here she formulates the plan to bring her parents back together over her sickbed – what could possibly go wrong?

Incidentally, one of Helen’s more adult flashbacks has us meeting Kanell (Selam Tadese), who has a shaving fantasy but considers Helen too young to actually sleep with. Admirable perhaps?

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All the lols

We also meet her best friend Corinne, a cute blonde who earns a reputation early on for granting her boyfriend a dubious sex wish. It doesn’t really matter what the Mean Girls say though, as long as our BFFs have each other.

Back to hospital and Helen has come round from surgery and is entertaining herself by flirting with Robin, her nurse, much to the annoyance of his girlfriend Valerie (Peri Baumeister), also a nurse.

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New definition of the #belfie

And since her parents can’t follow instructions and turn up at the same designated time (thus continually missing each other), Helen pretends she hasn’t had a bowel movement (even though she does have a rather messy, secret one) so they keep her in. This ensures that she has plenty of time to ruminate on her internalised sadness, but also bond with Robin (who’s pretty damn cute, tbh).

We find out what really happened between her parents and also, how it came to be that Corinne hasn’t visited her bestie in hospital (spoiler: Helen has been kind of a bitch). There’s a particularly messy flashback in which our friends demonstrate their own unique version of the blood sisters ritual which is equal parts hilarious/heinous.

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“You’ve got red on you.”

I’ll leave this here because it’s a film worth seeing, if you can get past the squirm factor. It’s both anally and orally fixated, unafraid to share bodily fluids and has more equal opportunity nudity than you can shake a stick at. I’m cool with all those things, though I had to look away during the pizza scene (which is probably one of the tamer but still turned my stomach).

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OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!

Before we’re done though, Helen has one final trick up her gown. So she can stay in hospital to wait for her parents to meet, she makes the ultimate sacrifice and it’ll have you wincing for a long while after the credits stop rolling, I’m pretty sure.

Questions? Do you want some questions?! Will Mutter and Vater get back together? Will Robin ditch Valerie and run away with Helen? Will Helen ever put her orange pants in the wash? What happened between Helen and Corinne? And more importantly, will I ever look at a knob of raw ginger in the same way again?

You know the drill.

My Thoughts:

You'll be itching to see this film. Maybe.
You’ll be itching to see this film. Maybe.

Jizz, poo, cum, spit, blood etc all gets a bit dull after a while and I do get the feeling a lot of the time that it’s only been included to shock me. I mean, I’m all for no holds barred film making and uncharacteristically disgusting (yet still aesthetically perfect, natch) female leads who challenge the stereotypical female trope.

Though, thinking about it, I don’t believe this is about me at all, this film is taking the piss out of the easily shocked, the viewers who have a problem with menstruation (men) and sexual debris. Which kind of makes it brilliant. It goes on about half an hour too long though and somehow seemed considerably longer than the whole of Nymphomaniac: Vol. I & Vol. II (2013), which, combined, is four fucking hours long.

Carla Juri btw could be the love child of Ally Sheedy and Meg Ryan; and is really very good. She does vulnerable kook well and in the end I’m sure you’ll root for her, even if her dream is misplaced and self-serving. Once you’re privy to just what the family went through, you can kind of forgive her.

Funny she’s so uncannily Sheedy, as the film’s climax is decidedly John Hughes. You know, if John Hughes made anal sex jokes.

My Rating: 3.5/5 – as above, it’s a bit too long and all gets a bit much. Well worth a look though.

What did Jillian think, I wonder? Go have a look for yourself shortly!