Berlin Alexanderplatz

Berlin Alexanderplatz                     Rainer Werner Fassbinder                                   1980

Was he in a hurry because he knew he would die young? A director of an amazing 45 films, Fassbinder pushed the envelope as far as working, putting that many films and several television projects in 16 years. An amazing output for someone so well-regarded.

This film is the story of a Berliner who while acting as a Pimp, murdered one of his girls, spent time in prison, and the film begins on the day he is released. He is hell-bent on staying straight.
It is tough going thru life just one step off the pace. Franz always felt as if he was just not part of society. Upon leaving prison, he vows to go straight. But he finds, as a lot of people find, that by following whats considered normal and doing the right thing, you stay one step behind. Centered around the years between World Wars in Germany, the economic situation is not far off what we have here now. Jobs are scarce. Jobs that are created are of the minimum wage variety. barely above the poverty line. So Franz always feels like half a man. And that is even before he loses an arm. So he falls back into his old ways, barely eeking out a lifestyle while trying to walk a tightrope between being straight and going against the law.
His dealings with women are even worse. He has a violent temper that flares out. His first few women are of the hand me down version from his “friend”. It’s only his old employee “Eva” that introduces him to the closest he will ever have to a Love of his Life … Mieze. Yet he doesn’t know how to treat her as well. As the life he provides for her..while better.. is still violent and still with her working as a Prostitute.
The jobs he does try are varied. Selling Newspapers both mainstream and “National Socialist” complete with Nazi armband. But he is not political. And the political beliefs he does have he pretty much keeps to himself after a run in at a local pub with the Communists.
He just walks thru life. hoping that one day his “ship” will come in, while doing nothing to even find a way to sail. And he considers Reinhold his best friend, yet it is Reinhold who makes things even tougher on him.
He receives his women from Reinhold.
At one point of the film, Franz starts crying out over and over” What is wrong with me, What is wrong with me”. But really, is anything wrong with him? He is just trying to get thru life. But he really has just never Grown up. He wanders from situation to situation with a lot of alcohol and by never investing his heart into anything. And because of that people who he feels are his friends manipulate him. Some trying to do good with his best interests at heart, but alas most without his interests and only their own on their minds.
And why do these men both fear him and bring him back into it when he wishes to be out?

It is a film in 13 parts. With an epilogue. The epilogue is bizarre. It took me two viewings to put it together. At least I think I did.

Gunter Lamprecht Plays Franz and does an amazing job, carrying the film on his back and appearing it the vast majority of the scenes.

The movie is very long. Originally a television event, from what I have read it has only been shown in theatres here as an “event” over several nights. While watching it, I definitely felt it could have been tightened up slightly. But the film is massive in effect and it is quite an amazing achievement.

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A Bag Of Hammers

A Bag Of Hammers 2011 Brian Crano

Here is a movie I wanted to like. It comes OHHH so close.

A pair of misfits that live together and steal cars together to live own a home and a rental property. They rent out the property to a single Mom and a Boy. They see the neglect that the boy is subjected to, then suddenly the boy is alone. They take the boy in, wanting to be one big family that the two men never had.

The two guys treat Stealing Cars as if it’s just another 9 to 5 job. Jason Ritter plays one of the two guys ( John Ritter’s son) and surprised me with an even and fine performance. jake Sandvig plays the other ( and also has a screenwriters part credit). Both play off each other I feel rather well, and Rebecca hall is along to play the sister.

It is funny in parts. The banter between the guys is fun. For me the movie was going great guns, till the teacher showed up second time at the house. And from that point on, for me, the movie screeched to a halt.

The movie does grab at your heart, and is good entertainment for the performances the actors give.
But the ending, I don’t feel was done very well. Too much covered in such little time. And if it was the boys dream, there was a bit he would never have known, in that dream.

So I give it a mixed recommendation. Worth a rental.

The whole question of, would an unorthodox family of two guys with limited means be a better parent for an orphan than the system could produce since the two guys have knowledge of and an obvious interest in the well-being for the boy, even though the system seems fit to ignore them as possible guardians. That alone as a conversation starter makes the subject matter worth a look.

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Pierrot le Fou

1965 Jean-Luc Godard

“ When a film creates a world and characters that you are compelled to visit again and again…that is a Classic Movie”

David Lynch

Read an article on a website ( which one has escaped me over time) which asked several famous Critics, Actors, and Directors the question…

What makes it a Classic Film?

The answers were interesting. Some were not well thought out. Some came close to defining it, even dancing around the core thought.
Then I read the quote above.


Does this not apply to every movie we deem as Classic? And what makes a film a classic is so personal.
One persons compelling is another persons “Porkies”

Which brings be to the movie. “Pierrot Le Fou”

Started my Godard experience with “Aphaville” a movie that I had to watch twice to start to appreciate. The same applies here.

This may be the ultimate road picture. Ferdinard is bored. Married with a family, he comes home from a party and discovers that the babysitter is a past lover. He ditches everything and runs away with her. As it turns out, she is involved in some way with a criminal element that is after her. And when a body turns up dead, they hit the road.

The first thing that appeals to me with this film is… well … One of the 5 most beautiful actresses to grace a screen .. Anna Karina..
Once married to Godard, when he finally got around to making the film, he was divorced from her. Was the character changed to point out what he felt were her own weaknesses?. The character is very manipulative. In one scene she answers a question of whether she would ever leave the Ferdinard character. She looks right into the camera …and says “no”. Haunting. Did we see sarcasm in her eyes as she looked at Godard? Or was that contempt for putting the line in.

Then there is Jean-Paul Belmondo. The story goes that Godard wanted Richard Burton to play the role. Which would have fit the original story so much more as it involved an older man with a young woman. And I would have loved to see Burton in this role. But we get Belmondo. I think he plays the detached and rudderless character that walks away from his wife and family and goes away with the babysitter. It just isn’t the “younger babysitter” with him in the role. As he does not pass for “over 50” as the story dictates. But he plays the character well as one that wants to get away and lead a simpler life without worries. The scenes at the beach reading without a care in the world. But her jarring “what will I do what will I do” bring him back to reality and the jarring climax to come

For Marianne has a past and a present that keeps following them everywhere. Maybe its her penchant for murder, As the bodies turn up Ferdinand just glides thru as if it was a dirty dish left behind after eating. He becomes so detached as if he wants nothing to affect the world he has created by running away. And is this Godard saying that leaving a wife for a younger woman brings perils? Or is he showing leaving a wife for Karina is the peril as he experienced.

Some great scenes. The party where everyone sounds like they walked out of a commercial. Sounding totally canned. Boring. Is this how life sounded to him that caused him to run?
The Eating of a giant piece of cheese. As if this is normal. Still “digesting” the meaning.

Have to sit one time and count how many times she calls him Pierrot and he then corrects her as to what his name is.

Convoluted logic. That’s Logic that circles back upon itself rendering it illogical.

Case in Point. ” I’m glad I don’t like spinach, as then I would eat it, and I cannot stand the stuff”

Great line. “ Don’t start that again”

“ I’m not starting again…its a continuance”

While showing an advertisement for new women’s underware, he muses, “First there was Greek Civilization, then there was the Renaissance, and now we are entering the Age of the Ass”

So much going on here. I’m sure there is more to be discovered upon revisiting.
When a film creates a world and characters that you are compelled to visit again and again…that is a Classic Movie

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Lost Weekend/ Days of Wine and Roses

Lost Weekend 1945 Billy Wilder

Days of Wine and Roses 1962 Blake Edwards

I am doing these movies together as I had never seen either of them before and watched them as sort of double bill. Now that I have not had a drink for 5 months i thought it was time to watch both these famous films.

I have always been a huge Billy Wilder fan. How I had missed this one right now baffles me but miss it I had. I always thought that Mr. Wilder always raised the bar a notch in every genre he explored. Arguably he made the Best Comedy, Best Prison Escape movie, Best movie about Hollywood, amongst others. Well in the alcoholic movie category these two are the best at least that I have seen. Blake Edwards I have always enjoyed but it has always been for his comedies. This showed to me he hasn’t got all the credit due to him.

To see the desperation of the three main characters in these movies. Ray Milland , as the desperate say anything to continue alcoholic who eventually lies to everyone he knows. And how Jane Wyman’s character stands behind him no matter what. As the movie ends we know it will be a tought road they will be going down. Jack Lemmon as the advertising executive who starts out as drinking as “part of the job” and how it turns into THE job then it turns into EVERYTHING. Lee Remick as his innocent wife who he leads into drink and how she becomes in so many ways more addicted than her husband.

The desperation of all these characters. The lies to their friends as well as to themselves.The frantic movements of the characters as they search for that “Missing Bottle”. And while the Lost weekend ended with Hope as its message, The Days of Wine and Roses ends in heartbreak. The one partner in the marriage, watching the other walk away as the only way they themselves have a chance to stay sober.

Both films are highly recommended. Even for those who feel they don’t have a problem. Like I never use to think. While I still don’t think I do have a problem with drink itself, My problem lies in choices. And if left uncontrolled, a problem with drink can develop and overwhelm the chance to even make a choice. Which is the most dangerous part of all.


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Guilty Pleasure #1 Crack In the World

1965   Andrew Marton

When you are 9 things sometime catch your imagination. A movie preview showing a catastrophe, an amazing circumstance . What would happen, if an earthquake caused a crack in the earth’s crust. That started to spread. And spread. With no way to stop it, scientists try all sorts of experimental remedies to try to stop the earth from cracking in two. WOW. This is something I had to see.
So I went to my Dad. And he said we would go on the weekend after it opened. So we went to the Gateway Theatre in Chicago. Walked into the lobby. Walking up to the concession stand. The glass showing all the candies. I listened to my Dad buying the popcorn as i looked at all the boxes. We went into the theatre, sat on the right side halfway back like we always did. And settled in to watch the film.
And what a film it was. Dana Andrews was the lead scientist that tried an experiment that caused the earth to crack. He also had a deadly disease and his days were numbered. His wife was supportive, but was awfully interested it seemed in a former assistant to Andrews character. But at 9 I did not care about any of this. I wanted to see the crack.
As the movie unfolded I sat mesmerized. I remember glancing up at my Dad who seemed totally caught up in the excitement. I remember upon returning home filling in my Mom on how AWESOME the film was. And the next week, I once again asked my Dad if we could see it again. Which he, at least to me, didn’t hesitate to do. And then, a couple of weeks after that. And again, after that. Crack in the World became my movie version of Springfield, Illinois. I was a Abe Lincoln buff when I was young, and as a family we made the trek downstate from Chicago and visited all the Lincoln sites. And the next year again, And again the year after that.

So with the advent of DVD I started looking for my movie on the net. Over and over it was not available. I even sent an email to the DVD Savant on the website DVD Talk to add it to his list of movies he wished were on DVD.But year after year went by.

Then, last year the news broke.  The movie Crack in the World was coming to DVD.!!! I had to have it!!
So i preordered it on Amazon, and it arrived a few weeks later. So that night my wife and I sat in the dark with popcorn. And we watched Crack in the World. It was a bit cheesy. The acting was a little over the top. The special effects were just ok even for that year.
But I loved it. And I even glanced up in the dark halfway thru.

And said…. Thanks Dad.

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Apocalypse Now Top 20 Movies #4

1979 Francis Ford Coppola

The horror…the horror….

When I first saw Apocalypse Now in the theatre in 1979 I was very disapointed. After both Godfather Movies and “The Conversation” I had become a big fan of the director. But as I sat and watched this film I pretty much sat back and said to myself..”Huh?” I was confused. After the Deer Hunter I was so looking forward to Coppola’s take on the War. But I felt a let down.

I waited. My curiosity overcame me. How could I have disliked this so? Maybe I should return to the theatre.

And Change my expectations.

When I went the first time I was expecting something more obvious. A plot that was easily followed. One where I didn’t have to work as much to sit back and enjoy.

I sat and took it in. And experienced it. Let it wash over me.

What I saw that second time. Was the madness. The horror. The frustration. The confusion. And the sheer desperation of what it was like to be in that War. I saw the disparity between sane and insane. And the very very thin line betweeen them.

The scenes come rushing back as I type this. They resonate. The incredible filmed sequence of the attack on the small Vietnam Village. The show put on by the “Bunnies”. The entire Marlon Brando sequence. The attack on the small boat of suspected villagers. The use of the music of the Doors in two different scenes( the opening is amazing). So much incredible filmmaking in an incredible story. And the one greatest moment of them all, after Duvall’s character gives his speech ” I love the smell of Napalm in the morning, It smells like… Victory” the cut to Sheen’s character and the look on his face sums up for me the entire experience and feelings of confusion, madness, and idiocy all rolled up in a prim little package. It was an entire commentary on the War Experience in general in one brief 10 second scene.

All the trouble and problems that were ran into during the production of this film. It is an incredible story in itself. Let alone that what I consider a masterpiece resulted from it.

Brando is great in his small role. Martin Sheen is took this role in and became him as well as being the force that drives the film. Robert Duvall is powerful as the air cavalry commander. And yes Harrison Ford is seen in a very small role.

For me this is the ultimate War Film. Out of the three Vietnam films that I love this one is the Grand Master.

And Coppola’s greatest work. By just a hair over .. That other film. Such a talented Director.

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Downfall Top 20 Movies #3

Downfall   2004    Dir: Oliver Hirschbiegel

“ Greatness isn’t the lack of imperfection, Greatness is when it taps into something essential to us , and it is at the heart of who we are”

I have already documented on this site as to my fascination with World War 2. How it really was the last time a whole world stood one side against the other and fought. How if that War had gone the other way how different all of our lives would have been.

I spent my youth fascinated with my German heritage. And I’ve spent my adult life researching the war from all sides. I find film that shows what life was like in all the countries involved during the war to be fascinating to see.

And then along came this film. And it leaped into my top 5.

Told from the perspective of Hitler’s secretary, This is a look at the last days of Hitler and the last days of the Reich from the bunker underneath Berlin. This film hits on so many different levels for me.

Start with the fact that the filmmakers wanted to make a film that showed The Germans as ordinary people who did monstrous things. Unlike a lot of previous films that made them out to be almost cartoon characters. This film is made by Germans for the German market. It was very controversial.

Next up is the fact that, as to me anyway, the actors were all unknowns. It was not as if seeing an actor I knew playing a part. And they did a great job finding actors that at least resembled the characters they were playing. This had a feel as I watched that I was “there”.

Third, Bruno Ganz did an amazing job as Adolf Hitler. He fit into the role perfectly, showing both his human side as well as his crazed side. The scenes with him ranting have been seen and used in more parodies on You Tube than any other film that comes to mind. He goes from sweet scenes with his secretary to rants at his Generals moving troops that no longer existed.

Watching as the days pass and Berlin slowly succumbs to the oncoming Russians and how the local population reacted and survived, and to watch as the soldiers coped knowing the end was coming.
Seeing the last days of the Reich.

I have watched this film at least 15 times. Yet I always have to skip one of the most powerful scenes ever put to film. The re-enactment as to what happened to the Goebbels children. This was so hard to watch. Being a parent it absolutely ripped my heart out. But it illustrated perfectly just how far human decency had disappeared from these people.

This was my life long interest and fascination come to life. I sit mesmerized watching this each time. It is I feel the very best historical recreation ever put to film. And should be required viewing in all History classes.

An amazing achievement.

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