Michael Obert – Song from the Forest (2014)


“In my memory, I retained such a dream-like impression of my stay in New York that I sometimes wondered if I had really been there.”
Louis Sarno

As a young man, US-born Louis Sarno heard a song on the radio that never let him out of its grasp. He followed the mysterious sounds back to the Central African rainforest, found his music with the Bayaka pygmies – and never came back. Today, 25 years later, Louis is a full member of this community of hunters and gatherers.
Louis has a son with a Bayaka woman, 13-year-old Samedi. As a baby, Samedi became seriously sick. As he lay dying, Louis held him the whole night and promised him: “If you survive, one day I will show you the world from which I came.” Now it is time to keep his promise, and so Louis travels with his son from the African rainforest to a different jungle made of concrete, glass and asphalt – to New York City.
Soon after their arrival, there is a first surprise: Samedi, who had never left the rainforest and does not speak a word of English is far more comfortable with the US than Louis. The rapprochement with the world that his father wanted to forget and that his son now wants to conquer is slow, quiet and not free from setbacks. Joined by the contrast between the rainforest and the urban US, the unequal couple grows ever closer on the road. Continue reading

Volker Schlöndorff – Baal (1970)


Baal explores the cult of the genius, an anti-heroic figure who chooses to be a social outcast and live on the fringe of bourgeois morality.

Screening as part of the Masters & Restorations program at this year’s MIFF is Baal, writer/director Volker Schlöndorff’s television adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s play of the same name which features a rare leading performance by Schlöndorff’s contemporary in the German New Wave and master filmmaker Reiner Werner Fassbinder outside of his own films. After a single screening in 1970 it was removed from public release by Brecht’s widow, but 44 years later is making the rounds at film festivals thanks his granddaughter who has approved its release. And thankfully it was worth the wait, offering a rare treat for foreign film fans. Continue reading

Fred Kelemen – Verhängnis AKA Fate (1994)


“The paths of people from various countries cross during the course of one night. They speak different languages, but they are fatefully bound together by the solitary quest for happiness and deliverance. Sloping paths are all that’s left for them in an age of lost perspectives, lost refuges and lost homelands. They sink deeper with every movement that should be liberating them. Every gesture of love becomes a gesture of humiliation. The desperate dance of their life has become a passionate dance of death.
In the centre of this centrifuge at the end of the millennium the Russian emigrant Valery and his lover Ljuba are turning around each other in a nocturnal round dance of desire and pain, hope and violence and the indestructible will to survive.” Continue reading

Jakob Lass – Love Steaks (2013)


If Joaquin Phoenix met Carole Lombard in their twenties by the sea you would get the sizzle we feel in Jakob Lass’ Love Steaks.

Clemens (Franz Rogowski) arrives as a trainee at a Northern German seaside spa. He does massages, aromatherapy, and is being taught how to suck bad energy from the guests by circling his hands above their bodies. Lara (Lana Cooper) is a playful cook in the resort kitchen, constantly initiating acts of mayhem for her colleagues to react to.

As living quarters, Clemens is allotted a spacious storage room at the spa, where laundry carts are kept moving about and unused replacement garbage cans sit ominously. He has no private bathroom – no privacy to speak of at all, as there is no door – but a fabulous view of the ocean. Clemens is shy, sincere and in over his head on all accounts. Lara is bold and sexy-stupid, not in the dumb-blonde romantic comedy vein, rather mad-cap provocative. She seduces with a daring absurdity and her tango with Clemens is superb. Rogowski, a trained dancer, gives Clemens the fragility he needs to balance her shenanigans. Continue reading

Sohrab Shahid Saless – Hans – Ein Junge in Deutschland (1985)


Plot in German

“Der in Westdeutschland lebende, iranische Filmemacher Saless (“Utopia”) schildert in seinem Drama eine deutsche Jugend am Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs

Frankfurt 1944: In der Befürchtung, als Halbjude denunziert worden zu sein, muß Hans, der uneheliche Sohn einer Arbeiterin, kurz vor Kriegsende die Stadt verlassen. Als er nach der Kapitulation zurückkehrt, entdeckt er, daß seine Freundin Nora die Geliebte eines GIs geworden ist und seine Mutter immer noch von anonymen Briefen bedroht wird. Der aus politischen Gründen aus seinem Heimatland emigrierte iranische Regisseur Sohrab S. Saless zeichnet in langen, ruhigen Einstellungen das Bild eines trostlosen, zerstörten Deutschland am Ende des Krieges. Er erhielt im letzten Jahr den Großen Preis der Frankfurter Autorenstiftung.” Continue reading

Irm Sommer & Ed Sommer – Hedonistic Communication (1970)

HEDONISTIC COMMUNICATION / IRM ED SOMMER / KONTAKTE / ICH DU UND ICH is the title of this super obscure experimental short film including also explicit sex.
Very raw and primitive, it features a great soundtrack made of amazing psychedelic abstract electronic music (the song is “I Of IV” by electronic music pioneer Pauline Oliveros), which is probably what makes this short some kind of mesmerizing experience.
We can only suppose the short is german, since the only information besides the title is the name of the “actors” involved, and they sound german (F. Scherz, Gabi Kaa, Hartmut Kaa).
Continue reading