10 September 1999 | J. Steed
FORGET STORY, CONCENTRATE ON THE MUSIC
In 1953 composer Theo Mackeben died; he was a very good composer of songs, light (film) music, serious music etc.; he was very important for the German cinema in the 30's and 40's.
Hardly surprising then that a film about or around him would be made. However, this film is centered around the music of Mackeben, but - as the credits state - not the life of Mackeben is portrayed. In stead the "bio" has been replaced by a story about an invented composer who composes the music of Mackeben; the script is that bad that words fail to describe it, let us hope that Mackeben had a more interesting life and certainly wife. The cast tries hard to make something out of it, but to no avail. Ingrid Stenn, as the composer's wife, has nothing else to do than to look worried. When the wife (separated in the meantime from her husband) does not want to reveal a difficult situation she is in and in the same conversation says that lately she has had no appetite for coffee (!), the viewer is of course aware of the situation - her conversation partner is not. Who ever wrote this scene must have had a bad case of caffeine poisoning.
If you are willing to forget the story and Hans Wolff's so-so direction as well (though he directs much better than in his first films), you still could have a wonderful time with Mackeben's music and the good performances of it. You also may want to indulge in game of association, like I did during watching:
Margot Hielscher superbly sings the title song and also the song "Frauen sind keine Engel" (incorporated in a nice revue number); this song she already sung in 1943 in the film with the same title and that was directed by Willi Forst (and I repeat what I wrote about Hielscher then: she might have been an angel herself, that voice!). And look who has a guest appearance as film director: Willi Forst for whom Hans Wolff formerly worked as editor and assistant-director. Forst refers to his own classic "Bel Ami" of 1939 and in his subtle and charming style sings the title song. You may want to find the association "Forst and the bare breasts" yourself.
His first films Hans Wolff made with Sonja Ziemann in the lead. In this film she has a guest appearance as ballet dancer and as far as I know, this film has given her the only opportunity to show herself in the profession before she turned to acting: that of ballet dancer. The production number for her may not be Hollywood standard, but it is very entertaining, well-danced and very imaginative. Other guest appearances are those of Zarah Leander (and what a fine lady she still is) and Kirsten Heilberg, whose performance of the second song (towards the end of the film) gave me shivers down my spine.
Of the cast I want to mention Georg Thomalla. This is a comedian I am not always to friendly of as he has the tendency not to keep himself in check. Here however he is charming and his acting (and thus the comedy he provides) is well-timed. He also has a song-and-dance number in which he gives a very good Maurice Chevalier impersonation.
All in all: I find this a very curious film that despite the terrible script, but thanks to the spirit of Mackeben entertained me enormously.