1 June 2006 | manuel-pestalozzi
I watched this because Gerd Oswald made some movies in Hollywood (A Kiss Before Dying, Crime of Passion) which I find interesting. Bis zur bitteren Neige (to the last bitter drop), based on a novel by Johannes Mario Simmel, the Harold Robbins of the German speaking world, is an Austrian production, probably done with a comparatively low budget.
It is not a good movie, the main problem being, so I assume, the necessity of condensing a sprawling storyline into a coherent script. The pacing is bad and abrupt, Characters remain two dimensional and do not develop, some scenes are unnecessary, others seem to be missing. And yet one feels that with a twist here, an addition there, the script and with it the movie would have improved considerably.
The main character, former movie star and kept husband, has a bad drinking problem and the movie somehow shows his death in degrees. Malcolm Lowry's Unter the Volcano is appropriately cited by one of the supporting characters. The alcoholic is at times unable to distinguish between reality and his hallucinations. His starring in a movie far away from Hollywood (in Vienna) strengthens his feeling of disorientation. There is a weak mystery angle to the whole thing (too easy to guess). However, Oswald aptly introduces the viewers to this zone between dream and reality. A woman doctor cares for him as if she was an angel. There are some spooky locations in Vienna, plus some scenes in front of the Belvedere, in the Imperial Coach Collection at Schönbrunn Palace etc. The set designs are pretty good, especially the labyrinthine hotel suite, and seem like an echo of Hollywood melodramas of an earlier age.
French actor Maurice Ronet plays the all washed up main character. He bears a certain resemblance to Tony Curtis. His performance convinced me, he really looks like he is on the brink, muddled, frustrated and scared, with a ravaged face and uncertain movements. He has one great scene when he unexpectedly breaks out of his gloomy mood and performs a dance routine to the tunes of an extremely corny song. The rest of the cast is so-so or outright bad and uninspired, the exception being Christine Wodetzky who plays the afore mentioned guardian angel-doctor.