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Very smart, very funny
In complete contrast to the previous correspondent here, I thought Shoppen Munich (as it was billed when shown with English subtitles here in London at the German Film Festival in November 2007) was very funny, very well acted, and excellently scripted.

It's quite audacious to design a 100-minute film that consists exclusively, and relentlessly, of talking heads. But I think Ralf Westhoff succeeded with wit and élan. No standard filmic devices of, say, following a character's soul-baring pronouncement with some meditative minor-seventh-chord music and long-shot nature cutaways. But when someone said something that revealed their souls - well, we were hustled on by the man with the timer for yet another superficial introduction. Which is, of course, the point: the hurtling tickbox superficiality of thirtysomething urbanites, where everything is down to a quick question and answer.

Maybe most films are so clichéd and stupid that we English are ready to laugh at any vaguely intelligent and uncontrived cinema, but I can promise you that at the screening tonight (Curzon Cinema, Sun 25 Nov 2007) the full audience bellowed with laughter most of the way through. So I wasn't the only one guffawing!

My girlfriend (who speaks German and has lived in Munich) thought it was hilarious. I (who don't speak German and have not been to Munich, I think) thought it was hilarious. I'd recommend Shoppen (Munich) to anyone (especially couples...) looking for a smart, witty, original, wise film about the superficiality of modern relationships and the bewilderment of the generation who feel they've missed out on the happy-ever-after stuff first time round.

NB In the English subtitled showing in London, the subtitles (which were very good) were shown completely underneath the slightly reduced picture, not inside it. I thought this was a Good Thing.

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery

See it free at the NFT
If you live within striking distance of London you can see the film free at the National Film Theatre on the South Bank by Waterloo. It's one of the hundreds of films in their permanent 'Mediatheque' suite, which you can turn up and view for free on one of the video consoles. Phoning up to book a slot is a good idea though.

Amusing and interesting stuff for anyone interested in footy history, or who remembers the Harry Enfield spoofs with affection.

I recall that George Allison's book 'Allison Calling' (?1948) discusses the making of the film, though I don't have my copy to hand.

Not much to add the other comments here, but don't a lot of the footy players in this film look so damn old? Not so much a dressing room as a Masonic Lodge.

Love + Hate

A love-it or hate-it film
To judge by the comments here, it's one of those films you indeed either love or hate. I loved it; to me, coming from the north of England, the characters and dialogue were utterly convincing and compelling. (Maybe because the decent, fair-minded chap who ran the wallpaper shop reminded me of my Dad... unfortunately some of the other characters, with their odious and ignorant views, I recognised too.)

To me, the only problem was the over-reliance on coincidences (oh, so Greek drama). But I liked the fact that many of the expected clichés were avoided.

So, Hollywood it ain't. If you like your films smartly scripted and smoothly acted, you may well hate the Loach-style rough edges.

But for me, this raw and bluntly honest film was one of the most powerful pieces of cinema of the year. And, actually, excellently acted. Throughout I kept saying, that's what it's like. That's just what they do. That's exactly what they say. And, by gosh, I wish it wasn't.

Hitlerjunge Quex

Mystifying, but enlightening political history (and pants)
I've just seen the film in a special showing at Tate Modern (London's modern-art gallery). The print was evidently made for educational purposes, in the 1950s one guesses, with explanatory intertitles written by a film academic in English. (These are actually quite amusing with their po-faced analysis, with some very silly diagrams, but do interrupt the action clumsily. However, the print has no English subtitles, so the crackly soundtrack with thick Berlin accents is tough to follow for non-German natives.) What struck this viewer was, briefly:

1. Utter bewilderment at its propaganda value; the Communists seem to modern eyes to have far the best deal, with beer, food and sex high on their agenda, yet the young Heini - and presumably the 12-year-olds in the audience - are won over totally by the promise of shiny shoes, cups of tea, boy scout uniforms, cold morning dips and strident community singing. Beats me. 2. No comedy or light relief in any way: no town drunk, sly spiv, amusing slapstick with planks, etc. Was 1930s Berlin really that humourless? 3. What a rabble the Nazi youth seemed - gawky and indisciplined, far from the ruthlessly efficient robots of our imagination. 4. The only two decent actors in the whole thing are the two Commie blokes. Heini's dad turns in a convincing performance as the drunken old bully who personifies the Red Menace. 5. Getting short trousers to fit evidently beyond scope of even the well-organised Hitlerjugend. Every pair two sizes too small. 6. Chilling role played by gas. As a film "it's pants", as modern 12-year-olds might say (possibly echoing point 5). But as a grim piece of political history it is indeed quiet fascinating - and mystifying, as well as enlightening.

The Tailor of Panama

Amusing nonsense with strong acting all round
Having expected a black (well, grey) comedy rather than an action film or thriller, I wasn't disappointed at all. Brosnan's portrayal of a kind of foul-mouthed Bond-gone-bad seemed very good to me.

His arrogantly unswerving seduction of the alternately outraged and attracted Francesca (excellently played by Catherine McCormack) may have been short on 'chemistry', but it's not chemistry we're talking about here, it's PE.

Geoffrey Rush started out dangerously close to the Fast Show's Rowley Birkin, but ended up convincing as a man finally facing the truth.

The usual diplomatic stereotypes were enjoyable (bumbling Brits, heart-on-sleeve Ollie North types) and it was fun to see Harold Pinter's cameo as Pendel's guardian devil ('What use is telling the truth? You'll only get found out!')

Granted, the double entendres could get a bit tiresome, but they were quite in character and Brosnan could handle them. The visual double entendres (double voirs?) were fun too and snappily done - Pendel's assertion that the Chinese were buying the canal after seeing Asian babes on Osnard's hotel skin flick, for instance.

Daft plot, zappy direction, fine acting, well-judged humour - I found this highly enjoyable. Don't expect an all-action, big-guns tale of the world teetering on the edge of destruction; this is not Bond. It's a (slightly) subtler tale of how people swindle and delude themselves and each other, and rather amusing too.

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