Women are absolutely fabulous and also out to get you in Rote Sonne (Red Sun, an artifact of Munich, circa 1969, that puts an alluring, unnerving, yet weirdly dispassionate spin on social unrest. Shot at a time in German history when student protests and leftist communes were subverting the longstanding post-World War II status quo, Rudolf Thome’s film has a go at the country’s nascent feminist movement by taking as its subject a women’s commune populated by man-eaters. There are four of these succubi, and they’re submissive enough for five days of courtship and good times. But woe be to the who shows up for a sixth day with love on his mind and ends up with a bullet in his brain.
Whenever I tell a certain kind of movie buff that Unknown is pretty good, they immediately want to know how it compares to Taken, that Liam-Neeson-as-killing-machine movie that made serious bank in the U.S. in 2009 despite having sat on the shelf for ages as bootleg copies proliferated on the Internet. The answer is that for all their similarities — the old-school action vibe, the European settings, the generally focused efficiency of narrative — they are also quite different.
My review of The White Ribbon is online at www.filmfreakcentral.net:
The White Ribbon is executed at an incredibly high level of craft and with an off-putting degree of self-confidence. While it is, at times, a movie of preternatural beauty, Haneke is confident that he’s shining a light into the dark corners of recent human history, and he comes on like a preacher reading from the Book of Revelation.
I first encountered Monika Treut when wandering the aisles of The Video Station, the great video-rental emporium in Boulder, Colorado, where her playful, enigmatic, and slightly unsettling lesbian art film Virgin Machine sported perhaps the most provocative box art in the entire German-language section. I liked Virgin Machine a lot. But then there are many things I liked a lot in 1989 that I’d be vaguely embarrassed by today. After I finished watching Ghosted, Treut’s newest film, I found myself digging out my decades-old VHS copy of Virgin Machine to try and square my memories of Treut’s earlier film with my experience of her latest. Virgin Machine still seemed weird and wonderful, and its star Ina Blum, first researching the idea of romantic love in Germany, then searching for her mother in the Oz of San Francisco, felt like she could be Treut’s Anna Karina, her face and form the text and subtext of so many shots early in the film, before Susie Bright (nee Sexpert) shows up and helps her learn to have fun exploring eroticism. Its black-and-white, borderline expressionist aesthetic aside, Virgin Machine feels a little like an early Godard film where the anti-capitalist screeds have replaced by cheerful pro-sex polemics.
When I sat down again with Wings of Desire, showing it to a friend who had not yet encountered it, I approached it, as always, from the skeptic’s viewpoint. Once again, I was ready to interrogate my own feelings toward this, one of my very favorite movies.