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Film Review

by René Zuiderveld in Films & Books , 06 december 2003


Phileine, a nasty bitch screws up her own movie

Months before its official release, already the Dutch press was fed lots of juicy inside stories about the latest movie of Robert Jan Westdijk, Phileine zegt sorry, based on Ronald Giphart’s best seller. This slick much-ado-about-nothing might well become the smash cinema hit all this prior media hype has been trying to turn it into. Nevertheless, Kim van Kooten and Michiel Huisman both do shine in this superficial screwball comedy full of sharp dialogue; great fun when your IQ level equals ‛they left the light on, but nobody’s in’.


Phileine (Kim van Kooten) is a fast young thing who falls in love with Max (Michiel Huisman - the one and only real reason to go see the movie!). Why any guy in his right mind would want to bed down with this irritating, cynical, spoiled bitch called Phileine is beyond me.



Since the lady’s ass is where her mouth is, it’s much more interesting to find out why the bloke who thought up this character also seems to thinks every other guy will get the hots for this castrating shrew. If the whole affair was meant to be a satire, it failed miserably. Another plus on the downside is Roeland Fernhout in a completely superfluous over the top drag act.




Self-interest and ambition destructive forces in Cloaca

Willem van de Sande Bakhuyzen is the name of the director of Cloaca, the movie after the script by Maria Goos. The theatre version of the same name was such a success that a film version was bound to follow. During the recent Dutch Film Days in Utrecht the movie proved to be a favorite with the audience. In her subtle and well-wrought script, Goos tries to root up what’s behind the friendship of the four male protagonists.

Pieter (Pierre Bokma), a gay clerk, is forced to return the artworks he once stole from the municipal archives. Joep (Gijs Scholten van Aschat), an ambitious politician heading for a ministerial position, goes into hiding with Pieter in his attempt to cover up his marital problems for the outside world. Tom (Peter Blok), a top lawyer trying to dry out, is suffering from bouts of hysteria. Maarten (Jaap Spijkers), a theatre director, is hopelessly in love with Joep’s daughter.



What once was a matter of course for four exuberant young students is now, as they’re turning forty, seen in a different light. Though trying to stick to former solidarity, none of them are capable of putting their self-interest aside. Their present ambition destroys what once was sincere. A sad subject brought to the screen with refreshingly dry humor.



Bittersweet perspective on life and death

Though Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself by Lone Scherfig doesn’t call a crowd pleaser to mind, this Danish/British movie movie isn’t by far as depressive as its title, although it ain’t a barrel of laughs. But Wilbur is more than worth your trip to the cinema. A typically ‛small’ movie full of warmth, humor, insight, understanding and spirituality, the kind we fortunately see more of in today’s cinema (see last month’s My Life Without Me).

All afore mentioned elements are wrapped in a story about young pessimist Wilbur, who, despite his appeal to the opposite sex, would gladly trade this world for the next. His brother Harbour is a born optimist who goes out of his way to make his brother happy. Aftre the umpteenth bittersweet failed suicide attempt Wilbur moves in with his brother and together they manage a run-down bookstore in Glasgow they inherited from their parents.




Wilbur goes into therapy and Harbour falls in love with a regular customer who, together with her little girl, also moves in with the two brothers. Together they discover each other, love, life and fragments of happiness. Till death knocks at their door... Leadplayers are Jamie Sives, Adrian Rawlins, Shirley Henderson and Lisa McKinlay.



Ossi- craze captured brilliantly

During the German Film Awards, Good Bye Lenin! by director Wolfgang Becker was showered with no less than eight important awards. In Germany the movie unleashed a veritable Ossi craze. Over 5,5 million visitors already enjoyed this moving tale of a son who does all he can to help his mother survive after a major heart attack.

The time is 1989, right before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Alex (Daniel Brühl) pays little heed to the turmoil around him, since his mother (Katrin Sass) is in a coma after a heart attack. When she comes to, society has changed from communist into capitalist. Because she has to avoid emotional shocks, Daniel decides to shield the recent political changeover from her and inside the walls of their appartment he brings the DDR back to life. A white lie with big consequences.



As Dr. Phil keeps telling us, there is no reality, only perception. Which, with a little effort, can be manipulated. Fortunately so for us, since Daniel’s efforts result in a darling movie, comical, moving and above all full of nostalgia. Typical East German products and especially the package they come in are upgraded. Elements of the communist period are making a come back and recently we’re even witnessing a veritable revival of its suffocating interior design.

Former East Germany is being canonized, a fascinating development leading to heated debates not only in Germany, but also making it into Dutch papers. Though Good Bye Lenin! will not be savoured in all its emotional detail as much so as in Germany, there’s enough to enjoy for the foreign palate also. The movie’s charm is infectious and its reversal of world history is not only perfectly understandable, but also great fun.








 
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