Tag Archives: Tom Tykwer

167. RUN LOLA RUN (1998)

Lola rennt

“One of the big problems of the movie for me was always that I thought, how can we make the repetition idea become something spectacular and exciting, and not make it feel like ‘oh my God, it’s starting again, how boring.’ So this was really a big task for me, not losing the concentration of the audience and really having them care for what happens again and again. So we tried to really make it very exciting and very strange and different…”–Tom Tykwer, Run Lola Run DVD commentary

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DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup, Nina Petri

PLOT: Lola’s boyfriend calls her on the phone: he needs 100,000 Deutschmarks in twenty minutes to pay off a gangster, or he’s going to be killed. Lola has no money and no transportation, but she formulates a plan in a split second, and takes off running. She arrives too late and the story ends in tragedy; but fortunately, she gets a do-over.

Still from Run Lola Run (1998)
BACKGROUND:

  • Lola‘s narrative structure is almost identical to Krzysztof Kieślowski’s 1981 film Blind Chance.
  • The film’s first epigram is a famous quote from T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding.” The second quotation, “Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel” (“after the game is before the game”) is from World Cup champion coach Sepp Herberger.
  • This fast-paced film contains 1581 cuts, averaging out to 2.7 seconds per shot.
  • Lola rennt swept the major categories at the 1999 German Film Awards, with the notable exception of Best Actress—Franka Potente was not even nominated. It won around twenty other awards from international critics associations, but was not nominated for an Academy Award.
  • Voted #86 on Empire’s List of the 100 Best Films Of World Cinema.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Lola, running. Writer/director Tom Tykwer himself has said that the genesis of the film came from an image that sprang to his mind of a woman running through the streets; he constructed a scenario around the picture in his mind’s eye to explain where this vision was racing to. Since we’re interested in weirdness, we’ll focus on one specific iteration of the recurring image of Lola running: when she dashes out of her parents’ home, the camera circles around her mother’s room to catch a television set, where a cartoon version of Lola is flying down the spiral staircase.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Run Lola Run has the hip surreality of a music video. Stylized within a heartbeat of its life, Lola is as proudly and defiantly artificial as Franka Potente’s Strawberry-Shortcake-with-her-head-on-fire dye job.


Original trailer for Run Lola Run

COMMENTS: “Foreign movies come off really weird,” headlines one Amazon reviewer, who confesses that he got annoyed watching the opening and Continue reading 167. RUN LOLA RUN (1998)

CAPSULE: CINEMA 16: EUROPEAN SHORT FILMS (EUROPEAN EDITION) (2007)

DIRECTED BY: Lukas Moodysson, Patrice Le Conte, , Virgil Widrich, , Peter Mullian, Nanni Moretti, Jan Kounen, Roy Andersson, Juan Solanas, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Jan Svankmajer, , Lars von Trier, Javier Fesser, Anders Thomas Jensen

FEATURING: Paddy Considine, Sten Ljunggren, , Isis Krüger, Thomas Wolff

PLOT: Comedies, dramas and experimental films are collected together in this anthology of sixteen award winning short films made by Europeans.

Still from My Wrongs #8245-8249 & 117 ()

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Compilations themselves aren’t eligible, and although some of the shorts here are quite weird, none of them are powerful enough to displace a feature film from the List.

COMMENTS: Short films have almost no commercial prospects: filmmakers generally make them as calling cards, for festival competitions where artistry is more important than marketability, and as a way to fiddle around with the medium of film. Experiments, whether visual or narrative, that might grow wearisome at 90 minutes can be refreshing at under 15 minutes, and directors can indulge their outré aesthetic impulses without fear of alienating audiences and distributors. There are, therefore, a higher proportion of weird works in the world of the short film than are found in the feature film universe: here, nine out of the sixteen offerings—more than half of the total—make at least a nod towards the strange, surreal, or fantastical.

Although we will run down all the films on the set, our primary interest here is in “My Wrongs #8245-8249 & 117,” provocateur ‘ first self-contained short film after years of making blackly absurd, boundary-pushing sketches for British television. Our interest in “Wrongs” stems both from the fact it’s likely the weirdest offering, and because a reader suggested it to us for review. Before we get to the unique films in this collection, we need to explain a little about the “Cinema 16: European Short Films” sets. For reasons that are somewhat unclear, Cinema 16 released two different discs entitled “European Short Films,” one for the European market and one for the U.S. market.  The two editions share seven films in common. We reviewed the U.S. release previously, and mini reviews of the overlapping shorts will be found in that article. The seven repeats are:
Continue reading CAPSULE: CINEMA 16: EUROPEAN SHORT FILMS (EUROPEAN EDITION) (2007)

CAPSULE: PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER (2006)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood

PLOT: An apprentice perfumer in pre-Revolutionary France sets out to make the perfect scent,

a task that requires him to murder thirteen beautiful virgins.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Although its choice of protagonist—an orphaned serial killer with a superhuman sense of smell—certainly proves that Perfume is out of the ordinary, it’s mostly just a period drama punctuated by bursts of black humor, with most of its weirdness concentrated in the orgiastic finale.

COMMENTS: Adapted from Patrick Süskind’s novel of the same name, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer feels like a lavish epic as it traverses 18th century France, stopping to sniff out every scent (good or bad) along the way. German director Tykwer (of Run Lola Run fame) shows us the urban squalor of Paris, the expansive majesty of the countryside, and the perfume mecca of Grasse through the eyes and nose of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Whishaw), our amoral and barely verbal anti-hero.

With his unsurpassed olfactory prowess, Grenouille wonders at all the scents in the world, yet is perpetually enraged: he can’t capture them all, and he lacks a personal scent. As far as his nose is concerned, he’s a cipher, a nonentity. His response to these inner crises is to study the secret art of perfuming under the tutelage of the self-absorbed Baldini (Hoffman), then migrate to Grasse, where he hatches his elaborate, murderous master plan.

This plan forms the centerpiece of the film, as Grenouille kidnaps and kills Grasse’s young maidens one after another, distilling their scents through the technique of enfleurage. Perfume spares little sentiment for the victims, focusing instead on how their deaths contribute to Grenouille’s angelic-smelling magnum opus. The film even juxtaposes Grenouille’s reign of terror with the authorities’ botched investigation in a blackly comic montage, all the better to highlight its anti-hero’s messianic, above-the-law status.

Like any rogue with a rise-and-fall character arc, Grenouille eventually gets arrested and tortured.  But after his solemn march to the town square for crucifixion, Perfume loses all resemblance to other crime thrillers past or present and begins to look like an excerpt from Ken Russell‘s richest, most elegant fantasies. I won’t give away the climactic twist, except to say that it indulges all of the film’s wildest, most spectacular urges.  By the time a drop of perfume falls on a Paris street in the last shot, there’s little for the viewer to do but gape at Tykwer’s mad bravado.

The rest of Perfume isn’t quite so magnificently over-the-top, but Tykwer complements Grenouille’s obsessions by zeroing in on one sensuous piece of period detail after another, all in a futile but nonetheless impressive attempt to visually capture scent. And although Whishaw dominates much of the film, the supporting cast occasionally steals the show: Hoffman provides tragicomic relief as a desperate has-been; Rickman brings his laconic grace to the role of a Grasse nobleman and overprotective father; and John Hurt’s mordant narration frames the whole endeavor as a bleak fairy tale.

Perhaps the greatest irony about Perfume is that although it was a massive, expensive undertaking, it still feels cultish and off the beaten path. It’s so morbid, thorny, and perversely funny that it’s hard to believe it could ever have much mainstream appeal. But imagine sniffing the fumes that would rise if you blended a picaresque costume drama with a slasher movie, then heaped on a thick broth of style.  That, more or less, is Perfume.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“… a tale whose off-the-charts screwiness obscures virtually all shortcomings.”–Nick Schager, Lessons of Darkness