German genre films - fresh from Berlin

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TOKYOPOP Fam:Guten Tag!!

It’s my final day in Berlin, Germany! Next up is France - this Europe trip has been quite amazing, especially meeting talented artists and creative people.

The goal of my blog is to focus on whatever inspiration comes my way - not focusing on Asian Pop Culture or anime/manga, although those topics certainly pop up. Many cultures fascinate me, and connecting with art and artists from across the globe is my true raison d’être.

So, today I want to discuss two German genre films I watched this week, from two filmmakers I met during this trip. I’m actually in the early stages of working on a film that takes place during the time of the Berlin wall, and I’ve fallen in love with the city. It has such a fascinating history, and turbulent change has attracted a wide art scene, as well as its infamous weekend-long club scene (not really my thing).

It’s a gritty, bohemian city full of contrast and contradiction. In the same way that Tokyo has such characteristics in a slick, futuristic way, Berlin’s approach is grimy yet classical. Both cities touch and torment your soul.

In that vein, “Stereo” sucks you into a seemingly typical German town with indistinctive German characters while eventually taking you down a twisted, convoluted path. The genre film is a relatively rare beast in Germany, and filmmaker Max Erlenwein masters it in a subtle, merciless manner. I was truly impressed, and asked Max if we could meet up again - hopefully we can find a project together!

If you can find “Stereo” online, check it out. It’s German language so English subtitles help :-) And the score by Enis Rotthoff - another recent friend - was fantastic! I can’t wait to watch Max’s previous film, wait for it, “Elvis versus Bruce Lee” - which is searchable on YouTube.

The other film I just watched is “Pandorum” from filmmaker Christian Alvart. Christian is further along in his career than Max is - and older (close to my age - and, man, that’s old! LOL).

When I met him, he was on location in Hamburg, directing “TATORT”, Germany’s top-rated action TV show. I also got to briefly meet top actor Til Schweiger, who is starring in Christian’s episodes.

Christian is one of those Renaissance filmmakers (an older version of Leo Kei Angelos, my director for “Knockouts” - concept video coming soon!), who writes, directs, operates camera, edits, and probably would even hold the boom if he had an extra arm!

As one of the key genre directors in Germany, I started with one of his English-language works, “Pandorum” (2009). I’d also like to watch “Case 39” but couldn’t find it online so ordered the DVD via Netflix for when I’m back in Los Angeles.

“Pandorum” was quite an impressive level of production design. The budget seems quite high - perhaps close to 10 times higher than “Stereo” - but that comes out in the sci-fi set pieces, the sophisticated camerawork and visual design.

I never felt the film compromised quality, especially compared to many “B-movie” sci-fi films I’ve seen in my life. Of course, it doesn’t compete at the level of Ridley Scott’s films, but I can honestly say it respectfully approaches it.

The performances in “Pandorum” are a bit scattered, even amongst the same actors, and sometimes provided a good laugh or two. Same thing with the storyline and dialogue but the action was fun, creates were well-done and fresh, and ultimately I was very satisfied with my time spent watching the film.

Both Max and Christian approach filmmaking quite seriously, and the German “attention to detail” feels consistent with the culture’s image. In fact, sometimes I wonder why Japanese genre films get so wild and blunt as opposed to the notorious Japanese craftsmanship we find in anime and even sentai. But then again, there are simply so many more Japanese genre films and the budgets are significantly lower than these 2 films, so it’s inevitable.

Genre films are not the only films I like - my tastes range pretty extensively, as they do in music and art and literature (including manga) - but when I find genre films that I really enjoy, it definitely makes me happy.

And, thanks to Max and Christian, Berlin continues to make me happy!

Tschüs!! (German for "Cheers"!)

--Stu

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