August 22, 2011

My (almost perfect) Berlin weekend.

Some journeys are emotionally too difficult. 
For me, Berlin holds that distinction.
So then, coward that I am, the next best thing to being there, a vicarious journey. 

Brian Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin - Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape.This book is a challenging investigation of the arguments that developed around the demolishing, renovating or rebuilding of Berlin's many contentious buildings, statues, and even commemorative plaques.  
When your recent history is so awful what to do but reach back to a time before, but to do that stirs up feelings and meaning too as it can be argued that this period was what created the atmosphere for the way things developed. Not all the arguments and topics go in such a circular way, but this is all fraught and thought-provoking stuff.  If a book can have the power to influence public debate, then The Ghosts of Berlin is such a book. Among the many new books about Berlin that I have read, Brian Ladd's is certainly the most impressive.

The Good German
Of all the movie classics, in all the towns, in all the world, they had to walk into mine.
Steven Soderbergh and his leading man, George Clooney, have cooked up a monumentally misjudged, self-regarding, cynical take on 1940s thrillers in general, and Casablanca in particular, by making a glossy pastiche noir set in the shattered ruins of 1945 Berlin. Clooney is the lantern-jawed American reporter, attached to cover the Potsdam conference, who stumbles upon a murder and an establishment cover-up; Cate Blanchett is the local shady lady with a secret and a fake accent.  She should make amends to Ingrid (I raygredd zat Ik zpreken in zis zilly mogg-Tscherman agzend).  Tobey Maguire is the creepy American soldier way out of his depth.
Soderbergh has all the technical bells and whistles ... but where's the heart? The script is boring, with fatuous condescension, largely by dropping mismanaged references to The Third Man.  But there's an added level of nastiness. There's the c-word. Women get punched in the stomach. Added to this is an ostentatious and anachronistic debate about whether there are any good Germans at all, and whether the whole country, not just top Nazis, should be put on trial: inspired, I very much I suspect, by Daniel Goldhagen's 1996 book Hitler's Willing Executioners.
It just looks like one big film-school pose. Clooney and Soderbergh co-produced Todd Haynes' brilliant Douglas Sirk update Far From Heaven, and they may have intended something similar here. But Haynes's film honored its original with real passion. The Good German is culpably feeble and detached, especially considering that the original was released in 1942, and conceived far earlier: when the future of the world actually was at stake and Hitler's defeat far from cut and dried. Bogart and Bergman really did look as if they were in love; Clooney and Blanchett look like they can't wait to get back to their respective trailers.

Wings of Desire

Berlin’s urban space had frequently been the grim arena for sixties spy noir, but never had I seen Berlin become Berlin so clearly, so eloquently before. (The more sober and evocative German title translates as The Sky over Berlin.)  Of course the city is haunted what German city is not.  But here the city is haunted by angels like Bruno Ganz’s questing hero Damiel, present but unseen, and always listening.  Given the iconography, it’s a passionately humanist film, suggesting by its very texture and rhythm a prescriptive notion of how we should regard our compatriot Homo sapiens, and how we should seize the mundane moments as they catapult by. It’s a soaring anthem for everydayness.  If ever there was a European art film that could be all things to all people, it is Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire.  Marking Wenders’ career midpoint like a lightning strike cutting across tree rings, the movie is at once audience-seductive and demanding, holistic and aestheticized.
It has beguiled the Wenders aficionado as reliably as it’s absorbed the spiritually hungry civilian, the rogue film head, the bookish square, the nondenominational seeker, and the vicarious traveller.
... ick hab noch eenen Koffer in Berlin…


Baldur said...

Ick auch!

Anonymous said...

Ick hab ooch noch eenen Koffer in Berlin...
Hör mir mal zu ick will dir mal watt erzähln von mir.
Dit hab ick noch nie jemacht, außer bei dir.
Ick war schon immer son warzenschwein
voll pickel, schwitzig zu fett zu klein
nen trampel, halb blind verbiestet und baff
und ick hab ja auch nichmal die neunte jeschafft.
Ick hab keene mudda diet jut mit mir meint
keene ratte keen hund keen freund
meene zukunft is'n eckliger entloser schacht
voll glibber und modder und schwarz wie die nacht
Wie jut dit mir manchmal son engel erscheint
wie Bruno Ganz und für mich weint.

SvO said...

PRICELESS Anonymous.

Bruno said...

Ick hab noch eenen Koffer in Berlin, deswejen muß ick nächstens wieder hin…“ sang schon Marlene und wie sie will ick ooch wieder in die Perle an der Spree zurück. Doch vor dem zurück kommt immer ein hin–hin-hinaus in die Welt.

Berlinische Verlaufsform said...

Ick hab ooch noch eenen Koffer in Berlin...
Und wenn ick dann am Ku´Damm steh, und all die Marlenes loofen seh, dann weeß ick, da jehör ick hin!

Ms. Edna (squared) said...

Bully (Bulan) for you all, over there, over there.
Thanks for the comments.

Checkpoint C said...

Thanks for remembering the Berlin Airlift. If the shoe fits…

Operations Vittles said...

Thanks for the post and the collage with the Jake Schuffert Airlift Laff’s background. I appreciate this.

Seen him somewhere before said...

This is my favorite book on the Berlin Airlift a.k.a. Operation Vittles
I think it would have been a dull, dull operation without Jake Schuffert.

frenchtoast said...

Great link "Seen him somewhere before" thanks.
I love to have the book Ms. Edna, please? Thanks for the post.

Alistair said...

Thank you, priceless, post and comments.