Rated R for incest and sexuality. I mean, I suppose that's a bit redundant. Also, if you don't want to see Mickey Rourke in his tighty whiteys, then this movie not for you. There's language. There's actually one of the sequences involving violence with some folks from Game of Thrones. I saw originally that one of the websites listed this as NC-17, but that's wholly inaccurate. It's a solid to mild R.
DIRECTORS: Diana Agron, Peter Chelsom, Fernando Eimbcke, Justin Frankin, Dennis Gansel, Dani Levy, Daniel Lwowski, Josef Rusnak, Til Schweiger, Massy Tadjedin, Gabriela Tscherniak
It took me too long to transcribe the directors of this movie. How am I possibly going to be positive about this movie knowing that it took me a half an hour to just write the billion directors of this movie. Yeah, it's an anthology that showcases directors. I don't care. The movie has to be great for me to write a positive message after that. It has to be Paris, Je T'aime. This isn't Paris, Je T'aime. This is Berlin, I Love You. My wife, while watching it one romantic evening asked me straight up if I had ever been to Berlin. I told her that I, indeed, had been to Berlin. She told me that she had no interest in visiting Berlin. I said that was fair and this movie kind of confirmed it for her. You have Paris and then you have New York. I think that there are a handful of cities that hit the list before Berlin should really get credit for being a city that gets a retrospective.
A thing you should know: I adore Paris, Je T'aime. I recommend it to everyone. Look at the list of directors that made that movie. I'll wait because I refuse to write that list out. Compare that to the list above. Again, I'm not going to help you out because that list took forever. I probably screwed up some names in the process. I haven't heard of ANY of those directors. I know that's not necessarily a bad thing. But you know what? It also makes it a bit of a harder sell. Berlin, I Love You kind of feels like a short film showcase. If the first film was really a message to a gorgeous city and how it changes people's lives, Berlin, I Love You almost doesn't need to take place in Berlin. There's a lot of those shorts that have very little relationship with the city. The first one does. Romantic Knight Rider, as I like to think of it, actually does tie directly into Berlin. But everything else is just a film that kind of takes place in Berlin. It loses its thesis statement pretty quickly. On top of that, these are meant to be love stories. There's one in here, and I'm going to talk about that one the most because is the most memorable for terrible reasons, that involves incest. If the mission statement is to tell romantic stories about how the city is a city of love, all of these films completely missed the point. I know that the critics savaged Berlin, I Love You. The film is definitely watchable. But man, what went from an experience that I was really looking forward to quickly turned into a chore. I kept looking at the clock, hoping that the movie was almost over. It became a burden really quickly. Part of that comes from the fact that almost every single one of these shorts was wildly undercooked. I read a lot of memoirs about sketch comedy writers. The hardest part about writing a sketch is the fact that it is nearly impossible to find an ending to a sketch that really knocks it out of the ball park. They tend to have arbitrary endings and they just need to end. That kind of applies to the short films of Berlin, I Love You. Often, it seems like the writers and directors have a mood and a couple of loose ideas that they want to cover.
This is pretty prevalent in the short about the laundromat. As the film starts, the movie plays with imagery pretty effectively. A woman ready to ruin a large and gorgeous dress because she was sexually assaulted is a story worth examining. She tells the laundromat owner almost immediately. It's a choice I understand, After all, this is a short film, so there's no real time for the slow reveal after some character development. The owner immediately condemns men for their sexual owner and a famous Hollywood producer connected to the #metoo movement walks in. He is completely a caricature, spouting of cliches and platitudes that don't ingratiate him to the audience. After the women eject him, scores of people come in to have a dance party and sing "Time's Up." This sounds like I'm bashing the #metoo movement. I am not. Quite the opposite. But this film was so lazy and underbaked that it might have actually been kind of counterproductive. Should a film collection speak out about issues? Sure. Should it say something real about it? That's where I have a problem. It should have done something that relates to everyone. Instead of creating this comically simple producer character that is easy to boo, why not do something that makes the audience reflect on themselves. Place the spotlight on the criminals out there. The thing about White Savior films is that they make these villains so easy to identify that anyone can sit back and say, "Well, I'm not bad like that guy." I always have a bit of a problem with the protest-as-party narrative. Real protesters are about sacrifice. They give themselves over to a movement. They know that they are giving something bigger than themselves for future generations. But saying that "Time's Up" is a big dance party dumbs down the movement. How is dancing and cavorting on laundry machines at all reflective of the struggles that women go through. This message is brought to you by a straight white male. Speaking of white saviors...
I don't want to pigeonhole all of the stories in this way, but they all have about the same level of depth. I think the standout piece is the one with Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren. It's mainly because it a set of standout performances and I'm a sucker for immigrants. I do respect the play on the love story. Just because I wanted a romantic film for once doesn't mean that I don't want to see someone subvert the message of the love tale. It is, again, a simple approach to a deeply moving tale. But that story about immigration is more powerful than the laundromat tale because the film doesn't try covering everything with wide swaths. Instead, it talks about one very specific element about immigration and that is comfort. There's a lot going on behind this scene that we may never understand. We see Knightley go out for a date that never really comes to fruition. We'll probably never really find out what happened in that sequence. Instead, it is the frustration that comes from people who see empathy in abstract terms and those who live empathy. Both characters are sympathetic. Mirren's mother character is partially right. Knightley is doing something wildly irresponsible. If people find out that she has technically kidnapped this child, it would be the end of her career. But there is also the human factor. I know that the scenario is not that complex. It actually reads like an Intro to Ethics scenario. But that's okay. This is a short form storytelling. I like that Mirren makes a change in her personality, but it is the first small step to something much larger. In a full length film, Mirren's change would really be the inciting incident leading to a life of empathy. But we don't really need any of that. It is probably the best shot of the group and has the best performances. It doesn't save the anthology as a whole, but it is very watchable.
The worst one is the one I alluded to. I know the messed up behavior is what attacted Mickey Rourke to the material. It doesn't really make a lick of sense in terms of logic. I can imagine the writer sitting down and trying to blow people's minds. But this is something I would have written in my first playwriting class. I would probably want to be edgy or something and really turn some heads. But c'mon. C'mon. Did anyone not see that end coming? There's a lot of things that we have to shut off in our heads to make this scene work. I think I want to mention the A # 1 thing on this list that probably pops into everyone's heads. Why did Heather think that sleeping with her father would be an adequate revenge on him? Sure, it would mess him up. I don't deny that. But the revenge would be, "You slept with your daughter! Look how that messed her up." What kind of insanity is that? There are a million forms of revenge that aren't such examples of Greek tragedy that people would actually do. There's a large assumption that you could convince your father to sleep with you. Also, the moral of the story is what? Anyone could be your daughter so stop sleeping with them? I mean, I like that message, but that doesn't really address not being there as a parent. And again, I can't stress this enough: It also means that you have to sleep with your father and screw yourself up even more. Then there's this weird epilogue where Mickey Rourke tries buying a bunch of cigarettes. Why include this scene? How do we know the character any better? It's just terrible.
The major bummer of this movie is that I adored the concept of it. Yeah, I didn't adore New York, I Love You, but it wasn't terrible. Berlin, I Love You is more bad than good. Nothing is outright offensively bad, but it actually commits the worse crime of being boring. It's free on Netflix. Go in with low expectations and there are nuggets to take away, but that's not a wonderful testimony.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.