Embracing the Melodrama Part II #65: Christiane F. — We Children Of The Banhof Zoo (dir by Uli Edel)


Christiane_F_Poster Dedicated to: Andreas W. “Atze” (1960 – 77), Axel W. (1960 – 77), Babette D. “Babsi” (1963 – 77) and all others who didn’t have the luck and strength to survive.

— End credits dedication of Christiane F. (1981)

After watching Out of the Blue, be sure to watch the 1981 German film Christiane F.  Like Out of the Blue, Christiane F. tells the story of what happens with adolescent aimlessness turns into self-destruction.  Like Out of The Blue, Christiane F. centers on one alienated girl and, like Out of the Blue, it features a dark ending.  Unlike Out of the Blue, Christiane F. is actually based on a true story and that makes it all the more disturbing.

Another difference between Out of the Blue and Christiane F. is that, while Out of the Blue‘s Ceebe was motivated by anger, 13 year-old Christiane (Natja Brunckhorst) is mostly just bored.  She lives in a drab apartment in Berlin, with her mother and her younger sister.  Whenever we see Christiane walking among the concrete buildings that make up her neighborhood, we can see why she’s so frustrated with her life.  She lives in a world that literally has no personality or hope for the future.

With nothing else to look forward to, Christiane becomes obsessed with going to Sound, a club that is advertised as the “most modern discotheque in Europe.”  Wearing makeup and high heels and lying about her age, Christiane manages to get into Sound and discovers an entire new world.  She meets the charismatic Detlef (Thomas Haustein) and a whole new group of friends.  All of her new friends use drugs and, eager to fit in and hoping to impress Detlef, Christiane is soon taking part.  She quickly goes from smoking pot to shooting heroin to working as a prostitute to finance her habit…

And you know what?  Just from the description, Christiane F. sounds like a typical histrionic anti-drug film, a German version of Reefer Madness.  Anti-drug films are always based on the idea that the worst possible thing that could happen will always happen and that’s certainly what happens in Christiane F.  However, Christiane F. never sinks to the level of propaganda.  There’s an authenticity to the film’s portrait of what it’s like to feel lost and alienated.  It captures the gnawing despair of feeling as if the rest of the world knows something about happiness that you’ll never be able to understand.

Which is not to say that the film doesn’t work as an anti-drug film.  I would never do heroin anyway but if I was so inclined, Christiane F. would change my mind.  As Christiane and her friends become addicts, the film takes on an element of Cronenbergian body terror.  When Christiane’s friends overdose, the camera lingers over their thin, scarred, and blue bodies.  In perhaps the film’s most shocking scene, Christiane is attacked in a public restroom by a junkie who steals her heroin and then proceeds to shoot up in front of her, plunging the syringe into his neck.

Christiane F. is a powerful film, featuring an excellent lead performance from Natja Brunckhorst and a great soundtrack from David Bowie.  Watch it with Out Of The Blue but make sure you’ve got a comedy ready to go afterward.

 

 

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #64: Out of the Blue (dir by Dennis Hopper)


Out_of_the_Blue_Film“Subvert normality.”

— Cebe (Linda Manz) in Out of the Blue (1980)

The 1980 Canadian film Out of the Blue opens with a terrifying scene.  Don Barnes (Dennis Hopper), drinking a beer and playing with his daughter while driving a truck, crashes into a school bus.  The bus is full of children, many of whom are seen being thrown into the air as the truck literally splits the bus in half.

Don is sent to prison.  His wife, Kathy (Sharon Farrell), becomes a drug addict.  His daughter, Cebe (Linda Manz), grows up to be an angry and alienated teenager.  Cebe spends her time either aimlessly wandering around her economically depressed hometown or else ranting about the phoniness of society to anyone who will listen (and quite a few who won’t).  Much like the killer cops in Magnum Force, all of her heroes are dead.  Occasionally, she sees a pompous therapist (Raymond Burr) whose liberal humanism turns out to be just as empty as the reactionary society that Cebe is striking out against.  Cebe’s heroes are Elvis, Sid Vicious, and her father.

When Don is finally released from prison, he returns home and he announces that he’s straightened out his life.  He promises that he’ll stay sober and he’ll be a good father.  That, of course, is all bullshit.  Soon, Don is struggling to hold down a job and spending his time drinking with his friend Charlie (Don Gordon).  Anyone who has ever had to deal with an alcoholic father will be able to painfully relate to the scenes where Don goes from being kind and loving to demonic in a matter of seconds.

Eventually, it all leads to a violent ending, one that is powerful precisely because it is so inevitable.

Out of the Blue is one of my favorite films, one that I relate to more than I really like to admit.  Directed in a raw and uncompromising manner by Dennis Hopper, Out of the Blue is a look at life on the margins of society.  And while some would argue that not much happens in the film between the explosive opening and the equally explosive ending, nothing needs to happen.  The power of the film comes not from its plot and instead from the perfect performances of Linda Manz, Dennis Hopper, Sharon Farrell, and Don Gordon.  Only Raymond Burr feels out of place but there’s a reason for that.

As much as I love Out of the Blue as a movie, I love the story of its production as well.  Originally, Out of the Blue was to be your typical movie about a rebellious teen who is saved by a patient and compassionate counselor.  Dennis Hopper was originally just supposed to co-star.  However, after the shooting started to run behind schedule, the film’s original director was fired.  Hopper talked the producers into letting him take over as a director.

This was the first film that Hopper was allowed to direct since the 1971 release of the infamous flop, The Last Movie.  Hopper, who was then best known for his drug use and his alcoholism, promised to be on his best behavior.  However, he then proceeded to secretly rewrite the entire film.

When Raymond Burr showed up to shoot his scenes, he was under the impression that he was still the star of the film.  Hopper essentially proceeded to shoot two separate films.  One film followed the original script and starred Raymond Burr.  The other was Hopper’s vision.  When it came time to take all of the footage and edit together the film that would be called Out of Blue, only two of Burr’s scenes made it into final cut and, in both of those scenes, Burr’s character is portrayed as being clueless.

Out of the Blue is not a happy film but it’s a good one.  More people need to see it.

Late To The Party : “Unfriended”


My take on “Unfriended” — I agree with Lisa Marie completely!

Trash Film Guru

unfriended-poster1-378x600

Let me tell you a little story : a couple years back, I found myself in the midst of a back-and-forth debate on twitter about censorship in general, which quickly (somehow) narrowed down to a debate about censorship centering on cartoons and/or other depictions of the prophet Mohammed, which then (again, somehow) warped, thanks to the other party involved,  into a series of xenophobic and racist rants against any and all Muslims that I parried with relative ease and calmness while said other party was shouting pleasantries like “FUCK YOU ASSHOLE!!!!!” and “ALL MUSLIMS MUST DIE BECAUSE THEY ALL WANT TO KILL US SO WE HAVE TO WIPE THEM OUT FIRST!!!!” (yes, the douchebag saying this crap typed entirely in capital letters — and he usually used a lot more exclamation points that I just did).

Okay, fair enough, mouth-foaming bigots are not, sadly, too hard to find on social…

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