XL Popcorn – Fear Eats The Soul / Happiness

So continueth the dictated film reviews! Damn these wrists!

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (Angst essen Seele auf)
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Year: 1974
Country: Germany

So this is the first German movie that I have watched since being signed off from work with my wrist. This is also the first film that I have seen from the acclaimed director Rainer Fassbinder. There is another of his films that I assumed would be the first, but I am having trouble tracking it down.

The tragic thing is that this is a film you could probably still make today based on current attitudes in parts of Germany and the rest of the world. It all boils down to this: interracial romance. I would like to think that we live in a more enlightened time, but who are we kidding.

Emmi is a widow and she is lonely. One day she takes shelter in a bar frequented by Arabic immigrants and she meets Ali. He is Moroccan, 20 to 30 years younger than her and is not yet completely fluent in German. They fall in love. They get married. Should be end of, but that isn’t life. Needless to say the couple become the target of abuse (and both aggressive than passive aggressive). Her own children disown her calling her a whore and kicking in her television set. Her neighbours declare that the building has become far dirtier since his arrival and needs to be cleaned more often. There is also staring, ignoring and other such pettiness.

What I loved about this film was just how human it felt. There is a scene where Emmi breaks down into tears because she cannot take it anymore. The affection that Ali shows her is beautiful and, due to language barrier, is delightfully simple. We are left at the end not knowing the future of their relationship. Acceptance has started to come with Emmi allowing Ali to express more and more of his Moroccan nature and stopped trying to make him German.

In short it really is a film about acceptance. A lot of people have their views challenged in this film and I think it is a message that we need considering Syria. You could make Ali a Syrian refugee and there is not much else that you would need to change to bring this film up to date.

Title: Happiness
Director: Todd Solondz
Year: 1998
Country: USA

This will be the most recent film on the 1001 list but I have gone out of my way to watch. I just figured that a film called Happiness would be a good counter point to a film called Fear Eats the Soul. Utterly vapid reason now I have watched both films, but hey at least it means I got to see this black comedy that I would not have seen for a while.

The title Happiness is a bit misleading. There was a reviewer who said that the writer and director had gotten happiness and mixed up with pleasure. Having watched this I am in partial agreement with him. However, I think the idea is that the characters have gotten mixed up and the writer director knows exactly what he’s doing. You see, I think we in our modern life have become lost and are unable to discern this subtle difference.

Happiness is an insightful black comedy that, I think, opens the window towards a larger section of the human condition that we would care to recognise. Whilst at the centre of the entire film there is this privileged family struggling to identify how to make themselves happy it is their surroundings which provided the most interesting watching.

In fact, I would have been more than happy if the film had decided to severely reduce the role of Joy – the youngest sister. I don’t know she seems that little bit too pathetic. However, you have to keep her opening scene with Jon Lovitz as that was utterly brilliant.

There are two main threads of interest in this film: Bill, the husband of eldest daughter Trish who has started to give in to his paedophilic urges and the neighbours of the middle sister Helen.

I can fully appreciate that this film was controversial when released. Despite the fact that you know what Bill is doing is incredibly wrong there is a part of you that, during his confession with his son, feels sorry for him. It’s a heart rendering scene and you have to give so many props to Dylan Baker for somehow portraying this character in an almost sympathetic light. Irony of ironies is that he is a therapist and just maybe if he had used his connections to seek help he may never have gone out and done it. Don’t get me wrong what he did was monstrous. There is just something in his performance at generates just about enough cognitive dissonance to make you feel very uncomfortable.

On the lighter side, is the story between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Camryn Manheim. These misfits neighbours of the successful middle Sister Helen are fantastic to watch. He is a pathetic excuse who fantasises after his attractive neighbour Helen and, because of the way he looks, will never stand a chance. How he reacts to this is incredibly wrong for he is one of those heavy breathers who masturbates whilst on the phone to women. Gross! What he doesn’t realise is that his neighbour (Camryn Manheim) really wants to be with him. In fact, is during one of their scenes together where I had my biggest laugh which was born out of shock.

There is quite a lot to this film. A lot more than the title lets on.

Progress: 496/1007

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