Toni Erdmann

Toni Erdmann urzeka lekkością humoru i absurdem, z którego wyłaniają się gorzkie komentarze na temat pracoholizmu – dzisiejszej metody na alienację doskonałą. Jednak film Maren Ade, pomimo zjawiskowych ról Petera Simonischka i Sandry Huller, nie potrafi widza zaskoczyć – ani fabularnie, ani tym bardziej swoim przesłaniem.

Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) jest samotnym mężczyzną, oderwanym od rzeczywistości, uwielbiającym się przebierać i traktować życie z przymrużeniem oka. Gdy jego córka Ines (Sandra Huller) przyjeżdża na krótkie odwiedziny do rodzinnych stron, Winfried zauważa, że nie jest ona do końca szczęśliwa. Chcąc to zmienić, mężczyzna wylatuje do Bukaresztu – miasta, w którym Ines pracuje – i za wszelką cenę próbuje wnieść radość do życia córki. Aby tego dokonać, Winfried tworzy postać wyimaginowanego biznesmena – Toniego Erdmanna.

Maren Ade zgrabnie prezentuje nowoczesną, niezależną kobietę buszującą pośród rekinów biznesu, jej kruchość skrzętnie skrywaną pod korpo-strojem i wyuczonymi formułkami oraz trudy, przez jakie musi przechodzić, by wspinać się po drabince kariery. Świat pushowanych deadline’ów, podlizywania się klientom i drogich hoteli jest dla Ines codziennością, której chociaż bohaterka z całego serca nienawidzi, boi się do tego publicznie przyznać. To obrazowanie absurdów korporacyjnych zawirowań przychodzi Ade z niebywałą lekkością, zaś przedstawiona rzeczywistość przypomina miejscami skecze Monty Pythona – z tą drobną różnicą, że w Toni Erdmannie to wszystko jest do bólu prawdziwe.

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Ten plastikowy korpo-światek jest zestawiony z wyalienowanym, zdziwaczałym Winfriedem, którego pojawienie się jest jak trzęsienie ziemi dla poukładanego, aczkolwiek stresującego życia Ines. Jego przebieranki, głupie komentarze, a nawet sama obecność nie tylko podkopują grunty dla jej stabilnej egzystencji, ale przede wszystkim zmuszają ją do niechcianych refleksji. I chociaż próby rozweselenia córki stają się z czasem coraz bardziej żałosne, Ines trochę bezwiednie zaczyna im przyklaskiwać – poniekąd z własnej bezsilności, poniekąd z litości nad samotnym ojcem.

Mimo płynności z jaką reżyserka nakreśla trudy relacji ojca i córki, jej scenariusz jest przewidywalny na wielu płaszczyznach. Wiadomo nie od dziś, że korporacyjne machiny produkują ludzi-kukły, którzy nie potrafią zdefiniować czym jest szczęście. Zatem nawet dobroduszny, nierozgarnięty Winfried nie jest w stanie zmienić bliskiej swojemu sercu córki, gdyż stanowi ona nieodłączną część tego zepsutego świata. To jednak swoisty banał, którego dopuszcza się Ade. I szkoda, że podąża taką bezpieczną ścieżką, bowiem ma do dyspozycji znakomite role Huller i Simonischka, z których można było wycisnąć jeszcze więcej – proponując jednak odważniejszy i ciekawszy psychologicznie scenariusz.

Rok 2016 nie był najlepszym w dziejach europejskiego kina i mimo tego, że Toni Erdmann otrzymał nagrodę najlepszego filmu starego kontynentu, dziele Maren Ade daleko do ponadczasowego arcydzieła. Jej gorzko-groteskowy dramat, pomimo całej swojej urokliwości, przypomina jego tytułową postać- próbuje podchodzić widza ze wszystkich stron, ale do pełnowymiarowego sukcesu jest mu daleko.

Ocena UMP: 40/50

Toni Erdmann is filled with light humor and absurd, where bitter comments upon workaholism – the modern alienation method – are weaved into the grotesque. However, even though the acting is superb, Maren Ade’s film doesn’t astonish – both with the plot and the message it conveys.

Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) is a lonely widower, rather absent-minded and with a strange love for dressing up. When his daughter Ines (Sandra Huller) visits the town, he immediately notices how unhappy she is. Winfried assumes he’s the one to change it – he travels to Bucharest to stay for a few days at Ines’ place. As he sees her corporate life, he decides that the only way to cheer her up is by creating a new identity – an imaginary businessman Toni Erdmann.

Maren Ade skillfully paints the picture of an independent, modern woman swimming among the business predators, with her fragile nature covered by the official suits and corporate mumbling and the efforts she puts into climbing the professional ladder. The world of pushing deadlines, soft-soaping and fancy hotels is an everyday bread for Ines – she hates it, but is also too afraid to admit it. Ade is in her elements while exhibiting the corporate machinery of absurd, that sometimes heavily reminisces Monty-Pythonesque kind of universe – however, it’s painfully real in Toni Erdmann.

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Thus, the sudden visit of Winfried is an earthquake for the stressful, yet ordered life of Ines. His masquerades, silly comments and even his sole presence makes her tremble, but also pushes towards reflecting on the miserable life she leads. Meanwhile, Winfried’s attempts to bring sheer happiness in Ines’ life become more and more pathetic, but strangely, she slowly begins to accept him – either due to how powerless she becomes or the deeply hidden mercy she has for her father.

Putting aside the fluency with which Maren Ade paints the relationship of father-daughter, her script ends up a bit predictable. The truth that regards the extent to which modern, high-life world is rotten and disgusting, producing “puppet people” who cannot define happiness, is nothing particularly new. Based on that, even the warm-hearted, absent-minded Winfried cannot change his beloved daughter for this very reason – she belongs to this false world. And this is a cliche that Ade used quite unnecesarilly. Having at hand such a marvelous cast with Simonischek and Huller, she could squeeze much more from their screen chemistry – if only she’d decided to go with a more bold and psychologically complex script.

Frankly, 2016 was not the best in the history of the European cinema. In my humble opinion, even though Maren Ade’s drama received the noble title of the best European film of the year, it is far from being an all-time classic. In the end, this bittersweet story, apart from all the charm it possesses, is just like its protagonist – tries hard, but never manages to fully succeed.

UMP Grade: 40/50

Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Taika Waititi, reżyser błyskotliwego horroru komediowego Co robimy w ukryciu, powrócił w tym roku z tytułem Hunt For The Wilderpeople. Jego nowość to fontanna filmowej radości, ze znakomicie wyważonym humorem i powagą, zabawą scenariuszem i szaloną historią, ale także drugim dnem, które nadaje filmowi duszy.

Ricky (Julian Dennison) jest problematycznym, introwertycznym chłopcem, który nie może znaleźć sobie miejsca w żadnej rodzinie zastępczej. Gdy trafia pod skrzydła Belli (Rima Te Wiata) oraz Hectora (Sam Neill), zadomawia się jedynie na chwilę – gdy kobieta niespodziewanie umiera, Ricky wraz z Hectorem rozpoczynają ucieczkę przed służbami próbującymi ich pochwycić – rozpoczyna się polowanie.

Festiwal w Sundance jest bezapelacyjnie kolebką nowatorskiego, świeżego spojrzenia na sztukę filmu. Na dzień dzisiejszy to właśnie tam swój początek ma wiele surrealistycznych, abstrakcyjnych i niszowych produkcji – przykładem tego jest właśnie nowozelandzki Hunt For The Wilderpeople. Film Taiki Waititi obrazuje narodziny więzi dwóch introwertyków – buntowniczego Ricky’ego oraz Hectora, człowieka o charakterze pustelnika. To zestawienie dwóch skrajnych charakterów pozwala reżyserowi dowolnie żonglować humorystycznymi wstawkami – wyborne są np. urodziny Ricky’ego z niezapomnianą piosenką Belli, czy też dwuznaczna wypowiedź chłopca o pomocy Hectorowi. Lekkość udaje się otrzymać także dzięki znakomitemu duetowi głównych bohaterów, a także plejadzie wyrazistych, epizodycznych i drugoplanowych postaci.

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Waititi nie ograniczył się jednak do lekkiej komedyjki wymieszanej z szalonym filmem przygodowym. Hunt For The Wilderpeople rozprawia się przede wszystkim z naklejaniem łatek w społeczeństwie – Ricky, nierozumiany i charakterny, jest przedstawiany jako nieznośny dzieciak, który nadaje się tylko do poprawczaka, podczas gdy Hector ukrywający się w lesie z Ricky’m jest w oczach publiki zboczeńcem. Waititi zręcznie także wyśmiewa nadmuchiwanie sensacji w mediach, pokazując jak ucieczka dwójki staje się pożywką dla znudzonego społeczeństwa przed telewizorem. Za tą kotarą groteski czai się jednak smutna prawda – dramat dwójki bohaterów jest jak podmuch wiatru, który zniknie równie szybko jak się pojawił.

Warto zwrócić także uwagę na wysublimowaną ścieżkę dźwiękową do filmu. To już druga – po filmie Boy z 2010 roku – kooperacja kompozytora o polskich korzeniach Lukasza Budy z Taiką Waititi. Mieszanka jego własnych, pobrzmiewających w tle kompozycji oraz klasyki pokroju Leonarda Cohena wypada zadziwiająco dobrze. Ponadto, taki dobór muzyki często wpisuje się w zgrabnie wplecione sekwencje scen w buszu np. z utworem Sinnerman Niny Simone.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople można wygodnie określić słowami uroczo inteligentny. Waititi to zdolny filmowiec, potrafiący odnaleźć balans między humorem, a gorzkim komentarzem na temat nas samych. A po seansie warto odpowiedzieć sobie na pytanie, czy gdyby uciekający przed policją Ricky Baker znalazł się w naszym mieszkaniu, również pierwszą reakcją byłoby sięgniecie po telefon i zrobienie selfie.

Ocena UMP: 40/50

Taika Waititi, the director of the spectacular comedy horror What We Do In The Shadows, hit this year with Hunt For The Wilderpeople. It’s like a cinematic fountain of joy, with masterfully balanced humor and drama, playful, twisted story, but also a deeper meaning that gives it a soul.

Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a young, introvertic troublemaker, who cannot find himself a space in any foster family. Once he is transferred to Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hector (Sam Neill), he finally feels at home. Unfortunately, the woman dies unexpectedly and Ricky joins Hector to hide in the bushes – as a consequence a national manhunt begins.

Sundance Film Festival is undoubtedly the cradle of the author, fresh look at filmmaking. Nowadays, it is the place where many surreal, abstract and indie productions get the opportunity to see the daylight – one of those was Hunt For The Wilderpeople. The film by Taiki Waititi portrays the birth of a bond between two introverts – rebellious youngster Ricky Baker and solitary soul Hector. Such a combination allows the director to freely juggle with humoristic inserts – for example the scene of Ricky’s birthday with an unforgettable song by Bella or the rather ambiguous story of how Ricky was helping Hector. This light tone is the effect of the chemistry between the two main stars, but also the range of background characters.

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Waititi didn’t confine himself with the shackles of a naive, light-toned comedy with a drop of an adventure movie in it. Hunt For The Wilderpeople deals indirectly with segregating people, based on the surface  – Ricky is seen in eyes of the society as a troublesome burden, who belongs to the juvie, whilst Hector is a hiding-from-world, old pervert. Waititi criticizes this shallow categorization, also pointing put how the media inflates the bubble of Hector’s and Ricky’s spectacular run for freedom. However, behind this curtain lurks the sad truth – our protagonists’ drama is like a swift wind, which is gone as soon as it has arrived.

Worth noticing is also the creative soundtrack. This is the second time – following Boy from 2010 – when Polish-descent composer Lukasz Buda worked with Taika Waititi. The explosive mixture of his own tracks and classic songs by remarkable musicians like Leonard Cohen is a sweet treat. It’s also well-tailored to the particular scenes, which is proved by, among others, the sequence in the bush ornamented by Nina Simone’s Sinnerman.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople could be described as a cute and intelligent movie. Waititi is a smirky mind, striking a balance between humor and bitter comments hitting us – the viewers. In spite of that, I encourage you to ask yourself the following question – if on-the-run Ricky Baker would have shown up in your home, what would be your first reaction? Grab your phone and take a selfie with the famous kid?

UMP Grade: 40/50

UMP Review- Sausage Party

Quoting one of Bob Dylan’s songs – times, they are changin’. Sausage Party is off the rails in all terms, being a proof of how valid this quote is. And truth be told – once in a while, it’s good to lower oneself to such level of nasty humor. 

The food in a supermarket dreams only about being picked by the so-called gods a.ka.a humans. Yet, they don’t really know what happens behind the doors of the shop, blindly believing in a story of a paradise awaiting. But by mistake, a sausage named Frank (Seth Rogen) and a bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig) begin a journey to discover the terrible truth about their insignificant lives.

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Sausage Party is a nasty piece of vastly-circled criticism, packed in a form of a vivid animation. The script by Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir is an unstoppable artillery of punchlines, fired at every direction possible, without confining it within any sort of boundaries. The band of brutal scoffers doesn’t know any traces of mercy, thus the heavy humor touches classism, racism, gender-based discrimination, but goes far beyond that. Therefore, a Jewish bagel and a Palestinian Lawasz become closer than we could suspect, out of nowhere pops out a food-type version of Stephen Hawking (which is the most hilarious piece of the film to me), whilst the whole “sausage in the bun” wordplay gets only messier and messier, only dirtier and dirtier.

However, Rogen and the crew did not want to be percepted hollow in the topic, making a trippy, controversial piece of adult animation. There’s a whole lot of intelligent criticism, cleverly hidden behind low-level, sex-oriented jokes. Rogen hammers the mechanisms behind consumptionism, the irrational inducements behind waging religious wars and – most surprisingly – the ubiquitous presence of sex in modern world. He goes to extremes, but most of the time, it pays off. In taking an aim at all of these heavy topics, Rogen walks on a thin line, frequently losing his balance, but eventually gaining a significant victory. Because Sausage Party could be crude, vulgar and nasty, but it’s also strikingly truthful. As a society in a global village, we are those blood-thirsty predators, fueled by the urging need to gain more and more of whatever we can, aren’t we?

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What I also adored about Sausage Party was undoubtedly the stylistics of the animation. It was lively and build a brilliant contrast with the grungy humor pumping from the speakers. Rogen’s team inserted also some terrific references – when a drug addict skin-pops bathing salt into his veins, we immediately hear Little Green Bag in the background, a classic known from Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. There’s also a wink towards Desperado, war movies genre and tons of pop-culture’s elements in general. Which is certainly what could be expected from clowns like Rogen.

Finally, the voice acting in Sausage Party was an ace in the hole. Rogen’s laugh remains untouchable and joined by Saturday Night Live favorites like Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig and Rogen’s buddies – Jonah Hill and James Franco – the cast was a huge part of how satisfying this movie happens to be. The cream of the cream was obviously Edward Norton as the shy, fearful sausage Sammy – even for that particular role, it’s worth to give Sausage Party a shot.

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The key to have fun at Sausage Party is to forget about all the confines we are burdened with today. There’s no excuses and no exceptions – everyone gets their share of the nasty pie that our dear scoffers prepared. Maybe the times are changing, but I like this change – we finally learn to grow some distance towards some of the convenances. And it takes a guy with balls like Rogen to make a movie about a sausage that dreams to be in a bun, right?

What’s cool: the voice-acting, the animation in visual terms and the only-and-remarkable STEPHEN HAWKING.

What’s not cool: the vulgar humor might be deterring for some viewers…

UMP Grade: 37/50

UMP Review – Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was supposed to be fun, but delivered only boredom – how did they get such cast anyway?

Whilst war has been portrayed from all kind of angles, the one that remains a risky approach is the definitely the comedic one. Therefore, balancing on the verge of capturing the drama with a witty humor weaved around it and cracking a pitiful joke like a machine gun, is very tricky. Although Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was armed with a star-studded cast, the film directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa is a huge misfire.

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The story in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is based on factual events taken from life of a journalist Kim Baker (Tina Fey), who left her cozy desk-job to become a war reporter in Afghanistan. As she slowly adapts to the new environment, she finds herself trapped in a void, between crazy life in Kabul and the life, that was left behind.

Truth be told, Ficarra and Requa do have a point in their hard-to-swallow mixture of comedy and drama to begin with – the conflict in Afghanistan remained in the shadow of other trouble spots, mainly Iraq, which directly resulted in the media coverage. Yet, even though they started off from a reasonably relevant and challenging point, they turned the topic into a ridiculous farce. Therefore, the moments, which were suppossed to hit the viewer hard, left no effect whatsoever.

Mostly embarassing choices happened in the cast. Tina Fey in the leading role is struggling to serve double role of drama-and-comedic Kim Baker – in doing so, she follows a sinusoid, in the end delivering an unconvincing performance. Margot Robbie’s over-the-top acting makes one cringe and it seems that only reasonable choice in that hotch-potch was Freeman – he had a lot of fun playing a Scottish gigolo. Moreover, considering the dispute regarding racism in Hollywood, it seems that it did hold no relevance on the set of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. If Christopher Abbott’s makeup and appearance was not so crass (but his Arabic mumbling was a bit of a distraction), then Alfred Molina playing the Attorney General of Afghanistan is an insupportable mistake.

Left to right: Christopher Abbott plays Fahim Ahmadzai, Tina Fey plays Kim Baker and Billy Bob Thornton plays General Hollanek in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot from Paramount Pictures and Broadway Video/Little Stranger Productions in theatres March 4, 2016.

The execution of the film constitutes a much more enjoyable aspect. First of all, credits go to the the music department – guys did a good job, keeping up with the lighter tone of the story for most of the time (Jump Around by House of Pain was hell of an idea to start the movie with). Although no fireworks happened in terms of artistry of the direction, it was kept in the rhythm of a journalistic material, but taking an inner look into the war reporters’ lives.

Some part of the message conveyed by Whiskey Tango Foxtrot resembles a fabulous drama from 2014 by Dan Gilroy The Nightcrawler, but truth be told, the film starring Jake Gyllenhaal sketched a far more disturbing and atrocious view on journalism. Ficarra and Requa tried the same with a lighter tone and a female lead, but all felt blatant and somehow missed – seems that war is never anything funny after all, even with Tina Fey in the leading role.

UMP Grade: 22/50