Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jason goes to Berlin and Beyond--day 3

Okay, I'm several days and 10 films behind. Works been busy, but I've still been going to Berlin and Beyond every day. Saturday I just saw two movies, and here we go.

First up was the documentary La Paloma about the song of the same name. "La Paloma" is an incredibly popular song by the Spaniard Sebastián de Iradier, and this movie is about its history and its fans. It's unclear whether Iradier wrote it in Spain or in Cuba, but it was inspired by his visit to Cuba and its popularity definitely took off there. From there, it swept the world, first becoming a political anthem in Mexico after Emperor Maximilian let it be known that it was his favorite song (and it was then adopted and modified by his enemies). With the lyrics modified, the tune is still used politically today in Mexico. It travelled to Hawaii (along with the guitar) with the Mexican ranch hands brought in from California by King Kamehameha III to handle their wild herds of cattle (originally a gift to Kamehameha I from Captain Vancouver). But back to the song--it's been recorded possibly thousands of times (arguably a record), including by Elvis. And of course it was translated to German (otherwise it wouldn't make much sense that it's in Berlin and Beyond--other than it was produced in Germany and director Sigrid Faltin is German). It's very popular in Germany, and one of the most famous recordings is by Hans Alber in Große Freiheit Nr. 7. Honestly, I had heard the song before but didn't know it was such a big deal before seeing this movie. But beyond the specific song, it's an interesting story about how a small cultural icon travels the world (at least, before the Internet. Now memes travel worldwide overnight, and there's no epic story behind them).

So next up was a romantic drama of wartime Germany, The Invention of Curried Sausage. It's near the end of the war, the Allies are approaching Berlin, or at least bombing it on a regular basis. A few citizens are still very gung-ho to promote the party line, but the heroes in this movie just want it to end. Particularly Lena Bruecker, manager of a local commissary, and for all intents and purposes a widow. Her husband and her son are off in the war, and she never expects to see either. To pass the time, she goes to the cinema. No sooner than the newsreel starts than the bombs fall, and she finds herself huddling in a shelter with Petty Officer Bremer, who's off on leave. But after she takes him home, that leave quickly becomes AWOL, as she hides him in her apartment while they carry on a love affair. They survive the war, and they survive the nosy neighbors (and the gung-ho Nazi landlord). But really, it's the peace, and return to reality that threatens their love, which is a pretty interesting (and in retrospect, kind of obvious) turnabout on the expected "love in wartime" dynamic. It's a well made, well told story with tension and humor--I have to give big praise to the cook (I believe the character's name was Holzinger), who provided the best subversive humor in the movie.

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