Category Archives: Film

“TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN”— Psychological Trauma and Aberrant Sexuality

“TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN”

Psychological Trauma and Aberrant Sexuality

Amos Lassen

Psychological trauma and aberrant sexuality abound in ‘”Toys Are Not for Children”, a  1972 tale of a young woman with severe daddy issues that  send her on a downward spiral. Jamie (Marcia Forbes) years for the love of her estranged father and lives in an infantile world with lots of toys that her dad sends to her. She marries Charlie (Harlan Clay Poe) but is unable to consummate her marriage. By chance Jamie meets Pearl (Evelyn Kingsley), an elderly sex worker who takes her into the world of prostitution where her most erotic fantasies ply out. Directed by Sidney H. Brasloff, this is a strangely affecting movie and a representative of American sexploitation films that were popular in the 70s. The film builds to a devastating climax that stays with the viewer long after the film is over.

The movie opens on a dark bedroom and we hear hot and heavy breathing and see that a naked girl is in bed. She moans “Daddy . . . Daddy . . . Oh Daddy. . . .” She writhes sensually on top of the sheets, her bare legs moving up and down while she is embracing a doll. The girl’s mother walks in on her and gets uptight. She is disgusted and calls this dry-humping “unnatural.”

Jamie Godard works at a toy store and we see her as an innocent, wide-eyed girl. She is twenty yet still plays with toys. She loves them and according to the store manager, has a real emotional connection with them. At home, her bedroom is filled with dolls and stuffed animals from her father. Even though he walked out of her life many, many years ago, he still sends her a doll for every occasion. We begin to understand that Jamie has Daddy issues as well as Mommy issues (that give her Daddy issues). Jamie’s mother tells her that men are evil and as a result, Jamie lives in fear of penises.

When Jamie and Charlie get married, she can’t even undress in front of her new husband! There are flashbacks to her mother warning about men to her as a little girl playing with her father. Jamie is paralyzed with fear. She starts to cry but, Charlie claims to understand and tells her that, “Everyone’s afraid of their first time.”

We fast forward in time and see Charlie at a disco, hitting the sauce and hitting on the ladies. Jamie has turned him off so he must look elsewhere. Meanwhile Jamie looks for her father but meets Pearland Jamie is fascinated. Eventually she gives herself up to Pearl’s pimp. And from here the movie slowly grows and devolves into a twisted pseudo-psycho-sexual drama.

The movie takes huge leaps in logic and proves that narrative devices like character development and motivation are unnecessary to develop a plot. Yet everything is presented beautifully and thoughtfully — flashbacks are expertly and artfully cut in with dialogue. We hear and see Jamie’s father as she faces carnal desires. The entire movie has a dissociative air. The plot slowly unfolds, each scene more pleasantly ridiculous than the last. Jamie’s outfits become more outlandish and revealing. The dress she wears to meet her father is something you’d get at a sex shop.  .

Her husband wants to penetrate Jamie and a former New York Yankee great wants to penetrate her and even her father wants to penetrate her. Her father wants nothing to do with his daughter. On the other hand, she definitely wants to have sex with her father. Here is a film that delivers sleaze that could be construed as off-kilter.
   Is this film really about a childlike twenty year-old woman who decides to become a whore in order to reunite with her long lost father? So it seems. A great movie or even a good movie, this is not but I did have a lot of fun watching it.
   

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements

  High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentation

  Original uncompressed mono audio

  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  Brand new audio commentary with Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain

  Newly-filmed appreciation by Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower

  Dirty Dolls: Femininity, Perversion and Play – a brand new video essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

  Original theme song Lonely Am I , newly transferred from the original 45-RPM vinyl single

  Original Trailer

  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil

  FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Vanity Celis

“FELIZ ANO TIJUANA”— A Simple and Powerful Film

“FELIZ ANO TIJUANA”

A Simple and Powerful Film

Amos Lassen

Watching “Feliz Ano Tijuana” is like watching a couple days in our main character’s life. Forced to stay in Tijuana after missing his flight, a college professor runs into one of his former students and a hooker. This unleashes many of his emotions and as we watch we feel sad, happy, confused, curious and uncomfortable. This works so well because this is just what our main character is feeling. In a sense, we become the professor. During many scenes we see and know little more than he does. This is especially true of an uncomfortable and shocking scene that takes place in the bathroom. The film moves from fast paced comedy to dark places that make us feel discomforted. The transitions between these places are smooth and work well since they revolve around what the character is feeling. When he is partying very hard, the film is quite funny, but in a scene where he is becoming very paranoid the movie becomes almost painful to watch.

 

The film begins light. We see the professor getting a hotel room that is very different from what he expected. Yet even with the humor, we sense that something to make him and us uncomfortable is going to come. He is an outsider in this room as he will mostly remain for the rest of the film.

I understand that the film was shot without a script and this adds to it feeling so natural and real. Each line and look from the characters seems to happen as if no one knows what is going to happen next thus creating a feeling of uncertainty and spontaneity that is hard to resist and it pulls us deeper and deeper into the psyche of its main character.

As the professor, Alejandro, Luis Deveze is the soul of the film. It combines elements from different genres while telling the story of a guy whose plans to stay quietly in a hotel room in the border town during end-of-calendar celebrations are seen abruptly changed when invited to a party that ends up moving to the streets. It has drama, comedy, romance and a bit of ‘thriller’, but in reality, it’s like everyday life, where we go through many different situations and emotions. Deveze was inspired by an experience of his own life for the plot, although the film did not have a script or written dialogues. We and Alejandro go through the feelings of insecurities and fears that went to extremes.

The film is a love letter for Tijuana, which is still considered by some to be a dangerous city, but which shows a festive and friendly face here. The intention of the film was to tell a story based on an emotional level and little by little, elements of Tijuana’s culture and circumstances were added. Unlike other films, this is a total experience unlike any movie you have seen before. Andrew van Baal directed this new look at film and how we respond to it.

“MR. TOILET: The World’s #2 Man”— Meet Jack Sim

“MR. TOILET: The World’s #2 Man”

Meet Jack Sim

Amos Lassen

Jack Sim is a man who is obsessed with toilets and a crusader for global sanitation. He was born in the Singapore slums and  knows firsthand the problems of not having a proper toilet. He has dedicated his life to a crisis no one dares talk about: Poop. We learn here that not having a place “to go” isn’t just an inconvenience; it’s a problem that impacts 2.4 billion people worldwide. In India alone, some 200,000 children die each year from lack of safe sanitation and women are regularly raped because they have to defecate in public spaces. Sims is full of jokes and he uses humor as his weapon to fight an uphill battle against bathroom taboos. He founded the World Toilet Organization and spent the last 13 years lobbying 193 countries to raise awareness for proper sanitation. He says that he is “Turning poop culture into pop culture is the fastest way to solve the sanitation crisis”. He has successfully lobbied the United Nations to create World Toilet Day (November 19), the first International day of celebration for the toilet.

Now he is in the middle of his biggest challenge yet, securing 6 million toilets for the “Clean India” initiative. With few resources and no help from the government, his epic project and reputation are in jeopardy. Jack’s once supportive staff begins to doubt him; and when his family bonds start to fray over his obsessive dedication, Mr. Toilet realizes there is a price to pay for being the world’s #2 man.

“MR.TOILET: The World’s #2 Man” is a documentary film directed, produced and written by Lily Zepeda and produced and written by Tchavdar Georgiev. It will open at Laemmle Monica in Los Angeles on November 8 and at Village East Cinema in New York on November 22. Other cities will follow. 

Here are some toilet facts to think about:

ALMOST 40% OF THE WORLD’S POPULATION DOES NOT HAVE ACCESS TO SAFE SANITATION

MORE PEOPLE HAVE A CELL PHONE THAN THEY DO A TOILET

ALMOST 1 MILLION CHILDREN DIE EVERY YEAR FROM DIARRHEA DUE TO LACK OF SANITATION; THAT’S 2,000 CHILDREN A DAY

OVER THE PAST 200 YEARS, TOILETS HAVE ADDED 20 YEARS TO THE LIFESPAN OF HUMANS

IN 2013 MATT DAMON STAGED A FAKE PRESS CONFERENCE ON YOUTUBE FOR WORLD TOILET DAY TO ANNOUNCE HIS “TOILET STRIKE” IN AN EFFORT TO RAISE AWARENESS FOR SANITATION

1/5 GIRLS IN INDIA DROP OUT OF SCHOOL WHEN THEY START HAVING PERIODS DUE TO THE LACK OF SAFE, PRIVATE TOILETS.

WORLD TOILET DAY IS SINGAPORE’S FIRST UN RESOLUTION TO BE ADOPTED

JACK SIM WAS NAMED ONE OF THE HEROES OF THE ENVIRONMENT FOR 2008 BY TIME MAGAZINE

“THE KIDS’ TABLE”— Understanding Bridge

“THE KIDS’ TABLE”

Understanding Bridge

Amos Lassen

Four novice, millennial Bridge players train and compete for a year on the National Bridge Circuit – where the average age of their competition is 76 – to study and understand how the most popular game in America only 50 years ago now sits on the brink of extinction.

Directors Stephen Helstad and Edd Benda tell the story of four friends, Benda, Monique Thomas, a comedian, Stefanie Woodburn, the host of Twitch and actor Paul Stango who are new to the game yet they train and compete for a year on the national Bridge Circuit. The film takes us behind the scenes of the world of competitive Bridge, a game whose players are on the average in their 70s. We see as the young players learn the highs and lows of how to play, how to compete and we meet the Bridge community. The young players also hope to build a foundation that will ensure the future of the game.

If you have ever had questions about Bridge, the film might just answer them and even if it does not, you will have fun watching it. I loved learning about the game so painlessly. The characters are engaging, their story is compelling and they make you root for them.

“DARKROOM : DROPS OF DEATH”— A Gay Serial Killer

“DARKROOM : DROPS OF DEATH”

A Gay Serial Killer

Amos Lassen

In his new film, pioneering cult director and legendary queer activist Rosa von Praunheim focuses on a recent, true criminal case involving a German serial killer. Lars (Bozidar Kocevski), a male nurse from Saarbrucken. Lars and his lover Roland (Heiner Bombard), a sweet spirited musician move to Berlin. They renovate an apartment with the intention of finally living together. For Roland, this is happiness. However, what he doesn’t know is that while secretly checking out Berlin’s nightlife, Lars is experimenting with a deadly poison – an obsession that will lead to a horrific outcome for the couple. Director Von Praunheim balances Lars’ twisted fantasies with Roland’s dreams of romance. The case that the film is based upon rocked German and world media some six years ago. This was the story of gay serial killer Dirk P., who killed three men in Berlin with knockout drops. 

What fascinated von Praunheim about the case enough to make a movie about it was how can a person do such terrible things, while living  in a solid social relationship and who was personally successful and that the murderer did so without the slightest attempt to disguise the crime. It was the work of a deeply narcissistic sadist who was intoxicated with the sight of death and the feeling of total power and this is now Kocevski play the role.

Von Praunheim  is Germany’s most famous gay activist and has made over 150 short and feature films. He tells the story flashing back and forth in time and starts several years before the murders when Lars is a bartender in small town gay bar and living at home with his wealthy elderly grandmother.  When he first sees Roland  one night in the Bar, it is love at first sight. When Roland  tells Lars that he is going to Berlin to pursue his career as a performer, Lars immediately agrees to join him.

They buy an apartment together  with money that we later discover that Lars had stolen from his grandmother who he  helped to an early death because she said she was cutting him out of her will.  For the next six years the two men lived good lives in the city. They enjoyed an open relationship which Lars had reluctantly agreed too even though he was not too happy about. He had become a nurse. One day out cruising for sex, Lars discovered liquid ecstasy for the first time.  It gave him a sexual high but it could be fatal when taken in excess or  mixed with alcohol . Knowing this. Something snapped in Lars’ mind and this  ordinary  man with a rather mundane life became a killer. In a short amount of time he killed three men, (two others got away and it was their evidence that would get Lars life in prison).  

The motive  for the murders was never clear and   we are left wondering why a quiet and nondescript guy like Lars would do such terrible things.  Lars tried to portray the deaths as a mistake at the trial but the  judge said that greed was evident and that he thought that Lars wanted to feel the total power over others and revel in it.

Von Praunheim does an excellent job in presenting the story without sensationalism and at the same time, he totally engages his audience.  

“INTIMACY”— Seeking Escape

“INTIMACY”

Seeking Escape

Amos Lassen

 Modern Shanghai is the setting of “Intimacy”, this coming-of-age romantic drama directed by Yichun Jiang and it is also his first feature film. We meet Bin (Jingxuan Huang) from the town of Dali and Qin (Xipeng Zhang) who comes from a wealthy family. Both are looking for a way to escape the monotony of their lives. Bin and his mother run a shop for tourist but he wants to see the world. Because she does not have to do anything, Qin is usually bored and often depressed.

 Their two worlds overlap in “seemingly the least consequential of ways” and perhaps  the most substantial They are two alienated young adults who will be changed forever.

 

“THE PREY”— “It’s not human, and it’s got an axe!”

“THE PREY”

“It’s not human, and it’s got an axe!”

Amos Lassen

Edwin Brown’s “The Prey” is “one of the most underrated efforts to hail from the slice-and-dice boom” and is now available in a brand new 2K restoration from the recently unearthed original camera negative.

Three young couples go to the mountains for a weekend of climbing, drinking and lovemaking. But what they do know is that they are walking into the home of a predator, a wild man who was burned as a child many years ago in a fire which raged in his gypsy camp and left only him alive. Now he lives in the woods searching for his next human prey. It was originally filmed between 1979-1980 but was not released until 1984.

One by one, the campers are hunted and killed. When the beauty, Nancy, is left alive the beast reveals himself and the reason of his killing and the movie builds toward a shocking ending. Opinions are very mixed about the film and you will see what I mean if you continue reading. “The Prey” is unlike all other backwoods movies. For one thing, this is a slasher movie with a five minute long ukulele solo and a lengthy joke told to a fawn. A forest ranger is responsible for both of these. Following the wayward campers into the forest the ranger discovers a couple of their bodies hidden by branches and being slowly eaten. Seeing that one of the bodies belongs to Gail, the perky blonde seductress who flirted with him earlier, he rolls his eyeballs and gnashes his teeth.  

When the campers talk to each other, they do so in an overlapping style and it is difficult to understand what they are talking about. We get the realization that nature is an unforgiving sort, ready to transform an innocent group of hikers into a meal. Padding half the movie with details about the forest and leaving the other half to the human element brings us a grafting of environment and character to create disharmonious friction. Here the environment slowly wins out over humanity, helped and abetted by the slasher.

“It’s not human, and it’s got an axe!” and it does have an axe at the start, but it’s still a disfigured gypsy boy! “The Prey” is a classic slasher tale of young adults roughing it in the great outdoors around a campfire and relaxing while an unseen killer picks them off one by one during the course of two days.

The kills are bloody in variety and the cast is fun to watch The story isn’t convoluted by subplots and it ends on a downbeat note. You have to give it some time to see that this film has been underrated. Did I like it? I am not sure but I did have fun watching it.

LIMITED EDITION 2-DISC BLU-RAY CONTENTS

  Limited to 3,000 units
  Exclusive slipcover featuring original UK home video artwork
  Three versions of the feature: Original US Theatrical Cut, International Cut and Composite cut!
  High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  Original uncompressed mono audio
  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn
  Limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by Ewan Cant

DISC ONE – US THEATRICAL CUT

  Brand new 2K restoration of the filmmaker-approved US Theatrical Cut from the original camera negative
  Brand new audio commentary with producer Summer Brown
  Brand new audio commentary with Amanda Reyes and Ewan Cant
  Audio Interview with director Edwin Scott Brown
  Brand new on-camera interview with actress Debbie Thureson
  Brand new on-camera interview with actress Lori Lethin
  Brand new on-camera interview with actor Carel Struycken
 Brand new on-camera interview with actor Jackson Bostwick 
  In Search of The Prey – Ewan Cant and actress Debbie Thureson revisit the original shooting locations in Idyllwild, California
  Q&A from Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 with Lori Lethin, Carel Struycken and Jackson Bostwick
  Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 Audience Reaction Track
  VHS Trailer and TV Spot
  Original Script (BD-ROM Content)

DISC TWO – INTERNATIONAL & COMPOSITE CUTS

  Brand new 2K restoration of the International Cut featuring the infamous gyspy flashback footage, added at a later date by the producers without the approval of the original filmmakers
  Composite Cut combining footage from both the US Theatrical and International Cuts, for the ultimate The Prey fan experience!
  Extended Outtakes reel – 45 mins of never-before-seen outtakes

“TEDDY PENDERGRASS: IF YOU DON’T KNOW ME”— The Untold Story

“TEDDY PENDERGRASS: IF YOU DON’T KNOW ME”

The Untold Story

Amos Lassen

Teddy Pendergrass was the man set to be the biggest R&B artist of all time but then a tragic accident that changed his life forever. He was the first male African American artist to record five consecutive platinum albums in the US, but in 1982 a car accident left him paralyzed at the age of just 31. He later made a triumphant comeback in front of a global audience of 1.9 billion at Live Aid.  This documentary is made up of revealing interviews with his family, friends and colleagues and industry legends, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff as well as rarely seen archive footage and a soulful soundtrack. We see  Teddy’s rise to fame against the complex backdrop of 1970s America and his victorious comeback after his life-changing accident.

Pendergrass had the voice, the talent, the charisma, sex appeal and the looks that many felt that he would reach the heights as did Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, but his life, some might say was destined for greatness.  However, the accident that paralyzed Teddy, iconfined him to a wheelchair from 1982 onwards. He was still technically on the way up when it happened, which meant he was still young and had a lot to give. After a lot of inner turmoil, this he did, and forever after, until his death in 2010. He supported and tirelessly promoted research into spinal injury, and also made a brave, live appearance on stage to sing at ‘Live Aid,’ in 1985. He also went on to make several gold selling studio albums after.

The documentary tells his story, with humor and with honesty. We hear about Teddy’s early life, through his mother and other close associates, and the women he knew and loved, about his time with Harold Melvyn and the Blue Notes, and about the transition into single performer. We have wonderful footage of the 1970’s which shows just how much talent and good music there was in Philadelphia at the time. (There was also some terrible fashion choices too, and some very funny moments making the documentary is a from a visual and audio perspective).

​Olivia Lichtenstein directed the film and shows us that while Bohemian Rhapsody celebrates the moment Queen appeared to steal the show at Live Aid in London, in Philadelphia there was another performance taking place that won over 100,000 attendees. Three years after Teddy Pendergrass’ career was cut down, the quadriplegic soul legend returned to the stage for the first time. Teddy Pendergrass’ contribution to R&B has been somewhat overlooked. The accident was largely responsible for that, but one look back at the music he delivered throughout the 70s reminds us his legend deserves much more.

In the 80s Pendergrass began recording his life story on a series of cassette tapes. The sound quality has deteriorated since, but Lichtenstein intermittently returns to these throughout to allow Pendergrass to speak for himself. The director also speaks to his 100-year-old mother, Ida, who looks back on her son as both child and man. She brought him up alone in a tough, gang riddled environment after his father walked out before he was born. We hear Pendergrass speak about the choices available for young black men in his neighborhood.

His voice stood out from an early age, and  he was inspired by Jackie Wilson’s magnetic performances. He quickly gained a local reputation and got a spot as drummer for the Blue Notes, before Harold Melvin turned him into their lead singer.  The transition from group member to solo sex symbol was quick and his sexually charged performances were bolstered by classics. Then one late night when he was 31, his Rolls Royce went off the road into a bank of trees, paralyzing him from the chest down, and stopping his career dead.

Lichtenstein’s film is formal in terms of structure, charting Pendergrass’ life and career in chronological order. What makes it feel comprehensive is her willingness to go into the darker periods of his life and personality including the killing of his lover and first manager, Taaz Lang. He was tied into a less than favorable contract that was resolved with her death. Fingers are pointed towards the ‘Black Mafia’ of the time who were heavily involved in the music industry, but insinuations are made that Pendergrass might have known more than he was letting on. He was a heavy womanizer with his three children born of different mothers. They all make brief appearances in the documentary and speak lovingly about their father. There are also suggestions that several attempts were made on his life, and the accident he suffered was far from a freak occurrence.

We get to see Pendergrass’ Teddy Bear Orchestra reunited after 34 years, with some members of the group calling back to their time spent together. Ex-wives, girlfriends, Questlove (naturally) and Shep Gordon make an appearance, alongside extensive footage of Pendergrass performing live at the peak of his powers. Psychiatrist Dan Gottlieb also speaks in-depth about how he helped pull Pendergrass back from the brink of suicide in the months following his accident. Pendergrass proved to be a fighter, despite the odds being stacked against him as a kid, and Lichtenstein’s inspirational film shows that this is a quality that stayed with him until the very end

“A YOUNG MAN WITH HIGH POTENTIAL” A Psychological Thriller.

“A YOUNG MAN WITH HIGH POTENTIAL”

A Psychological Thriller

Amos Lassen

Linus de Paoli’s “A Young Man with High Expectations” is about a painfully shy graduate student and his increasingly unsettled relationship with a female student.
Piet (Adam Ild Rohweder) is a brilliant grad student but he is also painfully shy and socially inept. His loneliness and sense of solitude changes when he has to  partner on a school project with the pretty and outgoing Klara (Paulina Galazka). They spend time together but Piet misinterprets her friendly personality and tells her that he loves her. Klara rejects his advance and Piet retreats into himself, becoming more and more obsessed with the woman he “loves”. One night he drugs Klara and attempts to have sex with her while she is unconscious but she begins to fight him off and he violently. This sends Piet spiraling into a dark and despicable place.


Piet prefers to spend his life locked in his room rather than out in the real world. He is caught completely off guard when Klara  asks if she can partner with him on a project. At first Piet is but eventually agrees and the two unlikely friends begin to bond but Piet thinks that Klara could be something more than a friend thanks to the influence of his friend Alex (Pit Bukowski). When he is finally able to get up the nerve to make a move on her, he is devastated when he’s rejected and the next time he sees Klara, he seems to lose control of his life.

The film opens with Piet being approached by a detective, Ketura Stantz (Amanda Plummer), who is trying to find out what happened to lead Klara’s death. Piet protests his innocence before the film jumps back in time to show the viewers what happened in the past and how the events unfolded. We see Piet and Klara meet and begin working together. Klara starts to bring him out of himself and take him away from his reclusive life, where he spends most of his time as a voyeur online to sex worker Kylie (Laurence Roothooft). All the signs are there  that Klara will rebuff Piet. The two characters are total opposites.

“A Young Man With High Potential”  tests viewers’ stomachs with its horror. Adam Ild Rohweder gives a chilling performance and he carries the film. Watching him transform is a total experience. he way he transforms his character across the film’s 85 minutes is pretty incredible and despite his actions, you still find yourself feeling a little bit sorry for Piet. Even with all of his evil, I found sympathy for him and this is because director de Paoli does a very good job of forcing us to look at the shades of grey between the black and white. The film is unrelenting during its second half but I can’t really much more than that without spoiling the plot for those who want to see it. It’s not an easy watch at all and the ending is frustrating but fascinating.  

When Piet kisses Klara and she pulls away, she explains that she doesn’t think of him in that way and he is devastated. What he does next seems, on one hand, like a logical progression; on the other, like something so far removed from human feeling that there’s no moral or psychological point of return. The film balances this through cinematic tricks and we realize that we identify with Piet at his worst and, for some time, we are willing him to step back. What Piet sets out to do doesn’t live up to his own expectations and stresses the split between his beliefs about himself and reality, and the degree to which he’s sacrificing his own emotional connection with the world by deliberately submerging his feelings until he can’t recover them. He becomes tragic, sympathetic and pathetic at the same time. Because he can see the horror in the situation, it’s impossible for viewers to lose sight of it.

Later, when Piet is dealing with the consequences of his actions, we watch so much go wrong, almost to the point of farce, and surprisingly, we want  him to get away with it. This is black comedy at its most bleak in which laughter is a way to cope with what we see.  We are ready to participate in Piet’s attempt at a cover-up. There’s a strong desire to have all these troubles go away, to have things go back to “normal”. Galazka’s Klara is warmth and a youthful clumsiness. She’s smart and funny and full of potential and director De Paoli shows her as directly opposite of Piet, as light contrasted with dark. What we see of Piet’s social life, show us that that he is capable of lasting friendship if he doesn’t let sexual feelings get in the way, and his geekiness is a reminder that toxic masculinity isn’t limited.

Tension doesn’t slacken for an instant especially during the second half. There are no easy solutions here, and nobody should expect to sleep easily afterwards.

“IN THE AISLES”— A Workplace Romance

“IN THE AISLES” (“IN DEN GANGEN”)

A Workplace Romance

Amos Lassen

“In the Aisles” is a “workplace drama without much drama but a touching romance and some endearing comical moments.” We get a positive look at blue-collar life through the eyes of the privileged. Written and directed by German filmmaker Thomas Stuber the film is about working the aisles of a giant supermarket in the former GDR (East Germany). 

Christian (Franz Rogowski) is a reserved but brooding young man who is hired as a night shift worker in the grocery. Bruno (Peter Kurth) from the beverage department, takes Christian under wing and teaches him how to operate the forklift.

When Christian meets the food stacker of Sweet Goods, Marion (Sandra Hüller), he falls in love at first sight. An offbeat romanc ensues and she  teases Christian and calls him “freshling.” He is bashful while still flirting with the married woman. At a Christmas work party she puts her head on his shoulder and things become more serious. Christian goes to Marion’s house and we learn something about her domestic life and wonder if there will be a romance between the two likable leads.

This is a gentle and charming romantic comedy with beauty and hope in the drab corridors of a German wholesale supermarket. But the location is so generic that it could be anywhere in Europe or even some in The States. This is part of Stuber’s modestly universal intentions. Throughout “In The Aisles,” we feel like we know the blue-collar people in the film and that we have walked among the crates of foods and beverages. But what we don’t know or haven’t necessarily experienced formerly is the level of kindness that we see through the layers and layers of familiar-looking shelves. While Stuber’s film acknowledges the blandness of the environment  but the filmmaker loves his characters so much that he can’t help but show their humanity rising above the surface of it all.

Christian is reserved, calm and observant, appearing a bit shy and awkward. It’s his first day on the job under the command of a gentle boss named Rudi. There, Christian would be in charge of the night shift in the Beverage Department. In the opening moments, Bruno patiently shows Christian the ropes and teaches him to operae a forklift. Stuber sees poetic rhythms everywhere and Peter Matjasko’s cinematography is reminiscent of a romantic dance.

 Christian has an innocent crush on his charming co-worker Marion who mildly flirts with Christian, but she is married and has scars of her own so she doesn’t push the envelope too far. While the duo tiptoe around their mutual affection for one another during stolen moments across the orderly aisles and in break rooms, Stuber continues to build a big world inside somewhere so conceptually small and limiting. We see the workers’ after-work beer sessions, Christmas celebrations and various trivial matters throughout ungodly work hours. Everything is filmed with a strong sense of composition and handle on negative space and these scenes accentuate the tight-knit quality of this community, while also highlighting the loneliness of its members. 

No one here is without problems; everyone is clinging onto something to make ends meet or simply, to make it to the next day. With the risk of spoiling things slightly, some aren’t quite that lucky. Eventually, a tragedy cuts through the film’s overarching sense of peace and harmony, a troubled past for Christian gets revealed and hardships for Marion, who mysteriously disappears from the shift for a while, are hinted at. Yet, occasional flickers of light shine through whenever workers have breaks or freely help themselves to expired snacks they are supposed to be disposing of. It’s these moments build a palpable sense of camaraderie.

This is not a film about “what happens in the end”—it’s a bit predictable it is about how every slice of one’s life matters in making a whole. A lot might be happening when, in fact, nothing seems to happen. Matjasko’s probing camera expresses this sentiment beautifully, capturing the little people of the market from different angles. What it sees and we see is a collective soul that dreams of the world outside, hoping to catch a lucky break someday. Here is a social commentary with sentiment