Friday, 16 March 2007

The Good German - Review by Emma J Lennox

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenwriter: Paul Attanasio
Runtime: 105 minutes
Certificate: 15
Release date: March 9th

What makes a classic, classic? Look back at the film noirs of the forties and fifties and they emanate with cool sophistication; the compositions were crisp, the dress code was sharp, men knew how to throw a punch and women could pull a scam or two. But is this enough to define Hollywood's most brooding of cinematic genres? Steven Soderbergh has tried to unravel its mysteries in his recent homage to the era, The Good German. More of an experiment than a film, Soderbergh has been earnest in creating an authentic look including the use of lenses, and processes from the period. Unfortunately nostalgia is not enough to save this Casablanca wannabe from being a dire, overplayed piece of nonsense.

Set in 1945, George Clooney is an American journalist (Captain Jake Geismer) sent to Berlin to cover the peace process, at least this is what the synopsis says. Neither pen nor pencil enters Clooney's hand as he spends most of his time under other people's fists. Enter the dame. Throaty voiced Cate Blanchett does her best Dietrich impersonation as Lena Brandt, but her “I vaant to get owt ov Berlin,” refrain is a scratched record. The actors were directed to perform in a 'stage style' to further reference the era, however, this leads only to clenched jaws, clenched fists and clenched eyes. Soderbergh's direction lacks the quality of even the most hack studio director of the time. The set pieces crumble with uncertain camera movements, insignificant characters chew up the scenery, and the use of documentary footage is jarring. Despite the A list presence this is B movie caliber.

It is a pity because somewhere, lurking in the shadows, is the deformed figure of a good story. But it seems Soderbergh is too busy looking at period filters to shed any light on it. Once the wispy smoke dissipates it leaves nothing but a derivative exercise closer to Allo Allo than the Third Man.

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