Wednesday, December 20, 2006
THE GOOD GERMAN
I knew I was in trouble when Eddie Muller (the "Czar of Noir")—introducing an advance screening of The Good German to his word of mouth audience—admitted to having seen the film last week in Los Angeles and synopsized it as: "It's … interesting." Those two words with a pause inbetween are as good as hanging a funeral wreath on the front door. He then proceeded to tell us that—if we wanted to see "real" noir—we should come to his upcoming Noir City in late January. I guess I can't blame Muller for some shameless self-promotion when Warner Brothers didn't pay him a cent to introduce the piece. You get what you pay for, huh? And I'll certainly take him up on his invitation.
Dave Hudson and The Greencine Daily have done a good job of shepherding the consensual disappointment into one entry. If you're really interested in reading why other film writers feel the film has failed, go there. Otherwise, here's my two cents.
First, my druthers would be that all the money spent into replicating a film noir movie be put into restoring some film noir classics. Period. Enough with the stylistic homages that don't quite work already and all that good money thrown after bad.
Second, as the movie started, it had that faint edge of irreality seen in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, all the trappings and touches painfully captured, without anyone thinking to invest a soul. And no amount of vintage footage will cobble a soul together without all the local villagers screaming, "Kill Frankensoul! Kill the monster." Which genre was Soderbergh really trying to replicate here?
Third, I am far from being a prude (I just interviewed fucking Guillermo Del Toro for Chrissake!) but was it really necessary to insert all the crude language into The Good German? If the film was to achieve any kind of true homage, how could all these "fuck a ducks" help? I don't recall a single "fuck a duck" in any of my favorite noir films. Is there a "fuck a duck" in Casablanca? So, okay, this was a postmodern homage? Yeah, right. Okay, sure. I'm not saying they didn't really cuss like this in 1942; but, I just don't remember hearing this kind of language in previous film noir features. Somebody correct me, please, so I don't remain irritated about that poor violated duck.
Fourth, I didn't even know this was a Soderbergh film; I hadn't read any reviews or heard any buzz. I went because George Clooney was in it and—even though he is possibly the most handsome leading man alive—he wasn't convincingly in love with Cate Blanchett; he was irritated with her. All through the movie. Right to the end. Convincingly irritated. Cate, on the other hand, was the closest to being anything accurate in this film. The woman is a wonder. Black dye-job, black contacts, thick-lipped fake accents and all. She could do a Fruit of the Loom underwear ad and I would love her. Come to think of it: didn't she do a Fruit of the Loom underwear ad this year? And isn't it also in the running for Oscar consideration?
So there you have it. Style over substance. A film with no soul. Lots of duck fucking. An unconvincing love affair and not near enough shadows to hide a film that is … well … interesting. To say the very least.