ARCHIVE REVIEW: The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others
Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmark
Written by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmark (screenplay)
Starring: Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch, and Ulrich Tukur

Voyeurism, as it turns out, is one of the leading topplers of totalitarianism.  At least that’s what Florian Henckel von Donnersmark suggests in his Oscar-winning foreign drama The Lives of Others.

The film tackles both of the aforementioned “-isms” with a formal technique that is amazing from a first-time director.  Suspense fills almost every bleakly muted frame, generated not by constant cutting but by focusing on actor’s facial expressions and the many twists of the story.  Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe), an interrogator in East Berlin circa 1984 (yes, like the book) is tasked with listening in on the lives of a playwright (Sebastian Koch) and his actress muse (Martina Gedeck.)  At first, we see him interrogate an earlier subject with relish, and the film cuts to him as an instructor lecturing eager students with a recorded copy of the same interrogation.

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REVIEW: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Justin Theroux (screenplay), Stan Lee (comic book)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, and Scarlett Johansson

The thing that made the first Iron Man film such a hit in the summer of 2008 was how much of a fresh breath of air it was.  Here you had Roberty Downey Jr., a washed-up ex-convict of a small-time actor stepping into the iron-clad suit of a summer blockbuster.  Mixing that with a unique screenplay, a dynamic cast and the action-ready direction of Jon Favreau, and you had yourself an offbeat charmer of a superhero movie.  Sadly, that charm was overshadowed by the brilliance of technique and ultimate reinvention of the superhero movie in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

With the inevitable sequel, we find no genre contenders to the pathos-driven narcissism of Tony Stark this summer.  Downey is now a bona fide superstar, thanks in no part to the revitalization his career received from the first film in this now-franchise.  Now that everything was done in the first one, as is the problem with most unique first installments, not much of it feels new in the sequel, Downey included.

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