A Black and White Movie with a Story that is Anything but Black and White
May 27, 2007
Viewers are split on reaction to Steven Soderbergh's experimental THE GOOD GERMAN and for good reason. The theatrical and cinematic qualities of this film noir are stunning, creating not only a flashback to the 1940s films but to the period of the 1940s in postwar Europe. The story is rich in suspense, visual surprises, and intrigue, and manages to unfold a complex tale involving many characters in a manner that keeps the viewer guessing about the outcome until the final image fades. But the film takes a hefty does of patience to appreciate.
Potsdam conference, 1945 in decimated Berlin is the scene. Capt. Jacob 'Jake' Geismer (George Clooney) arrives to observe and report on the conference and is assigned a driver named Tully (Tobey Maguire), a fast talking, manipulative opportunist who loves post-war Berlin for the easy money it allows a doofus like him to make. Tully happens to have a lover, the mysterious Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett), who he is trying to assist in escaping from Germany. As luck would have it Lena had been a previous lover of Jake in his prior time in Berlin. The action begins when the Russians, the British, and the Americans reveal their attempt to locate rocket scientist Emil Brandt, Lena's husband who she declares has been long dead. A murder occurs, espionage takes over and the film runs its cat and mouse chase for the discovery of the real Emil Brandt and the secrets his capture represent at this crucial junction in time - the Potsdam Conference.
The characters in the film come close to being caricatures: Ravil Isyanov as the main Russian figure, Beau Bridges and Jack Thompson as the main American figures, Robin Weigert as the requisite good prostitute/stripper roommate of Lena, Tony Curran representing the British presence, and Don Pugsley as the German evil presence that ties the whole story together. Blanchett is her usual splendid self, adding a true sense of mystery and allure to her multifaceted role, George Clooney is on target as Jake, and Tobey Maguire manages to get on our nerves as the nerdy but clever Tully. The pleasure in this film comes from Soderbergh's mastery of the medium not only as director but as cinematographer, and by Thomas Newman's period perfect score as orchestrated by the immensely talented Thomas Pasatieri fleshes out the film's effect.
Knowing that public and critical reaction is split, the film is a good evening of adventure: every viewer will elect which side of the critique to follow. Grady Harp, May 07
(2 1/2 *'s) It's no surprise after the success of `Good Night and Good Luck,' George Clooney and Steven Sodenheim would team up to create another vintage historical drama of great import. Unfortunately, despite being filmed in stunning black and white and recorded with an authentically old-fashioned score, the movie threads together monumental history and a detective tale in a way that isn't as cohesive or focused as the former triumph. There are solid moments to be sure: Clooney plays U.S. army … more
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Despite its flaws,The Good Germanis a welcome gift for every film lover who laments that "they don't make 'em like they used to." Steven Soderbergh's affectionate, knowing tribute to the black-and-white melodramas of Hollywood's golden age may lack the emotional depth and romantic passion of Michael Curtiz'sCasablanca--the 1946 classic it intentionally emulates--but as Soderbergh approximates Curtiz's studio style, he delivers a shimmering, shadowy reminder that movies can be enjoyed for the sheer pleasure of their craftsmanship. Once again serving as his own cinematographer (credited as "Peter Andrews"), Soderbergh went to great lengths to technically and aesthetically re-create the look and feel of a Curtiz production, and Joseph Kanon'ssource novel(adapted byQuiz Showscreenwriter Paul Attanasio) provides a twisting plot set around the historical Potsdam conference in post-World War II Germany. An American military journalist, Capt. Jake Geismer (George Clooney) is in rubble-strewn Berlin to cover the event, and is quickly drawn into a murder plot involving his appointed driver (Tobey Maguire), an old flame-turned-wartime prostitute (Cate Blanchett) and her missing husband, a scientist who possesses pivotal secrets coveted by Americans and Russians in a pre-Cold War bid for power.
Violence, sexual content, and salty dialogue make it clear that this R-rated drama is a brashly contemporary homage to films of a bygone era, and not a slavish attempt to copy the past. This ...