Welcome to City Lights, a new series about favorite films set in different cities, inspired by an ongoing series at I Luv Cinema. We're kicking off with Berlin, mainly because I love Berlin, but also because I found it a little easier to narrow down the choices than other cities that will be featured (next time it could be Austin or New York, your choice!).
Torn Curtain, in many ways a lesser Hitchcock film, is entirely buoyed by its charming leads -- Julie Andrews and Paul Newman. Andrews was never more radiant, Newman never more mysteriously charming. Like other examples on this list, the film perfectly captures the paranoia of East Germany.
Wings of Desire is pure Berlin porn: Seriously, it's astonishing how different Berlin looks now from the Berlin of the movie, and Wenders adds another layer of context by comparing 1987 Berlin to what existed before the war. And if you've had the pleasure of visiting Berlin since the Wall came down, you can have a fun time in the slower bits identifying what stands now in the open spaces of the film.
The Baader Meinhof Complex's been on my mind lately (to be fair, it's frequently on my mind in this age of polarization). When the first reports rolled in about Anders Breivik, I instantly remembered Ulrike Meinhof, who started off by making inflammatory comments in the mainstream press, then the fringe press, and then shifted into direct action and civil disobedience, followed eventually by extremism and mass murder. In both Breivik's case and the Baader-Meinhof gang's, young minds were taken over and infected by paranoia and rage at imaginary threats. It's easy to imagine that Norway's about to go through the national security soul-searching like Germany did in the 1970's. Important lesson: TERRORISTS ARE NOT ALWAYS BROWN.
Run, Lola, Run is one of the most successful foreign films of the past few decades, and with good reason -- it has the right mix of sex, violence, suspense and formal creativity to bring even subtitle-phobes into the theatre. More importantly, it gives a fast (very fast!) tour of Berlin, as Lola runs around getting into trouble.
The Lives of Others, better than any other film, shows the paranoia and danger that was part and parcel of life in the GDR. A city split in two, one side prosperous and the other side swimming in artistic and political repression. It's a moving film, demonstrating like all great fiction how to stay human in the most inhumane situations.
Weigh in! What are your favorite Berlin films? What cities should I cover in future?