Wednesday nights this fall at the L.A. Goethe-Institut: A series of films directed by and/or starring Detlev Buck, not well known on these shores but an award-winning director, screenwriter and actor in Germany. The movies in the series have never received wide distribution in the U.S. (if at all); for me the big attraction here is Herr Lehmann (2003), playing on October 16th. The movie is based on a dryly comic novel by Sven Regener that has become something of a cultural touchstone in Germany.
Regener was the co-founder of the 1980s Berlin band Element of Crime, but became even better known as an author: published in 2001, Herr Lehmann sold a million copies in Germany, and Regener went on to pen two prequels.
Translated as Berlin Blues in the U.K., Herr Lehmann depicts West Berlin deadbeat Frank Lehmann (Christian Ulmen) as he haunts the bars of Kreuzberg, Berlin’s fabled, rough-edged bohemian district, home to artists, dropouts, anarchists and a sizable population of Turkish immigrants. Frank’s life is based on doing as little as possible; even as he’s pushing 30, he meticulously rationalizes his indolence. The time is late summer and fall 1989: the scene that Frank inhabits is so insular that no one realizes that momentous changes are afoot — until, one fateful night in November, Frank’s drinking is disrupted by a lot of commotion…
Detlev Buck won a ‘Lola,’ the German film prize, for his portrayal of Frank’s artist friend Karl, who finds a successful gallery show to be more than he can bear. Another noteworthy member of the supporting cast is Christoph Waltz, who at the time was a journeyman German-Austrian actor.
Herr Lehmann marked Detlev Buck’s second collaboration with director Leander Haußmann; their prior effort was another award winner, 1999’s Sonnenallee (Sun Alley), a musical comedy about East Berlin teens in the late 1970s (playing on Oct. 9th). A bit cheekier than The Lives of Others, the movie’s irreverent POV comes from Haußmann’s experience growing up on the other side of the Wall.
Buck’s own work as a director includes romantic comedies, crime dramas and kids’ movies. His films have racked up a slew of awards from various European film festivals, so his introduction to L.A. audiences may be long overdue.
All shows start at 7:00 p.m., and are in German with English subtitles (natürlich). Admission is $1 for each film (i.e., “a buck for a Buck”).
Wednesday, Sept. 25:
Liebe Deine Nächste!
Dir. Detlev Buck, Germany, 1997, 96 min.
Co-starring Moritz Bleibtreu (Run Lola Run, The Baader-Meinhof Complex, Young Goethe in Love, World War Z, etc.)
Wednesday, Oct. 2:
(a.k.a. Sun Alley)
Dir. Leander Haußmann, Germany, 1998, 94 min.
Wednesday, Oct. 9:
(a.k.a. Bundle of Joy)
Dir. Detlev Buck, Germany, 2001, 91 min.
Wednesday, Oct. 16:
(a.k.a. Berlin Blues)
Dir. Leander Haußmann, Germany, 2003, 115 min.
Wednesday, Oct. 23:
Dir. Leander Haußmann, Germany, 2004, 98 min.
Wednesday, Oct. 30:
(a.k.a. Tough Enough)
Dir. Detlev Buck, Germany, 2005, 99 min.
Wednesday, Nov. 6:
Hände Weg Von Mississippi
(a.k.a. Hands Off Mississippi)
Dir. Detlev Buck, Germany, 2006, 98 min.
Based on a children’s book by Cornelia Funke.
Wednesday, Nov. 13:
Same Same But Different
Dir. Detlev Buck, Germany, 2009, 106 min.
Wednesday, Nov. 20:
(a.k.a. Women in Love)
Dir. Detlev Buck, Germany, 2011, 106 min.
This comedy about a struggling actor who dresses like a woman to get a part, only to succeed all too well, sounds like a German take on Dustin Hoffman’s Tootsie.
Also of note: Detlev Buck’s most recent film, Measuring the World (2012), a historical epic based on a novel by Daniel Kehlmann, opens this year’s German Currents film festival on Oct. 4th. Complete info.