Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 08, 2023 3:47 pm 
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MICHAEL THOMAS IN RIMINI

Sympathetic sleazebag?

After six years of absence, the provocative Austrian director returns with two films at once representing a double painting with two wings, the first of which is shown by the panorama, while the other brother, “Sparta”, pursued by suspicious reports of the director’s mistreatment of his child actors, has been held from some festivals.

Rimini, a tragic film about an old lone wolf, a singer in decline, marks a turning point (or something like that) in Ulrich Seidl's cinema. The previous reference does not mean that the director is abandoning his critical point of view and his frustration with the state (the later Hans-Michael Rehberg) of the world, but rather his shift of focus to a main character that he clearly loves and wants us to love in turn, and this is a new rarity and a departure from previous approaches. Here he has created something very special that you will not want to like but you won't easily forget.

Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas, who previously worked with Seidl on Import/Export (2007)), singer as a viking warrior with ponytail and a big belly, once a glory and a bastard, today a soul in pain. After his mother's recent death and with a bedridden father (the late Hans-Michael Rehberg) in a nursing home, he travels to an Italian seaside resort (the film's title is borrowed from it) in the off-season (the only thing we'll see is fog, rain, or snow) to make a living by performing in restaurants and ballrooms. dilapidated hotels to an audience made up exclusively of retirees, rents out his house full of souvenirs and memories of the good old days to old admirers, and offers his sexual services to old women. Around the desolate beaches he seems haunted by dark-garbed immigrants who will come back to haunt him, as will his daughter and her dark-garbed boyfriend when, after he has raised money by criminal means to pay her off, they come to haunt him at his roomy but run-down Rimini villa. In the nursing home his father with dementia barks Nazi slogans and songs.

This may seem the perfect prelude to a new festival of mockery, human meanness, and self-pity, but no (not much, really). This time Seidl gives us his own kind of likable character in his own way. It is true that Richie is an inveterate drunkard, a father who never took care of his daughter and, if you like, remains a petty con-man, but at the same time he carries his artistic, physical and material decadence with a dignity and nobility that distinguish him from the gallery of monsters usually stretched across Seidl's filmography. Even the elderly women who still adore him and the women who pay to have sex with him (the scenes are very frank, which is audacious for contemporary cinema that usually shies away from portraying wrinkled bodies), generally escape the harsh and sarcastic spirit that the director usually highlighted in his previous works.

Love it or hate it, it's still a movie worth watching. Michael Thomas' is, as Jessica Kiang says in an admiring Variety review, a "deep dive" of a performance that feels almost documentary-real; the songs were composed specially and he performs them with skill and conviction. The winter Rimini exteriors have an austere beauty and elegance. The interiors are superbly designed. Tackiness never had such style.

Rimini, 114 mins., debuted in competition at the Berlinale Feb. 11, 2022, with over 44 other IMDb listings. US debut at Quad Cinema (NYC) Mar. 17, 2023. Metacritic rating 81%.

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