The Good German
A mediocre piece of nostalgia
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"The anger that appears to be building up between the sexes becomes more virulent with every day that passes. And far from women taking the blame ... the fact is that men are invariably portrayed as the bad guys. Being a good man is like being a good Nazi." David Thomas, British editor.
"Look at these sleeves, all this ruching! Nobody ever wears anything like this anymore!" So says Cate Blanchett's Lena Brandt, a WWII survivor in 1945, doing what she can with her body to get out of Berlin in The Good German. George Clooney's correspondent, Jake Geismer, is ready to do anything to help his married former lover. Trouble is, nobody makes movies like this anymore either, so difficult is it to find dialogue that can replicate an idealism and world weariness that Bogey and Bergman easily did.
Steven Soderbergh uses all authentic techniques to recreate the look of The Third Man and Casablanca, among many 40's noirish post-war intrigue films. All his lenses are fixed, CGI takes a vacation, process shots are easily noticed, and booms might show anytime for a lack of wireless recording. So good is his re-creation that he forgot to infuse his leads with enough character to make me care. In fact, so intent is the director on re-creation that he forgot creation is the essence of successful art.
It's all style, 40's style, and the actors sometimes elicit laughter as they force their characters into the same style, awkwardly and artificially. A little sense of humor could have changed this mediocre piece of nostalgia into a first-rate parody that takes noir to the next level in the inevitable cycle of genres. Just take a look at the laughably imitative last scene in the airport, if you remember Michael Curtiz's tense, ironic ending to Casablanca. Claude Reins, where are you when we need you?
They don't make them like this anymore, they never did, and they shouldn't.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com