Running Time: 108 minutes
Directed By: Werner Herzog
Written By: Werner Herzog
Main Cast: Bruno S., Eva Mattes, Clemens Scheitz
Click here to view the trailer
HERZOG WEEK: CHAPTER II
Holy cow - two reviews in one day? That's unheard of these days. I just don't get enough energy and/or free time lately to make this happen, but I'm telling you, I'm really determined to get this whole thing wrapped up by the end of October - so let's continue the MARCH TO HALLOWEEN with a VAST improvement from Werner Herzog and "Stroszek".
Again, knowing very little of Herzog and his work, I knew literally NOTHING about Stroszek going in, so anything good that followed had to be considered a pleasant surprise. The film begins with the release from prison of Bruno Stroszek (Bruno S.), a foolish, kind and naive man, whom we never learn the reason of his incarceration. We only know that booze was to blame. Upon his release, Bruno returns to his apartment, which his neighbor Scheitz has held for him, which houses many musical instruments and a pet bird named Beo. Stroszek is a street performer, who works in the courtyards of apartment buildings, earning a meager living. Later, Bruno meets Eva (Mattes), a prostitute who is abused by her pimps. Bruno offers to let her come live with him and she accepts. However, the pimps find out where she's staying and come after her, terrorizing both her and Bruno, wrecking his place and physically abusing both of them. Together, Bruno, Scheitz and Eva decide to go to America, to escape the brutal conditions that exist for them in Berlin. Eva earns enough money prostituting and the three later arrive in New York City via boat. They then drive to Wisconsin, where Scheitz has a nephew, Clayton, who has offered to get them jobs and a place to live. Bruno begins working at Clayton's shop as an auto mechanic and Eva takes a job waitressing at a truck stop. By now, it is simply assumed, mostly by Bruno, that he and Eva are a couple, so when she goes back to turning tricks, he is none too pleased.
When I was sixteen, I began working at a local video store called Video 99. I think it was named "Video 99", because at one time the price to rent a video was 99 cents. However, when I worked there, rentals were two bucks (plus tax). Anyway, Video 99 wasn't too far from the county courthouse. Now, I don't know how it is in other towns, but in the town I grew up in, if you were caught sitting or leaning on the courthouse wall, it pretty much meant you were a bum. If you drove past the courthouse, on any given day, you'd have a 99.9% chance of catching a few strays, popping a squat on the infamous wall - the scuttlebutt was they were either homeless, very poor or slow. I don't mean any of those three things in a negative way, just stating the facts. Anyway, a lot of these guys (they were always men) used to come in the video store. Some actually would rent a video from time to time and others, would simply breeze in to cool off in the summer and warm up in the winter, turn over some videotape cases in their hands and maybe have a chat. I sometimes got the feeling that a few of them were just lonely, willing to spin their daily tales to anyone with a spare ear. I was always friendly to them and in fact, sometimes I even welcomed their company. There were days, especially in the summer, when working at this dingy little video store got boring...
The Stroszek character reminded me so much of these men, one in particular who shall remain nameless. I knew almost nothing of this nameless man, save for his first name, that he carried a bag of tobacco with him everywhere he went and that he was very slow (perhaps even fully, mentally retarded). Anyway, Stroszek reminded me of this man to a tee - similar styles of dress, the way they both kept unkempt hair, they way they both wandered the streets, the way they were both potential (or in Stroszek's case, definitely) delinquents and the way they were so unsure of the world around them and how it operated. I hadn't thought about this nameless man in years, nearly fifteen probably, but it wasn't twenty minutes into Stroszek before I nailed down who he was reminding me of. I'd like to think that Herzog didn't just get lucky in reminded me so much of one, lone man, but instead I'd like to believe that Herzog pounded out a real slice of life picture here, which showcased completely believable, relateable, real life characters.
As for the technical aspects, I have almost nothing bad to say and in fact, I won't say anything bad, because Stroszek crossed a line into a territory where nothing but praise will be required. Am I way off base comparing Stroszek to a Jim Jarmusch film? I don't think so. A subtle story, reserved real life characters, a film that relies less on grandeur and more on a quieter story, almost undefined. In fact, I think calling Stroszek a Jim Jarmusch movie with even more personality would be hitting the nail on the head. I loved Bruno S. and I NEED (like literally, right now) to see The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, which also sounds like it'd be something I'd take to. Not only was he perfect here, but Eva Mattes was brilliant and I was elated to find out that she was one of the few actual actors in the movie - having roles in multiple R.W. Fassbinder films (even The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, which I didn't remember her from - still don't really).
|The back of that chair says a whole lot. I could write paragraphs on "Is this really me?", but we'll leave that thought alone for tonight, because it's late and I'm due up at 5am!|
I could go on and on, but I feel like I've gone on long enough. I think I do need to mention the main theme of the whole picture, which to me lies in Stroszek's conception of America. THE BOOK suggests that this is a common, European misconception - that America is this land of milk & honey where all your dreams come true. Stroszek finds out right away that it's not that, when he is forced to leave behind not only his "friends" the instruments, but his beloved pet bird. It literally all goes downhill from there, as he loses Eva, his home and even his color TV. In the end, a lonely Stroszek presumably kills himself. I think one of the saddest realizations that I came to, was that Stroszek died in a strange land, without friends, even the cops snickering at his situation. This is one of those films where I think too much and I actually think about the character, for a second, as if he were real. I wonder what the final thoughts Stroszek had as he rode the chair lift, his now unfrozen turkey cradled under one arm, a shotgun grasped with the other. If I try to think about those final thoughts, of this man who doesn't really exist, I get the kind of goosebumps one might get at a funeral, the kind of goosebumps reserved for the saddest of occasions. Has there ever been sadder thoughts inside a fictitious characters head - as Bruno sits upon a chair lift, contemplating his own death, his own loneliness, the loss of everything he once held so dear - perhaps thinking deeper than this kind fool has ever thought? I'll stop before I get those goosebumps again...
RATING: 8.5/10 So Herzong totally redeems himself from the mess that was Aguirre and now he's 1-1 and that's one really bad one and one really good one. The good news is that I have high hopes for both Nosferatu and Fitzcarraldo.
MOVIES WATCHED: 943
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 58
August 2, 2015 10:39pm