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Halbe Treppe July 3, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I loathe not updating this bastard blog as the realisation that I get three clicks a day – two of them from me – within a day or so of ignoring the thing is like a knife through the heart. So I need to update. To refresh. But I feel as inspired to write as a 27-year-old café-owner who’s fulfilled his lifelong dream of opening his own cosy little place and gone bankrupt within two weeks feels like making someone some Eggs Benedict. I’m running on empty.

But needs must so it’s some lazy, TV-inspired blog-meat for today. In a last desperate attempt to avoid work for the day, the day’s play already over at Wimbledon and not a sniff of football in the air, I switched on the TV to see if I might catch a random episode of Wife Swap. German TV is actually very good. Any flat I’ve lived in in Berlin has always had a gazillion TV channels because you need that box-thing to get reception which picks up every channel from Reykjavik to Singapore. So you’re bound to find something to tickle your fancy. If you’re in a Camus mood, you can go straight to Arte, a Franco-German channel which pitches every programme at an audience with an IQ of no less than 140. Sure enough, this often makes for puking pus about the history of the Slovenian Green Party, but occasionally they provide something that hits the spot. And so it was this evening with Halbe Treppe, a heavenly German film from 2002, which, according to its imdb link, was released in the English-speaking world under the name Grill Point. Even if you don’t speak Deutsch, I recommend finding the trailer somewhere to give you a hint of what you’d be in for if you were to take my advice and dash out and hire the video ASAP. I can’t write a review because my IQ, like Linda Lusardi’s, and unlike the real ARTE audience’s, stands at 11 (a dead pig’s is 12, as a German friend of mine likes to say) but what I will say – I’m sure I could be a New Labour MP if I tried – is that it’s a fucking good film about two Ossi couples who get into a mess when an affair starts between two of the four. My only gripe is that the moral of the story seems to be if you’re fat and have an unglamorous job, you deserve to be left by your wife, but it’s still a corkingly good watch. I laughed out loud and shed the odd tear. I’d considered giving up smoking again this evening but was so buoyant when the credits rolled that I floated out the window and accidentally bought some emergency fags.

I know this is all part of my almost pornographic love affair with everything German at the moment, but this is a properly, lovelily good film. I’m trying to think of who could possibly hate it. Classical musicians are the only category I’ve come up with so far, as they, in my limited experience, loathe everything bar classical music. It’s sort of Dogme-like with a Mike Leigh twist. Gloom and humour in equal measure. Some lovely portrayal of fun, drunkenness and ordinary Ossi life. Watch it, and then click on my blog and tell me you love me…



1. Bowleserised - July 4, 2006


2. BiB - July 4, 2006

Darling, thank you. That was the right answer. Actually, I was trying to fiddle with the teletext so that I could have (German) subtitles alongisde the German text as I thought that would help, but didn’t manage it. Well, imdb claims it had an English release-title, so I suppose that means it’s been subtitled, but god knows where to find that. I’ll get cracking on amazon and then one day I’ll invite every blogger in the world round for a viewing.

3. BiB - July 4, 2006

It was shown recently here on TV. Lukeski liked it too. (For god’s sake go and take his free CDs. He’ll go into blogging meltdown otherwise.) Yes, not an easy watch.

Leon, where is your new post which has been heralded all over with great pomp, but remains a mystery?

4. leon - July 4, 2006

Speaking of foreign films, someone kindly bought me the new, shiny DVD re-release of Klimov’s Idi i smotri (I saw it years ago on television) which I am sure that you know, as a Russophil (or even a Byelorussophil, in fact).

It’s a beautifully made film, but does leave you feeling a bit emotionally drained, to say the least. In fact, it’s probably one of those films that while sort-of-recommending to people as a landmark achievement in filmmaking, I probably wouldn’t suggest they actually watch, if they’re very sensitive types.

5. Bowleserised - July 4, 2006

BiB – yes. Excellent idea. We should have a film evening!

6. BiB - July 4, 2006

Hmm, no sign of the film on the British amazon site. Mind you, even the German DVD might have the option of English subtitles. I’ll look into it…

7. leon - July 4, 2006

It’s on the way. I was going to get it finished but had to go to Devon instead to run in and out of the sea like an idiot.

8. BiB - July 4, 2006

Quite right too. Blogging should not take priority over the sea. No empire was ever built on mastering the blog.

9. Ed Ward - July 4, 2006

German DVDs almost never have any subtitles except German ones. It’s as if the Germans are ashamed of their film industry — a sensible response in many cases, I’m afraid — and don’t want other nations to find out how bad things really are. Unfortunately, it means the few good films out there don’t get any attention either.

The costs of adding subtitles to a DVD are ludicrously small, but nobody wants to bother. Stupid.

10. BiB - July 4, 2006

Ed, indeed. I think I saw Halbe Treppe in the cinema at around the same time as Goodbye Lenin was taking half the world by storm and was mystified that it didn’t seem to make any impact abroad. There is a subtitling place in Berlin which I’ve tried to get work from – never had a sausage – but maybe I need to get onto them and tell them to do ‘Grill Point’ straight away if it hasn’t already been done.

11. BiB - July 4, 2006

Ha! It’s being repeated on Arte RIGHT NOW. Switch on your TVs if you can…

12. lukeski - July 4, 2006

I’ve just picked up Antonioni’s ‘Passenger’, an existential meditation starring Jack Nicholson. It was on at the NFT when I went to see a photo exhibition, and I was rather intrigued. In a bizarre quirk of fate, it was almost immediately released on DVD, and I had to order it out of curiousity. It has been described as Camus on film – lots of desert-based detachment, and one of my colleagues, who had the luck to see it in a late night Channel4 showing in the mid-to-late-80’s recommended it highly (it seems to have not been shown in the UK on TV or in the cinema at all in the intervening 20 years). I shall watch once Zizou leds Les Bleus to glory and report back. Second Run DVD have also been releasing masses of Central European gems for the UK market, with the best essays about the films as part of the packaging.

13. BiB - July 5, 2006

That link led me straight to Nighthawks, which is, oddly, one of the few films I possess. But it isn’t very good. Haven’t seen Jack in Antonioni’s Meisterwerk. Must I?

14. daggi - July 10, 2006

I found the film to be ok (Halbe Treppe), but the “17 Hippies” bit was overdone. If you want real eastern German kitchen-sink depression, I can recommend “Lichter”. A wonderful film (and the music, from the Notwist, is a vast improvement on 1/2 Treppe), but, as I said, deeply depressing.

15. BiB - July 10, 2006

Daggi, darling, hello! You’re back! (“That was never three months,” he thinks to himself.) Miraculously, I’ve seen Lichter. Again, caught it on TV and was utterly gripped. I remember being especially struck, oddly enough, by the mattress-shop man who’s gone bust screaming, “Ich bin pleite.” Need to see it again now. Can add it to the list of films that we’ll one day all watch together. (I need to move to a bigger flat. Don’t know if we have a DVD-player, apart from the one built into the computer, but watching on the computer is hopeless because of a) tiny screen and b) I’d have to check my e-mails every 12 seconds.)

Are you really back or checking in from a wireless haystack somewhere? Need to get onto my Stasi-like – as you say – stats.

16. daggi - July 10, 2006

The haystack is indeed wireless. And needle-less. And computery-internet-less. Therefore am here for a few days.
Am shocked to see it’s the 10th already, so perhaps 3 months may go quickly.

17. BiB - July 10, 2006

Well, if it’s passing quickly, that sounds encouraging. Whatever the task is doesn’t need a pair of extra, utterly unskilled hands, does it?

18. daggi - July 11, 2006

Funny you should ask, as yes it does, actually.

Next week there are 3 Belarussians. I suppose you could see it as a kind of working holiday somewhere near to Erfurt.

19. daggi - July 11, 2006

Forget the guitar, bring some large white sheets and a DVD beamer. Dorfkino, “wie damals”.

20. BiB - July 11, 2006

3 Belarus(s)ians – no way of knowing how to uncontentiously spell that word – does sound interesting. I’m thinking this must be an international youth project, perhaps connected to Chernobyl. I’ve got such a good story – it’s a friend’s actually. Don’t know if I can steal it – about her working on an arts project with youths from England, Denmark, Belarus and Russia… Will you be showing The Battleship Potemkin?

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