Saturday, March 24, 2018

Wild Mouse

Of all the regular screening series that go on in the Boston area, there's probably none that's a better value while flying under the radar than the one run by Goethe-Institut Boston. It's at the Coolidge the first Sunday of every month, it's five bucks, and every time I've gone they've been pretty good movies from countries whose cinema maybe doesn't necessarily get the same sort of exposure in the United States that others do. I'm as bad about that as anybody; 11am on a Sunday is kind of a tough sell, especially now that it's not quite so easily walkable as it was when I lived on Western Avenue in Cambridge.

And this one isn't really a huge draw in and of itself, but I went to Vienna for vacation last fall - a little late in the season, just after most of the castles closed up, but early enough not to get snowed on - and it was kind of a delight. Beautiful city, tons of great museums and sights, and one of my favorites was the Prater amusement park. Like a lot of guys who like movies, I went there to ride the ferris wheel most famously seen in The Third Man (and, yes, I wound up taking a Third Man tour and hitting up the theater that shows The Third Man every week to see it while the locations were fresh in my head), which was pretty darn neat. But I kind of fell in love with the park itself as well; it's like where all the rides that tour town fairs rest between engagements, just small and comfortable in scale compared to the monster places that have sprung up in America and part of the city, especially in how you pay for rides but not admission.

Among the rides was this thing:

The "Wilde Maus" roller coaster, which caught my eye in how it's kind of a kid-scale ride but has some kind of scewily-risque mascots. I saw that there was a movie attached to it, but didn't really give it much of a thought, although I did wonder whether the movie was built around the coaster or vice versa. Whatever the case, I figured it would be the last I heard of it, because how likely is that movie to come to America? So, color me kind of surprised a few months later when I saw Wild Mouse on the Coolidge's site when writing up a "Next Week in Tickets" entry four months later. It took me a few minutes to actually make the connection, but I kind of had to make the time to see it once I did.

The coaster itself doesn't actually figure much in the movie - they repair it, but there's nothing really specific to it there, and it's not quite the metaphor it could have been. But, still, it was kind of a kick to see this thing that had caught my interest show up on my own doorstep not that long after.

(Sadly, I seem to have lost most of the photos when the phone I took with me on that trip became a brick earlier this year; this one I posted on Facebook is okay, but I had some which zoomed in on the mascots and other things a little better.)

Wilde Maus (Wild Mouse)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 4 March 2018 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (Goethe-Institut German Film, DCP)

As midlife crisis movies go, Wild Mouse isn't bad, although that's kind of a sketchy genre in and of itself - how many of them come up with new innsight, or even feel like more than the middle-aged men making reassuring themselves that they're basically okay? This is not exactly one that breaks the mold on that count; it's got some good moments, but also a level of meanness to it that might occasionally make a viewer wonder where writer/director/star Josef Hader is going with it.

Hader plays Georg Endl, the long-time classical music critic at a Vienna newspaper who, just after scoffing at a colleague's idea of a story about how certain pieces have been popularized via rock music and sports anthems, is laid off for being too narrowly focused to justify his high salary. He opts to keep this from his wife Johanna (Pia Hierzegger), a therapist a few years younger than he is fretting about both their closing window to conceive a child and her dismissive but attractive patient Sebastian (Denis Moschitto). Instead, he spends his days at the Prater amusement park, where he runs into high-school classmate Erich (Georg Friedrich) and his Romanian girlfriend Nicoleta (Crina Semciuc), eventually joining Erich in restoring the "Wilde Maus" roller coaster - probably a better use of his time and energy than stalking the paper's editor (Jörg Hartmann), playing out a series of petty aggressions that threaten to escalate into something dangerous.

It may not necessarily be imperative that audiences like Georg so long as they relate to him or find his situation interesting, and that's an area where Hader perhaps underachieve s. His misanthrope protagonist never really seems to really like anything - even scenes involving music and writing are more moments to show him as having come down in the world rather than something that illuminates him - and none of the folks around him really have much more to them aside from being convenient ways to suggest he could be better. In some ways, it takes the plot of Tokyo Sonata but doesn't make any effort to make the laid-off husband's shame palpable rather than primarily an excuse for shenanigans that never really take on a life of their own.

Full review on EFC

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