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Toni Erdmann (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It is very common for us cineaste to go back into the past and select films that shocked us, that surprised us and enjoing cinema that inspires us. Films that we are truly passionate for, because of the director’s vision, a film’s creativity and originality and for some auteurs that have created such films, we have regarded these films as a masterpiece. I feel that I can watch Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann” over and over, enjoy it and know that I have watched a masterpiece. Each time you watch “Toni Erdmann”, you gain a deeper appreciation for the film and it’s a true feeling that makes you proud that cinema is still alive! “Toni Erdmann” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Komplizen Film. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Toni Erdmann

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 133 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, German, English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Strong Sexual Content, Graphic Nudity, Language and Brief Drug Use)

AVAILABLE ON: April 11, 2017


Directed by Maren Ade

Screenplay by Maren Ade

Produced by Maren Ade, Jonas Dornbach, Janine Jackowski, Michel Merkt

Co-Producer: David Keitsch, Sebastian Schipper, Antonin Svoboda, Bruno Wagner

Executive Produced by Ada Solomon

Line Producer: Ben von Dobeneck

Cinematography by Patrick Orth

Edited by Heike Parplies

Casting by Viorica Capdefier, Nina Haun, Amanda Tabak

Production Design by Silke Fischer

Art Direction by Malina Ionescu

Set Decoration by Katja Schlomer

Costume Design by Gitti Fuchs


Starring:

Sandra Huller as Ines Conradi

Peter Simonischek as Winfried

Michael Wittenborn as Henneberg

Thomas Loibi as Gerald

Trystan Putter as tim

Ingrid Bisu as Anca

Hadewych Minis as Tatjana

Lucy Russell as Steph

Victoria Cocias as Flavia

Alexandru Papadopol as Dascalu

Victoria Malektorovych as Natalja


Winfried rarely sees Ines since she left for a high-powered corporate job. So when he drops by to visit, the two quickly find themselves at odds as his quirky antics clash with her slick lifestyle. Determined to be part of her world, Winfried reappears as alter ego “Toni Erdmann,” an outrageous life coach who turns his daughter’s career plans upside-down. In the course of all the madness, the two discover that maybe they have more in common than they imagined.


From filmmaker, writer and producer Maren Ade (“Everyone Else”, “The Forest for the Trees”) comes the German/Austrian comedy-drama “Toni Erdmann”.

The film stars Sandra Huller (“Requiem”, “Uber Uns Das All”, “Brownian Movement”), Peter Simonischek (“Oktober November”, “Geburtig”, “Saphirblau”), Michael Wittenborn (“Wir Sind Die Neuen”, “Ein Freund Von Mir”, “Yella”), Thomas Loibl (“Ende der Schonzeit”, “3096 Days”, “Like a Cast Shadow”), Trystan Putter (“Phoenix”, “War Horse”, “Passion”), Ingrid Bissu (“Outbound”, “BloodRayne”), Hadewych Minis (“Borgman”, “Bloed, Zweet & Tranen”) and Lucy Russell (“Following”, “The Lady and the Duke”).

The film has received critical acclaim and was named “Best Film of 2016” by “Sight & Sound” and won five awards at the 29th European Film Awards for “Best Film” (the first for a film directed by a woman), “Best Director”, “Best Screenwriter”, “Best Actor” and “Best Actress”.  The film was also nominated for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 89th Academy Awards.

And now “Toni Erdmann” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The film begins with the introduction of Winfried Conradi (portrayed by Peter Simonischek), a divorced music teacher and often likes to pull pranks, take on different personas and sport fake teeth.

Since the divorce, he hasn’t had much of a relationship with his daughter Ines (portrayed by Sandra Huller), a business consultant  and is currently working on an outsourcing project in the oil industry and so, she is always busy and doesn’t have much time for anyone, including her family.  That even Winfried makes jokes that he wants to hire a replacement daughter to cut his nails.

After the death of his dog, Winfried decides to travel to Bucharest, Romania spontaneously without letting Ines know that he is coming.

Surprised by the visit, Ines allows her father accompany him to a reception at the American Embassy with Henneberg, a German oil company CEO and Ines is desperate in trying to secure a consulting contract with him.

While at the reception, Winfried ends up talking to Henneberg and jokes about hiring a replacement daughter to cut his nails and because of this, Henneberg ends up inviting both Ines and her father for drinks.

Winfried gets to see how life is for her daughter as she is constantly stressed out, doesn’t get much sleep and when she oversleeps one day, she gets upset and gives her father a hint that she’s too busy and they will meet up when she has the time.

After a difficult day of trying to win a contract with Henneberg, Ines goes out with her two friends for dinner but out of nowhere, a man approaches and offers them drinks.  He introduces himself as Toni Erdmann and to Ines’ shock, the man is her father in another disguise.  Toni tells the women that he is in Bucharest to attend the funeral of his friend’s turtle.

And this is just the beginning as Ines starts to see Toni Erdmann at major parties and also near her office but she allows her father to continue with his jokes and not acknowledging to anyone that he is her father.

But will this odd behavior from her father push her away, considering how frustrated and unfulfilled she is with work?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

It’s important to note that if you want the best picture and audio quality, a Blu-ray release of “Toni Erdmann” is available.  With that being said, the film is presented in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen and in German/English 5.1 Dolby Digital with English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.

Picture quality is as good as one can expect on DVD and I didn’t notice any major artifacts or problems with video.  Dialogue is primarily dialogue-driven with surround channels primarily ambiance (especially during scenes with crowds).

But for the most part, picture and audio quality on DVD is very good.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Toni Erdmann” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with actress Sandra Huller, actor Peter Simonischek and producer Janine Jackowski.
  • Toni Erdmann at AFI Fest – (16:04) Featuring scenes from the red carpet and Q&A.
  • Theatrical Trailer

Whenever one can watch cinema that makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you want to watch it over and over again, you know that film is truly special.

Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann” is no doubt a special film free from banality, creative and original and not predictable.

It’s one thing to have a film about a father wanting to reconnect with his busy, stressed-out daughter and as the film slowly introduces us to Winnfried and Ines in the first half of the film, showing us how the father is literally a class clown but just wants to be a part of his daughters life.

While Ines is always frustrated, feels underappreciated and literally does whatever she can to win a contract, even if it means meeting a client’s wife to help her with shopping.  You can literally feel the tension, the frustration that she is on a verge of a nervous breakdown.

So, when her father shows up spontaneously to Bucharest without letting her know and during a time she is trying to win a major client, it’s one thing as daughter gives her father a chance to see how her life is.

By the second half of the film, we then start to see her father taking on the persona of Toni Erdmann and somehow ending up at posh parties that she is attends and somehow seeing him continue with this a ridiculous persona but yet letting him continue.

But it’s certain scenes, while very sexual or have a lot of nudity that come out of nowhere and just shows us how Ines is dealing with her life and literally giving a message of “I don’t give a f*ck anymore!”.

And as for Winnfried, as a father knowing that despite her busy and tough nature, somewhere inside her, she still daddy’s little girl.

The performances by actress Sandra Huller and Peter Simonishchek was truly amazing.  Huller gives us a performance of a lifetime and she just gets better and better with each film that she stars in.

Overall, it is very common for us cineaste to go back into the past and select films that shocked us, that surprised us and enjoing cinema that inspires us.  Films that we are truly passionate for, because of the director’s vision, a film’s creativity and originality and for some auteurs that have created such films, we have regarded these films as a masterpiece. I feel that I can watch Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann” over and over, enjoy it and know that I have watched a masterpiece.

Each time you watch “Toni Erdmann”, you gain a deeper appreciation for the film and it’s a true feeling that makes you proud that cinema is still alive!

“Toni Erdmann” is recommended!


Following – The Criterion Collection #638 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“Following” is the first film by Christopher Nolan.  Before “Memento”, “Inception” and the “Dark Knight” trilogy films, it is a film that shows us how this great filmmaker today, showed amazing promise with his first, low-budget independent film.  A fascinating neo-noir with a wonderful nonlinear storyline and a fantastic DVD release from the Criterion Collection.  Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2010 IFC in Theaters LLC. All Rights Reserved. © 2012 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Following – The Criterion Collection #638

RELEASE OF FILM: 1999

DURATION: 70 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural

COMPANY: IFC Films/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: December 11, 2012

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Written by Christopher Nolan

Producer: Christopher Nolan, Jeremy Theobald, Emma Thomas

Executive Producer: Peter Broderick

Music by David Julyan

Cinematography by Christopher Nolan

Edited by Gareth Heal, Christopher Nolan

Production Design by Tristan Martin

Art Directionb y Tristan Martin

Starring:

Jeremy Theobald as The Young Man

Alex Haw as Cobb

Lucy Russell as The Blonde

John Nolan as The Policeman

Dick Bradsell as The Bald Guy

Gillian El-Kadi as Home Owner

Jennifer Angel as Waitress

Nicolas Carlotti as Barman

Darren Ormandy as Accountant

Before he became a sensation with the twisty revenge story Memento, Christopher Nolan fashioned this low-budget, 16 mm black-and-white neonoir with comparable precision and cunning. Providing irrefutable evidence of Nolan’s directorial bravura, Following is the fragmented tale of an unemployed young writer who trails strangers through London, hoping that they will provide inspiration for his first novel. He gets more than he bargained for when one of his unwitting subjects leads him down a dark criminal path. With gritty aesthetics and a made-on-the-fly vibe (many shots were simply stolen on the streets, unbeknownst to passersby), Following is a mind- bending psychological journey that shows the remarkable beginnings of one of today’s most acclaimed filmmakers.

Before Chris Nolan became known for directing big budget films such as “Batman Begins”, “The Dark Knight”, “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Inception” and before he directed his breakthrough film “Memento” which introduced him to the world, every filmmaker has that very first film.  And for Nolan, it was the 1999 film “Following”.

Created with a budget of $6,000, Nolan wrote and directed the British neo-noir film using 16 mm film stock and doing the photography, editing and production all by himself.  Featuring music by David Julyan (“Memento”, “The Cabin  in the Woods”, “The Prestige”, “Insomnia”) and starring Jeremy Theobald (“Batman Begins”, “Doodlebug”), Alex Haw, Lucy Russell (“Batman Begins”, “Tristan & Isolde”, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”) and John Nolan (“The Dark Night Rises”, “Batman Begins”).

While the film was released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2001, over a decade later, “Following” receives a new 4K digital remaster and was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“Following” is a film that revolves around a young man (portrayed by Jeremy Theobald) who is a struggling writer.  Wanting inspiration to write his first novel, the young man decides to follow strangers on the streets of London.

At first, the young man has rules he must follow and for how long, but he begins to have a fascination with a man wearing a dark suit.  The man begins to become suspicious of the young man following him and confronts him.  The man in the suit reveals his name to be Cobb (portrayed by Alex Haw) and that he is a serial burglar and to give inspiration to the young man, he offers him a chance to accompany him on several robberies.

And it is learned that Cobb is not in it to rob people for the sake of stealing but to go through their most precious belongings and wanting to see the result of them feeling shocked that they were robbed but also making them feel violated.  But most importantly, to make them feel differently about their own lives.

Amazed and excited about the experience, the young man then decides to follow Cobb’s footsteps by breaking into people’s homes, while Cobb assists the young man and gives him lessons on how.  So, the first thing the young man does is get a hair cut and starts wearing a dark suit and takes on the persona of “Daniel Llloyd”.  But at one location where the young man breaks into, he starts to have a relationship with a blonde woman (portrayed by Lucy Russell), but  what the young man doesn’t know is that her boyfriend is a gangster known as “The Bald Guy” (portrayed by Dick Bradsell).

When the blonde tells the young man that the bald guy has been blackmailing her with incriminating photographs, this leads the young man on a mission to help her by breaking into the bald guy’s home.  But by doing so, the young man is entering into unknown territory that will lead to murder and betrayal.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Following” is presented in 1:33:1 aspect ratio and in black in white.  It’s important to note that if you want the best picture and audio quality, the Blu-ray release for “Following” is also available.

As for the DVD and because I own the original DVD released in 2001, I can easily compare both.  The biggest difference with this Criterion Collection DVD is that the clarity is amazing.  Black and whites are robust, with 16mm, you expected to see a lot of grain and the good news is that the grain is visible on DVD and I expect that it even looks better in HD.  There are no problems with picture quality whatsoever.  No blurring, no heavy DNR or anything negative.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Following” was supervised by director Christopher Noland and the new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the original 16 mm camera negative at Cinelicious in Hollywood.

“Following” is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Dolby Digital monaural.  Big difference as the 5.1 soundtrack offers a better dynamic range and the dialogue and music is clear.  According to the Criterion Collection, the film’s original monaural soundtrack was remastered from a 16 mm optical print. In addition, the original mix masters were remastered into a 48 kHz, 24-bit 5.1 surround mix by rerecording mixer Gary Rizzo.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Following – The Criterion Collection #638” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by filmmaker Christopher Nolan.
  • Christopher Nolan – (26:21) Featuring an interview with writer-director Christopher Nolan, conducted by the Criterion Collection in December 2010.
  • The Linear Edit – (1:10:06) A version of “Following” which places the film’s events in chronological order.
  • Script to Film – (9:55) Christopher Nolan’s shooting script for “Following” presented with three scenes from the film (First Break-In, The Abandoned Offices, Finale) and offers at how closely Nolan adhered to his original plan.  Script is shown on the left, while the footage from the film is shown on the right.
  • Doodlebug – (2:55) A short black and white film that Christopher Nolan made in 1997 and a film where he met many of the talent that are featured on “Following”.
  • Trailers – Featuring the theatrical trailer and the re-release trailer for “Following”.

EXTRAS:

“Following – The Criterion Collection #638” comes with a quad fold DVD insert with the following essay “Nolan Begins” by Scott Foundas (the Associate Program Director of the Film Society for the Lincoln Center).

I know that many people of today equate Christopher Nolan with the “Dark Knight” films but for many of us who are familiar with his earlier work, “Memento” was the film that turned audiences on to Christopher Nolan.

“Following” is a low-budget film that manages to show the brilliance of Nolan, more than most other legendary filmmakers were able to accomplish in their first indie film.

With Stanley Kubrick, we see elements of his cinematic style in “Fear and Desire”, Ingmar Bergman’s lean towards darkness in “Torment”, a little of Woody Allen’s wit in What’s New Pussycat” or George Lucas’ futuristic sci-fi style in “THX 1138” but Chris Nolan is able to tackle on this nonlinear structure with “Following”.

The film is a puzzle of time lines that requires a viewers attention as there are several twists and turns until you get to the final reveal which you can’t help but find it to be a clever neo-noir.  Sure, it’s a film that doesn’t star big Hollywood talent, it’s shot on 16 mm and it’s in black and white.  But part of that lends to the film’s efficacy because the film removes itself of Hollywood banality.

We have a character who is pretty much living a sad life, unemployed and a writer with no ideas.  So, he finds himself following strangers on the street to inspire him.  But unfortunately, the young man starts following someone that will change his life forever.

But as simplistic it may seem in writing, from a guy who never went to film school, from a guy who made this black and white film for $6,000 but this film alone shows you the potential of brilliance of the filmmaker and sure enough, the following year, “Memento” was a film that would establish Christopher Nolan as this promising filmmaker.  And 20-years later, he has become one of the most successful filmmakers in the world.   And suffice to say, he’s a rarity in the industry. But how he was able to make his career happen, on his own, is inspirational!

But “Following” should be seen as an glimpse of a filmmaker to be.  An important film of a filmmaker with no experience who wanted to write, direct, produce and edit his own film and he did it.  And it would be the catalyst that would lead him to make even greater films right after.

As for the DVD, The Criterion Collection did a fantastic job in including a linear edit of the film, audio commentary, an interview with Christopher Nolan and more!  It’s an awesome DVD release but if you have a Blu-ray player and want better picture and audio quality, I definitely recommend the Blu-ray version if possible.

Overall, “Following” is the first film by Christopher Nolan.  Before “Memento”, “Inception” and the “Dark Knight” trilogy films, it is a film that shows us how this great filmmaker today, showed amazing promise with his first, low-budget independent film.  A wonderful nonlinear storyline and a fantastic DVD release from the Criterion Collection.  Highly recommended!

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