Grand Teutonics

The current blitz of American and British movies with Nazi themes confirms one thing: Nobody in the world understands fascism like German filmmakers. In Dennis Gansel’s perceptive and unsettling The Wave, a group of peer-pressured high school students take their charismatic teacher’s lessons on autocracy a gun too far. Based on a 1967 episode at a Palo Alto institution of lower learning, this provocative entry in the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival makes the most of the prevailing attitude that “it can’t happen here again.” The annual compilation of the best German, Austrian, and Swiss pictures of the past year begins tonight with Doris Dörrie’s tender and sublime Cherry Blossoms, and closes seven days hence with Martin Walz’ bittersweet musical romance, Melodies of Spring. New Wave icon Wim Wenders gets the tribute treatment with his 1976 triumph, Kings of the Road, as well as his latest, Palermo Shooting, a beautifully shot, seductively soundtracked, unexpectedly callow yarn about a diva photographer who discovers the meaning of life just as Death (American friend Dennis Hopper) shows up. Fortunately for our handsome hero, Death is not a fascist, and can be reasoned with. An opening-night party starts at 6:30 and Cherry Blossoms screens at 8.
Jan. 15-21, 2009

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