Now in his mid-forties, Imbach has written and directed only nine films, beginning, according to the IMDB, in 1987 with Schlachtzeichen (not shown in the retrospective, along with the hour-long Happy Too from 2002 ) and ending (for now, at least) with his 2007 I Was a Swiss Banker. Seven of his nine films will be shown at AFA (the complete schedule is here), including two documentaries of note: the award-winning Ghetto (1997) about the kids in an upper middle class suburb of Zurich and Nano-Babies (1998) that deals with the spontaneous experiences of children placed in day-care who are too young to express their feelings in words. Also screening are Well Done (1994), the hour-long Restlessness (1990-91), Happiness is a Warm Gun (2001) and Lenz (2006).
|I Was a Swiss Banker (great title: it sounds like it could be anything from camp to a financial exposé) is actually the lightest, most free-and-easy of the films, as the titular character -- a sleaze of sorts, although we don't learn much about this -- suddenly bolts with one of his client's cash. To elude the police, into a near-by lake he must dive, and from there on, the movie is rather like a modern fairy tale. Since the hero is played by a chunky and hirsute "hottie" named Beat Marti (above left and below right, of whom we get some full-frontal along the way), and because the various women he encounters are attractive and the landscapes are lovely to look at, the film is consistently easy on the eyes. Whether or not it has much to tell us, I am not as certain.|
|Lenz is another matter entirely (this filmmaker could never be accused of repeating himself). Here, a crazy man named Lenz (as in the Georg Büchner work) wanders around in a rather cold climate. We soon learn that he is not a crazy man, after all; he's simply a filmmaker, trying to research, or maybe wrap-up, his latest project (Lenz/Lens?). But he is also trying to reconcile with his estranged lover and mother of his child, which, given his mood swings (could this guy be bi-polar?) is not going well. As played by Milan Peschel (below, right), Lenz is alternately funny, loony and sad. This pretty much describes the movie, too.|
|The most interesting of the films proved to be Happiness is a Warm Gun, which imagines the after-life (or maybe the moment just before death) of German peace activist Petra Kelly and her lover/murderer Gert Bastian. Hell, it would seem (according to this movie), is having to spend your limbo life in a modern airport.|
|America's own sleazebag commentator Robert Novak (of the Valerie Plame affair) also appears in the film, quizzing the real Petra about her "Communist" connections. Evidently, if you were for peace 20 years ago, according to our right wing savants, you must have been a Communist.|
The movie bounces all over the place: past, present, imagination, reality. Sometimes Petra has her head wound (as seen below: a bullet hole in the side of her temple) and sometimes not. Whether this has to do with Imbach's meaning in the film or simply the way the actress has combed her hair, we don't really know. (Because the movie often imagines the life and concerns of its leading character, it bears comparison to another film opening this week that does something similar: Il Divo.) There's humor in Happiness/Gun, as well as surprise, moments of some drama, and a lot of ideas about politics, psychology, religion and humanity. Whether or not you will have the patience or desire to work these out will depend, I think, on your ability to handle Imbach's brand of "experimental" cinema.