Monday, August 10, 2009

This week's sex fest? Andreas Dresen's CLOUD 9 tackles geriatric love and lust

Happily married, the woman nonetheless begins an affair with another man. The sex is amazing. Her new guy is unat-
tached and conse-
quently delighted with the turn of events. Her hus-
band? Not so much. What -- you say you've seen all this a hundred times before?
I don't think so.

The characters in Andreas Dresen's groundbreaking movie CLOUD 9 are ages 67, 72 and 76. And this makes all the difference, for them, as for the viewer. The age of the participants changes everything -- from how they look (and how we look at them) to how they feel, physically and emotionally, to what they -- all three of them -- can expect to come from this affair. Herr Dresen (shown at left) serves us a slice of geriatric life seldom encountered at the movies, and he and his cast offer it up with joy and sorrow, nuance and specificity. Yes, there's plenty of full frontal, too.

The movie may well be seen more than once by the older generation: the first time for the surprises in store, the tale itself and its look at three very interesting characters. After the viewing, however, a lot of questions arise -- not so much about the veracity of what we've seen as to the consequences, the "morality" of it all. Each viewer will likely have his/her own "take" on the movie, and I can imagine some highly charged discussions post-screening.

Rather than talk more about what happens (and ruin things for those who want to see the film), let's look at the approach taken by Dresen (who won Germany's Best Director awards for his efforts): an almost fly-on-the-wall intimacy. There had to have been an inordinate amount of trust flowing between director and actors to achieve this. Only four characters are shown in the film to any degree: the woman, her husband, her lover and (to a much lesser extent) her daughter. We see the three main characters, together in twosomes, and in alone in repose. Instead of the many short scenes we get from most films, this 98-minute movie has a lesser number of scenes but most last longer, for we need to observe and understand how the three adapt and accommodate.

There is not a lot of dialog, either. When it arrives, at last, it doesn't actually help things. Words, for people as close as this husband and wife, seem less necessary than touch. Three writers, in addition to Dresen, are credited with the screenplay; they've kept things close to the vest, so the viewer gets what is needed but little additional information. The scene with the daughter, the younger generation, offers the most dialog of any.

Performances are close to everything in a movie like this, and our three leads do a fine job. In the pivotal role of Inga, the wife, Ursula Werner (shown at right in the two of the photos above) won Germany's Best Actress award for her memorable performance, and Horst Rehberg (shown, bearded, three photos up) as her husband Werner is equally good. We learn (or perhaps it's that we care) less about the lover, Karl (very well played by Horst Westphal, shown biking and bussing in the two photos above), because he seems to have, through no fault of his own, the least invested here. In the role of the daughter, surprised but not dismayed by her mother's affair, Steffi Kühnert brings a nice bit of levity and youthful ease to the proceedings.

I wonder how many non-seniors Cloud 9 will pull in? Children (of any age) notoriously do not like to imagine their parents getting it on, and this movie plasters those images front and center (as well as some beautiful touches like the shot above). But why not? Call this a kind of senior liberation that's been a long time coming.

The very smart distributor Music Box Films (Trust No One, Shall We Kiss, Il Divo and the recent Seraphine) is opening Cloud 9, this Friday, August 14, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas (and one week later at NYC's Cinema Village). Further summer and fall playdates around the country can be found here (once the link has opened, scroll to the middle of the screen).

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