Blu-ray Review: Kamikaze ’89 (1982)

Kamikaze ’89 was the subject of a crowdfunding campaign that I supported vehemently on this site. Were it merely one of Fassbinder’s final films, it would’ve earned my support regardless; however, there’s more in the film worth noting than just that. This newfound exposure is definitely warranted. As Film Movement Classics was in the midst of restoring the film and wanted some aid getting it up on the big screen where it belongs. That effort proved this film did have an audience and it saw both repertory arthouse, physical, and digital release last year.

This is a film based on the novel Murder on the 31st Floor by Per Walhöö, which has seen a number of cinematic adaptations first in the USSR in 1972 and 1980 respectively both on TV, then in 1981 in Hungary, then this version in 1982. The plot ostensibly revolves around a murder investigation the machinations and convolutions of which are giallo-like but it’s the underpinnings of a system on the edge of collapse and the portrait of a society in an uncomfortable middle-ground between dystopia and utopia that give it its emotional resonance, and its melange of capitalism and communism food for thought.

As something of an anomaly in Fassbinder’s filmography, he did not adapt or direct this film, but was lead actor. However, one thing you will glean from Nick Pinkerton’s wonderfully insightful essay on the film (preferably read after having watched it) is that Fassbinder directed by proxy through Wolf Gremm, which can be seen in a few ways. So, if you know Fassbinder’s work it will still feel very familiar.

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The score is a trance-inducing orchestration by Edward Froese of Tangerine Dream fame (for more on that score the Blu-ray booklet also features an essay by Samuel B. Prime about it), bringing its eerie familiar yet vacuous other-worldliness to life was Xaver Schwarzenberger the same DP who brought Berlin Alexanderplatz to life. The film also features a small role performed by the legendary Franco Nero, and Fassbinder mainstay Günther Kauffmann.

Kamikaze ’89 does feature the minimalistic futurism of films like Fassbinder’s own World on a Wire or Godard’s Alphaville one wherein the implication of future happenings is more about societal structure rather than awe-inspiring technological advancements. This tale is also cloistered in as much as it takes place in and around one particular edifice and its mysterious and unfindable 31st floor.

This is a film that stands as a unique statement on an artistic level. It’s being set but seven years in the future, whence the Berlin Wall would fall, also gives it a curious undertone that it likely didn’t possess upon its initial release. It societal relevance may be more culturally relativistic than some other films, but its function as allegory seems as it could spring eternal with increased intensity based on the changing tides of the world’s sociopolitical currents.

Bonus Features

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Aside from the aforementioned essays there is plenty of added viewing including:

  • A feature-length documentary by Wolf Gremm Rainer Werner Fassbinder: The Last Year.
  • And an additional documentary Wolf at the Door, a filmic memoir by director Gremm.
  • Feature length commentary by Regina Ziegler
  • Radio ads voiced by John Cassavetes
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31 Days of Oscar: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Gold DIggers of 1933 (1933, Warner Bros.)

I remember when I sent away for a headshot of Anna Chlumsky when I was young this was listed as being her favorite movie. Recently in reading about the Pre-Code era I was reminded of this title. The opening number “We’re in the Money” became a standard, but many forget that it was a very topical Depression Era song. The musical sequences directed by Busby Berkeley are magical but by and large there is a disconnect between them, the occasional commentary and the light, escapist fare that is the thrust of the film.

I forget my guess regarding this film’s nominations, but its nod for Sound Recording is well earned as the audio is crystal clear – not always the case in this time period, as sound was still in its infancy.

Score: 6/10
Oscar Nominations/Wins: 1/0

A Proposal for Steven Mnuchin and a Festival Idea

President Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, has been confirmed. Mnuchin as a former hedge fund manager with Goldman Sachs it instantly drew criticism in political circles. Don’t worry further political commentary will be saved for my new embedded page The Democ-Rat.

This post is to discuss Mnuchin’s recent rampant and highly inconsistent run as an executive producer of Hollywood films. He has 34 credits to his name from 2014 through the end of this year if his forthcoming productions come to fruition.

The kinds of these movies he’s helped financed vary as much as his box office performances, some of these titles include surprise hits (The Lego Movie, Edge of Tomorrow, Mad Max: Fury Road), funding auteurs (Midnight Special and Rules Don’t Apply), Reboots or Extensions of a Franchises (Annabelle, Entourage, Vacation, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Pan, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and The Legend of Tarzan), and Clint Eastwood movies (American Sniper and Sully), to name a few.

The Lego Movie (2014, Warner Bros.)

Clearly, like many Executive Producers a lot of these decisions have been dictated by what movies need funds and what can get me a return. Hence the varied type of film and the hits and misses, most notably in the reboots no one especially seemed to be clamoring for.

With Mnuchin confirmed I suggest a magnanimous move on his part would be to have his (blind?) trust still fund films but be open to suggestions from the very public that would benefit from the enjoyment of these films. It could very well be a long, contentious four years why not have a pipe-dream to bide the time? If the swamp isn’t being drained, we may as well have the Treasury Secretary get some projects out of Development Hell if he can and distract us from the madness.

In the meantime, if you need to build a film festival check out his IMDb.