(German and French dialogue)
Imagine the worst excesses of ’70s German cinema crossed with Chantal Ackerman, and “Places in Cities” will quickly fall into focus. Made for pubcaster ZDF’s telemovie strand, this relentlessly minimalist study of a pregnant teen’s emotional dysfunction may find a few admirers among unreconstructed fans of old-style Teuton arthouse fare but, as at its Croisette preem, will send most auds dashing for the exit. The choice of this joyless snoozer as the only 100% German pic at Cannes raises major questions about its selectors’ attitudes toward German cinema and its current, vibrant reinvention.
Mimmi (Sophie Aigner), a 19-year-old Berliner about to take her final school exams, doesn’t get on with her mom (Friederike Kammer) and has a cool relationship with her b.f. (Martin Jackowski). One day, the parents of her only real friend (Katie Eckerfeld) are hurt in a car crash, which adds even more angst to her plate.
On a school trip to Paris, she sleeps with a guy and later finds she’s pregnant, prompting a return to France, further mooning around and no clear resolution to her situation.
On the plus side, Schanelec, whose graduation pic, “My Sister’s Good Fortune, ” toured some fests in 1995-96, brings a geometrical visual style to the movie that’s almost architectural in its compositions and cityscapes. Unfortunately, the same rigidity affects her characters, who spend long stretches staring into space, seem unable to hold normal conversations and throw out no emotional lifelines for the viewer. Several sequences, including Mimmi’s lying motionless in bed or dancing with her girlfriend by a pool, are pure film-school mannerisms taken to the max. Tech credits are pro; aside from Kammer as the mom, perfs are suitably lifeless.