Though it takes a while to get into gear, "The Trio" is a likable relationship movie spinning on the theme du jour of cohabiting sexualities. Relaxedly played by its four leads, pic could have limited arthouse legs offshore with the right marketing, easily crossing over between straight and gay auds. Fest dates also beckon.

Though it takes a while to get into gear, “The Trio” is, finally, a likable relationship movie spinning on the theme du jour of cohabiting sexualities. Relaxedly played by its four leads, and dominated by a funny-sad performance by vet German star Goetz George as a rapacious, aging queen, pic could have limited arthouse legs offshore with the right marketing, easily crossing over (like Soenke Wortmann’s “Der bewegte Mann”) between straight and gay auds. Fest dates also beckon.

Titular trio is a group of travelers who live in a caravan and exist by pickpocketing: Zobel (George), a hairy hunk of beef rapidly approaching his sell-by date; his tired lover, Karl (Christian Redl); and Zobel’s foxy daughter, Lizzi (Jeanette Hain), product of a heterosexual coupling way back. When Karl dies as a result of a car accident following a bungled sting, his place in the curious menage is taken by the ambitious young Rudolf (Felix Eitner), for whom both father and daughter get the hots.

It’s only at this stage that the movie properly finds its feet, as Lizzi keeps trying to get into Rudolf’s pants, unaware that, following a drunken binge one night, her father has gotten there first, breaking his own ruling of “no exchange of bodily fluids within the team.” Only when she is about to score with Rudolf, and Papa suddenly exits from the shower, does the truth dawn: Lizzi splits from the “family,” accusing her father of using her to attract younger men.

Helmer/co-writer Hermine Huntgeburth, in her sophomore bigscreen outing after the female-oriented “The Terrible Threesome” (1992), allows the comedy to come naturally from the characters and situations instead of trying to squeeze the story into a camp comedy format. Performances are natural rather than overplayed , and ellipses in the narrative keep things moving without dwelling on the moral implications of the characters’ actions. Once the new trio’s chemistry is established, pic moves easily to a warm conclusion.

Permanently looking like he’s spent a night on the tiles, the 60-year-old George, in shades and a mink-collared overcoat, gives the most outre performance of his long career, but one also touched by a rough tenderness. Eitner is well cast as the bisexual piggy in the middle, and young up-and-comer Hain proves feisty and sexy as Lizzi, a thoroughly modern chip off her father’s block. Technically, the picture is unfussy rather than slick, shot in off-season locations and weather.

The Trio

German

Production

A Warner Bros. (Germany) release (in Germany) of a Next Film production, in association with NDR, ORF and Arte. (International sales: Media Luna, Cologne.) Produced by Laurens Straub. Directed by Hermine Huntgeburth. Screenplay, Horst Sczerba, Volker Einrauch, Huntgeburth.

Crew

Camera (color), Martin Kukula; editor, Ingrid Martell; music, Niki Reiser; art director, Katharina Woeppermann; costumes, Peri de Braganca; sound (Dolby), Dirk Jacob; assistant director, Gesche Carstens; casting, Risa Kes. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 21, 1998. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Zobel - Goetz George
Karl - Christian Redl
Lizzi - Jeanette Hain
Rudolf - Felix Eitner
Dorothee - Angelika Bartsch
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