Produced by Erik Stappenbeck, Joerg Wagner.
Directed, written by Petra Katharina Wagner. Camera (B&W), Peter Polsak; editor, Erik Stappenbeck; music, Simon Jeffes, Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (New German Films), Feb. 18, 1999. (Also in Rotterdam Film Festival.) Original title: Oskar und Leni. Running time: 88 MIN.
With: Christian Redl, Anna Thalbach, Elisabeth Trissenaar, Reiner Heise, Nadja Engel, Guenter Junghans, Wookie Mayer, Thomas Gerber, Joachim P. Assbock.
Oscar and Leni” is a beguiling, genuinely quirky B&W fable of love in the big city that benefits from sharp writing, spacey yet precisely calibrated acting and a benevolent view of subject and setting. Pic’s resolute rejection of the razzle-dazzle found in many new German films will earn it a slot in fests grateful for a return to more thoughtful, captivating fare, with theatrical and tube stops sure to follow.
Shakespeare-spewing Oskar (Christian Redl), a 1972 Olympic swimming medalist, is released from prison after his second career as a jewel thief was stopped by a bullet to the head (“I am mental,” he explains helpfully). Leni (Anna Thalbach) works days in a cake factory and nights in a feeble cabaret act, with a little hooking on the side. Although it’s love at first sight, Leni seems more smitten than Oskar, who spends his time hanging around a threadbare theater prepping a bizarre “Romeo and Juliet.” This spicy stew of eccentricities makes for charming fare, with many laughs springing from Leni’s increasingly outlandish attempts to find Oskar and the imaginative near-misses of this refreshingly odd couple.