Existential cinema is done no favors by "Marseille," the most pretentious film-reverie yet from Germany's poetess of emptiness, Angela Schanelec . Perverse, frequently baffling "story" about a German woman mooning around in southern France and Berlin has zero commercial potential outside the fest circuit that created the writer-director's career.

Existential cinema is done no favors by “Marseille,” the most maddeningly pretentious film-reverie yet from Germany’s poetess of emptiness, Angela Schanelec (“Places in the City”). Perverse, frequently baffling “story” about a German woman mooning around in southern France and Berlin has zero commercial potential outside the fest circuit that created the writer-director’s career, and even then will appeal to card-carrying fans only.

Visiting Marseille on an apartment exchange, young photographer Sophie (Maren Eggert) falls for a garage mechanic, Pierre (Alexis Loret). Back in Berlin, where she secretly loves Ivan (Devid Striesow), husband of best friend Hanna (Marie-Lou Sellem), Sophie feels shut out. So she travels back to Marseille, where she’s mugged in the street. Shot in fixed takes of varying length, sliver of a plot is strung out with soulless, taciturn conversations, sequences of silence and cityscapes, and a perverse refusal to engage the audience’s sympathy or interest. Technically, pic is fine, with sharp lensing by Reinhold Vorschneider.

Marseille

Un Certain Regard / Germany

Production

A Peripher Filmverleih release of a Schramm Film Koerner & Weber production in association with ZDF/Arte with participation of Neon Prods. (International sales: Schramm, Berlin.) Executive producers, Florian Koerner von Gustorf, Michael Weber. Directed, written by Angela Schanelec.

Crew

Camera (color), Reinhold Vorschneider; editor, Bettina Boehler; art director, Ulrika Andersson, Felicity Good; costumes, Anette Guther. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 18, 2004. German, French dialogue. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Maren Eggert, Emily Atef, Alexis Loret, Marie-Lou Sellem, Louis Schanelec, Devid Striesow, Wolfgang Michael, Friederike Kammer, Juergen Gosch, Christian Mazzuchini.
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