Rock ‘n’ roll comes to Germany just ahead of the Berlin Wall in “The Red Cockatoo.” Stylish period piece is weighed down by a too-familiar love triangle, generating nostalgia for a difficult time not nearly as successfully as clear predecessor “Good Bye Lenin!” Pic opens in Germany this weekend following Berlin fest preem, with international travel possible.
In the spring of 1961, fresh-faced Siegried Molnar (Max Riemelt), known as “Siggi” to his friends, arrives in Dresden to work as a set painter. Stumbling across a group of teenagers playing Western 45s in the park, he’s caught in a melee when the cops break things up.
In the confusion, he meets banned poet Luise (Jessica Schwarz), who takes him to the titular nightspot, also frowned upon by authorities. Siggi becomes instantly smitten with Luise, despite the presence of her wild man husband, Wolle (Ronald Zehrfeld).
Balance of the longish pic sets Siggi’s unrequited love against ever-tightening state authority. Wolle is arrested, and Siggi’s practice of selling expensive porcelain figures in the West is revealed, to state disapproval. When he uses his gains to independently publish Luise’s poetry, the group is broken up for good and Siggi finds himself in big trouble.
Unlike helmer Wolfgang Becker’s “Good Bye Lenin!,” “Cockatoo” will work best for those with some knowledge of the early days of the German Democratic Republic and tension generated by the Wall throughout the country.
Helmer Dominik Graf has all the visual materials in place, but story suffers from failing to communicate sparks of either love or social upheaval that made Becker’s pic catch fire.
Thesps are appealing but generally predictable. Young Riemelt employs the same wide-eyed impassivity displayed in “Napola” while Schwarz, last seen internationally in offbeat “Kammerflimmern,” is easy on the eyes. Newcomer Zehrfeld has a fiery combustibility.
Tech credits are slick, with production and costume design taking center-stage. Period tunes keep the feet tapping.