A lyrical, often uplifting love letter to the highpoints of Teuton cinema, "Eye to Eye: All About German Film" is less a history, more an entertainment.
A lyrical, often uplifting love letter to the highpoints of Teuton cinema, “Eye to Eye: All About German Film” is less a history, more an entertainment. Interspersing interviews with 10 filmers about their favorite movies with slickly edited thematic montages, docu by critic Michael Althen and onetime Berlin Film Museum head Hans Helmut Prinzler offers no discoveries for archivists and buffs but makes the various faces of German cinema (silent, sound, East, West) appear as a single cultural unit, rather than a collection of politically fragmented eras. It’s ideal pubcaster and cable fare, as well as good fest fodder.The 10 names chosen may not all be well known outside Germany’s borders, but they rep a good cross-section of living filmmakers with differing tastes. Looking like some kind of cinematic Merlin, Wim Wenders is dryly witty on Fritz Lang’s 1931 classic “M”; Doris Doerrie has interesting points to make about Wenders’ own “Alice in the Cities”; Andreas Dresen selects East German realist semi-musical “Solo Sunny”; Dominik Graf chooses the little known 1972 rebel-youth pic “Rocker”; and Wolfgang Kohlhaase points to the absolute charm and thematic simplicity of the innovative late silent “People on Sunday.” The sole actor of the bunch, Hanns Zischler, surprisingly chooses the least “acted” movie of all, Alexander Kluge’s cerebral 1966 “Yesterday’s Girl,” while d.p. Michael Ballhaus goes for “The Marriage of Maria Braun” among all the works he shot for the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Not all the interviewees have much new to say about their picks, but copious extracts from the titles under discussion help to pass the time. More problematical is the way the docu rigidly alternates between thematic montages and interviews. A looser, more flexible structure would have better maintained interest over 105 minutes. The montages — about anything from men’s eyes and women’s gazes to Berlin and the GDR — are the emotional highpoints, expertly assembled by editor Tobias Streck and scored by Robert Pabst and Christian Birawsky. Idea of an original score was implemented at a late stage in production but works aces: The rousingly scored opening montage (“What is German cinema?”) could easily stand on its own as a showpiece item. With copious material available in the archives, Althen and Prinzler’s main job was not discovery but selection. Quality of the 251 clips is generally fine, and Althen’s own narration has a friendly, inclusive tone.