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Melodies of Spring

A faux tuner in which characters mime clips from well-known German ditties, "Melodies of Spring" doesn't go the distance on a musical level but has enough charm and wry humor to agreeably pass the time as a relationship comedy.

With:
With: Jan Henrik Stahlberg, Alexandra Neldel, Gode Benedix, Gedeon Burkhard, Jana Pallaske, Guenther Maria Halmer, Veronika Nowag-Jones, Rolf Peter Kahl, Ralph Herforth, Andreja Schneider, Lina Hannah Bierhoff, Adriana Altaras.

A faux tuner in which characters mime clips from well-known German ditties, “Melodies of Spring” doesn’t go the distance on a musical level but has enough charm and wry humor to agreeably pass the time as a relationship comedy. Echt-Berlin ensembler, centered on two 30-something klutzes who just can’t get it together in the romance department, has a real feel for its non-yuppie setting and a simpatico cast. Pic has made no special impression on current release, and the musical in-jokes won’t travel beyond German-speaking territories, but “Melodies” would make a light divertissement in film weeks abroad.

Anna (TV soap star Alexandra Neldel) is a stressed-out teacher who’s at the end of her rope. Thilo (Jan Henrik Stahlberg) is a once-famous actor now working as a phone salesman for a wine company. Thilo, who suffers from memory blackouts, is so out of it he even returns to the apartment of his g.f., Katja (sexy Jana Pallaske), only hours after breaking up with her.

Anna and Thilo meet cute via a couple they separately know, Moritz (Gode Benedix) and Valerie (Inga Busch), but when Thilo suffers another memory blackout, Anna gets annoyed. When her parents (Guenther Maria Halmer, Veronika Nowag-Jones) come to stay, dad realizes what’s up and craftily tries to fix the misunderstanding, but several more speedbumps loom on the pair’s rocky road to true romance.

Central story of Thilo and Anna gets tripped up in the pic’s midsection, as the script fans out to include marital problems between go-getter Valerie and househusband Moritz, plus the duller story of Katja and her new lover (Gedeon Burkhard). Though nicely played, this section tilts the dramatic balance, relegating the two leads to the periphery. Final two reels belatedly restore equilibrium before a warmly inclusive finale.

Use of brief extracts from all kinds of songs, from the ’30s to the modern day (in their original recordings), is initially funny but increasingly distracting; after a while, you want the characters to go into a full-fledged production number, especially as Swiss-born helmer Martin Walz and d.p. Matthias Fleischer (working in widescreen) conjure up a fairy-tale-grungy East Berlin of bars and eateries that often cries out for romantic exploitation. Only the final sequence gives free cinematic play to the six characters’ goofy dreams.

For the record, copious clips include recordings by ’30s stars Zarah Leander, Willi Forst and Curt Bois, rock stars Udo Lindenberg, Rio Reiser, Nena and Marius Westernhagen, pop star Gitte Haenning and cabaret artist Bodo Wartke.

Melodies of Spring

Germany

Production: An X Verleih release of an X Filme Creative Pool, SevenPictures production. (International sales: Beta Cinema, Munich.) Produced by Manuela Stehr. Co-producers, Stefan Gaertner, Alicia Remirez. Directed by Martin Walz. Screenplay, Walz, Lars Hoeppner.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Matthias Fleischer; editor, Simone Klier; music, Emil Viklicky; production designer, Anina Diener; costume designer, Gabriele Binder; sound (Dolby Digital), Detlev Fichtner, Tobias Fleg; assistant director, Roman Brandt; casting, Simone Baer. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (German Cinema), Feb. 9, 2008. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Jan Henrik Stahlberg, Alexandra Neldel, Gode Benedix, Gedeon Burkhard, Jana Pallaske, Guenther Maria Halmer, Veronika Nowag-Jones, Rolf Peter Kahl, Ralph Herforth, Andreja Schneider, Lina Hannah Bierhoff, Adriana Altaras.

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