"Lulu and Jimi" pits an African-American carnival worker and a white, well-scrubbed German woman against the violent racism of mid-'50s small-town Deutschland.

Too reminiscent of “Wild at Heart” to qualify as original, and too unpleasantly contrived in any case, “Lulu and Jimi” pits an African-American carnival worker and a white, well-scrubbed German woman against the violent racism of mid-’50s small-town Deutschland. Candy-colored mise-en-scene, retro musical sequences and bizarro supporting characters lend a hint of Baz Luhrmann to the mix, but writer-director Oskar Roehler’s increasingly dark, even grotesque turns owe more to late-’80s David Lynch. Slipshod dubbing of French actress Jennifer Decker’s dialogue into squeaky-sounding English would register as unfortunate if the film — inexplicably tapped to compete Sundance — weren’t already lost in translation.

Lulu (Decker) and Jimi (Ray Fearon) meet cute in a bumper-car attraction, then hit the real road — first for joyriding courtship purposes and then to elude Lulu’s disapproving family members, including garishly costumed mother Gertrud (Katrin Sass) and hired goons. Udo Kier camps it up as Gertrud’s randy chauffeur, but has too little to do while Roehler is busy splashing primary colors, red not least, in the final two reels. Production design fits the bill; chemistry between the leads remains nonexistent.

Lulu and Jimi

Germany

Production

A Beta Cinema presentation of a Sperl + Schott Film and X Filme Creative Pool production, in association with Elzevir Film, EMC Filmproduktion, Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Arte, Arte France Cinema. (International sales: Beta Cinema, Munich.) Produced by Gabriela Sperl, Uwe Schott, Oskar Roehler. Co-producers, Stefan Arndt, Denise Booth, Christian Pape, Marc Rothemund, Denis Carot. Directed, written by Oskar Roehler.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Wedigo von Schultzendorff; editor, Bettina Boehler; music, Martin Todsharow; art director, Eduard Krajewski; costume designer, Esther Walz. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema -- competing), Jan. 23, 2009. English, German dialogue. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Jennifer Decker, Ray Fearon, Katrin Sass, Udo Kier, Rolf Zacher, Ulrich Thomsen, Bastian Pastewka.

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