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Life Is Too Long

No stranger to Woody Allen comparisons, Dani Levy offers up his own "Stardust Memories" in "Life Is Too Long," a farcical fantasia about (what else?) a Jewish-German filmmaker grappling with midlife crisis and industry resistance to his politically edgy comic concepts.

Cast:
With: Markus Hering, Meret Becker, Veronica Ferres, Hannah Levy, Hans Hollmann, Yvonne Catterfeld, David Schlichter, Justus von Dohnanyi, Gottfried John, Heino Ferch, Elke Sommer, Udo Kier.

No stranger to Woody Allen comparisons, Dani Levy offers up his own “Stardust Memories” in “Life Is Too Long,” a farcical fantasia about (what else?) a Jewish-German filmmaker grappling with midlife crisis and industry resistance to his politically edgy comic concepts. Shamelessly self-referential pic is a lively enough diversion, even if neither satirical nor surreal elements are inspired enough to really take off. Already released in German-speaking Europe last year, this slickly produced exercise should score limited sales farther afield, but won’t do much to expand the writer-helmer’s fanbase.

Levy’s doppelganger here is Alfi Seliger (Markus Hering) — an obvious nod to “Annie Hall’s Alvy Singer — who 15 years earlier created “Blue Miracle,” a romantic comedy everyone loved. Unfortunately, that’s still the only film folks associate with Alfi, since all his subsequent proposals have seemed designed to be as off-putting as possible.

The latest he’s peddling is “Muha-ha-med,” which makes fun of the controversy that erupted over Danish caricatures of the Islamic prophet in 2005. Already fed up, his wife (Meret Becker) is unamused he’d pursue a project that might bring down “a fatwa on our children.”

Nor are executives any more enthused. Reluctantly attending an industry party to try scaring up a deal, he’s at first cold-shouldered — until he attracts the attention of the producer host’s Russian trophy wife (Veronica Ferres), who champions the script to her husband (Hans Hollmann), coveting the lead female role she’s totally wrong for.

News that Alfi is a hot item again spreads like wildfire, but it isn’t long before his life is in shambles. Helena announces she’s been cheating for two years and wants a divorce; their two offspring (David Schlichter, Hannah Levy) are brats with a particular lack of respect for Dad; his bank goes under, wiping out his savings; his shrink (Udo Kier) practices tough love to a distressing degree; his doctor has bad news; his diva mother (Elke Sommer) tries making up for childhood neglect by constantly pestering Alfi now.

Protag’s fortunes continue to spiral downward until he’s attempting suicide (failing, natch) and breaking the fourth wall to argue onscreen with his abusive creator, Levy himself. Yet despite a hallucination setpiece, much in-joke casting, and scattered genuine laughs, “Life Is Too Long” too often strains for comic insanity rather than achieving it. Stylistically and in terms of material, the pic just doesn’t have the panache to pull off its attempted self-mocking lunacy. The hectic, colorful results feel more derivative than distinctive, however personal the content may be to Levy.

Perfs are certainly game enough, packaging thoroughly pro.

Life Is Too Long

Germany

Production: An X Verleith presentation of an X Filme Creative Pool and Warner Bros. Film Prods. Germany production. Produced by Manuela Stehr. Executive producer, Ulli Neumann. Directed, written by Dani Levy.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Carl-Friedrich Koschnick; editor, Elena Bromund; music, Niki Reiser; production designer, Christian Eisele; costume designer, Lucie Bates; sound (Dolby Digital), Patrick Storck; sound design/re-recording mixer, Hubert Bartholomae; assistant director, Amdt Wiegering; casting, Simone Bar. Reviewed at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, July 25, 2011. Running time: 86 MIN.

With: With: Markus Hering, Meret Becker, Veronica Ferres, Hannah Levy, Hans Hollmann, Yvonne Catterfeld, David Schlichter, Justus von Dohnanyi, Gottfried John, Heino Ferch, Elke Sommer, Udo Kier.

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