Alles Auf Anfang

Like most European film industries, the German one has its problems, so it's good to see a pic that encourages audiences to laugh at the local film scene. "Back to Square One" is a genuinely amusing comedy that should perform merrily at the local wickets with possible international distribution via selected fest exposure.

Like most European film industries, the German one has its problems, so it’s good to see a pic that encourages audiences to laugh at the local film scene. “Back to Square One” is a genuinely amusing comedy that should perform merrily at the local wickets with possible international distribution via selected fest exposure.

Writer/director Reinhard Munster has fun with the cliches of movie making and has a top cast at his disposal. He’s also not at all long-winded and handles the narrative at express speed, winding up the film at a cheerful 85 minutes.

Opening and closing with a Berlin film premiere, “Square One” has elements of “All About Eve” and other showbiz yarns, with its tale of the professional rivalry between two actresses, the interference of producers, the indulgence of directors and the way everyone tends to ignore the writer. Malevolent bankers, able to shut down a production or even a film studio, also figure.

Film being preemed at the outset is “The Tin Cat,” which toplines popular Riki Rote (Katharina Thalbach), wife of director Viktor Rote (Udo Samel). Viktor’s socially inept but talented brother, Richard (Florian Martens), wrote the flick but isn’t even allowed inside for the preem. Nor is Viktor’s starlet mistress, Nina (Theresa Hubchen), an ambitious young woman who latches onto Richard as a way of getting a foot on the fame ladder.

With “Tin Cat” an instant success, producer and studio head Georg Kuballa (Harald Juhnke) gives the greenlight to the next Rote project, and the behind-the-scenes machinations begin in earnest; Georg’s wealthy, and often spurned, wife Lore (Christiane Horbiger) pulls many of the financial strings when she’s not dallying with her young, ambitious chauffeur (Detlev Buck).

With funny dialogue that kept Berliners happy at the screening caught, and often savagely comic situations (the vengeful Riki destroying Viktor’s beloved Jaguar is a highlight), “Square One” delivers the comic goods. It needs lots of help to travel beyond German-lingo territories, however, but the effort may pay off to get this likable, though minor, pic more widely seen.

Production values are excellent.

Alles Auf Anfang

Production: A Von Vietinghoff Filmproduktion, with WDR (Cologne). (International sales: Matropolis Film/Cine Electra, London.) Produced by Joachim von Vietinghoff. Directed, written by Reinhard Munster.

Crew: Camera (color), Axel Block; editor, Tanja Schmidbauer; music, Brynmor Llewellyn Jones; production design, Thomas Schappert; costumes, Rosi Jurat; sound, Andreas Wolki; assistant director, Heike Hempel. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 14, 1994. Running time: 85 MIN.

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