Thursday, June 22, 2006

Too Much Harmony

Much like the rusty tin cans that litter the ground around the Bagdad Café, its denizens have been discarded by society. Although they may seem like people who have come to a dead end in their lives, this motley cast of characters is what makes the film so endearing.

A German film known as Out of Rosenheim, it was released in the U.S. as Bagdad Café. The film revolves around the arrival of Jasmin (Marianne Sägebrecht) in Bagdad, a rundown blip on the interstate somewhere near Las Vegas. As Jasmin endears herself to the owner, Brenda (CCH Pounder), they forge an unlikely friendship that ultimately benefits them both.

The film does not rely on action or even too much on a structured plot. The emphasis here is on characters and the relationships they build. These oddballs quickly found a way into my heart. Although they all have quirky identities—harpy, hippy, tattoo artist, piano virtuoso, valley girl—they are all people desperate to make a connection with someone. The quiet shared between them often says so much more than the hackneyed dialog that pollutes many other films. Granted, this is a slow moving movie that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but its moments of gentle humor make it a gem in my book.

In addition to playing with the conventions of story, the filmmakers also experiment with visual styles. Askew camera angles, over-saturated colors, and flashing images are just a few of the tricks that pop up to emphasize important events. These contrast against the straight-forward cinematography used in a majority of the film.

Like I said, if you expect explosions or a plot twisted like a pretzel, this film is probably for you. If you enjoy the simple elegance that can be found in an open, honest face, you may want to give Bagdad Café a visit.

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