ELEMENTARY PARTICLES (Oskar Roehler) Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
While that slightly higher-profile European celebration of celluloid continues over in France, here in T.O. we get the more modest European Union Film Festival, an 18-day series that launches tonight (Thursday, May 24) with a screening of the award-winning German film Elementary Particles.
It's strange that this highly watchable adaptation of Michel Houellebecq's 1998 cause célèbre novel found no theatrical distributor here. (Seville's releasing it on DVD soon.) There's lots of angsty soul-searching, some romance and a soupçon of kinky sex, all of which usually gets the foreign-film-going set salivating.
Plus, the film's cast includes at least one recognizable star (The Bourne Identity's Franka Potente) as well as Martina Gedeck, the doomed theatre actor from the still-running German hit The Lives Of Others.
The plot follows two radically different half-brothers, Michael (Christian Ulmen) and Bruno (Moritz Bleibtreu). Michael's a solitary math genius who's working out a theory about cloning and reproduction, while Bruno's an emotional train wreck whose childhood reads like one of Freud's case studies.
When the two eventually hook up respectively with Potente and Gedeck, their lives become richer and they're forced to confront issues more pressing than their own neuroses.
Director Oskar Roehler gives the film a great look, with lots of rich, saturated colour, and he maintains control of the film's tone, which morphs from social satire to moving melodrama.
But above all, the film's an acting showcase. Potente and Gedeck do a lot with a little (there's a streak of misogyny in the script), and Ulmen's believable as an almost-40-year-old brainy virgin.
It's Bleibtreu you'll remember. The Berlin Fest jury did something right when it awarded his libidinous, lonely and self-lacerating performance the best-actor Silver Berlin Bear last year.
Screens May 24 at the Royal, and May 28 at Goethe-Institut.