East Is West: Berlin Goes Planet Hollywood

Achtung Baby

Still a window on Eastern Europe, Berlin included among its several hundred offerings the most popular Russian movie of the past few years, Riflemen of the Voroshilov Regiment—a fascinatingly demagogic, Hollywood-style rape-revenge fantasy in which a venerable World War II hero wreaks Rambotic punishment on the pampered "new Russian" scoundrels who despoiled his virginal granddaughter. A less populist post-Communist character study, Lech Majewski's Wojaczek proved an exceedingly bleak, if laugh-out-loud, comedy about a suicidal young poet of the '60s as he staggers through an empty Warsaw of patriotic placards and entropic "literary" nightclubs.

The all-new Gong show?: Zhang Ziyi in Zhang Yimou's The Road Home
photo: Columbia/Tristar
The all-new Gong show?: Zhang Ziyi in Zhang Yimou's The Road Home

Wojaczek's grainy black-and-white elegance suggested both the new wave Jerzy Skolimowski, who would have been the actual Wojaczek's contemporary, and the early Jim Jarmusch films that Majewski has doubtless seen. Indeed, it turns out that Majewski spent the '80s and much of the '90s in New York, where he cowrote the script for Julian Schnabel's Basquiat—one more example of creeping Amerikanismus to ponder over a Milchkaffee at Billy Wilder's.

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