Identity is a myth,” we’re told at the end of Barluschke, Thomas Heise’s fascinating, elliptical, and deeply disturbing documentary about a former East German undercover agent forced to shed his alias when the Wall came down and the state he toiled for no longer existed. Nearly 10 years after reunification, identity is still a key issue in German cinema. Christo’s 1995 wrapping of the Reichstag (the focus of the documentary, The Wrapped Reichstag, showing in this
series) shrouded that symbol of the fascist past; its rebirth next year as the new Germany’s political center will be a trickier business.
Dorris Dörrie–whose previous film Nobody Loves Me explored a terrain familiar to readers of Bridget Jones’s Diary–returns with Am I
Beautiful?, a quirky drama about Germans in Munich and Malaga, exorcising the demons of diet, romance, and memory. The assorted eccentric and love-starved characters include an anxious philanderer, an abandoned boyfriend, and a woman who pretends to be deaf-mute in order to avoid conversation. Everyone converges during Holy Week in Seville for self-flagellation and renewal. Dörrie’s extravagant style sometimes strains belief, but her film still strikes to the core of people’s need for each other.
Alfred Lion and Frank Wolff were two German Jews who fled Berlin in the 1930s, effectively ditching their Teutonic identities for new careers as jazz impresarios in America. Blue Note is the story of their legendary label, which produced classic recordings by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, and innumerable others. Archival footage of jam sessions and interviews with jazz greats present a vivid portrait of this golden age of American music, and an astonishing immigrant success story. Behind all blues, one musician notes, is the longing for home.