This Just In! I’M YOUR MAN trailer starring Dan Stevens

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I’ve been waiting for this film since it premiered at Berlinale back in March. It’s original title is Ich bin dein Mensch, a German sci-fi romantic drama film written and directed by Maria Schrader. The German filmmaker is perhaps known to US audiences from directing the Netflix series Unorthodox (which my bestie raved about but I still need to see).

I’ve got to admit I was intrigued by the fabulous Dan Stevens playing a humanoid robot named Tom… speaking German no less!

Full synopsis:

In order to obtain research funds for her studies, a scientist accepts an offer to participate in an extraordinary experiment: for three weeks, she is to live with a humanoid robot, created to make her happy.

Awwww… I’m already in love with this trailer already. I mean yes, there have been a ton of movies about humans falling for robots, but a sci-fi rom-com on human/droid relationship is still rare. There’s something so charming and funny about the matter-of-fact way Maren Eggert‘s Alma responds to Tom… ‘Oh he’s not a man.’ And that bit when the shrink (or perhaps someone from the lab) confronts her that she’s been treating Tom like a machine is hilarious! Eggert won the Berlinale’s Silver Bear for her performance here.

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Now, can we talk about just how multi-talented Dan Stevens is? My goodness, I had no idea he speaks German, but from a quick read on Wiki, the Brit is apparently fluent in German AND French. He’s not only super easy on the eyes but also proven to be such a versatile actor. He’s also got great comic talent on top of his dramatic chops, he’s such a scene-stealer in EuroVision and the dude has a nice singing voice as well as dance moves. Looks like his comic talents and charismatic presence is put to good use here and I’m glad he continues to do intriguing, off-the-beaten path projects.

Check out this clip where Tom first meet Alma and she starts quizzing him about spiritual, philosophical as well as math and Tom passed in flying colors, natch! At first glance, I’d jump at the chance to live for a few weeks with a robot who looks like Stevens (or my current crush Richard Madden) who’s been designed to be my perfect life partner, but in reality, I probably would be creeped out by a handsome plaything with no soul, ahah. As with any movie about humans + robots, I’m always intrigued by the thought-provoking dialog… after all, there’s always the pressing question about ‘what it means to be human.’

I haven’t seen a good rom-com lately and I often find European rom-coms are better and has more to say than most of what Hollywood churn out.

I’M YOUR MAN will be released in US theaters on September 24. Can’t wait!!


What do you think of the trailer? 

MSPIFF40 Review: Undine (2021)

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I was really drawn to see this because I’ve enjoyed two of Christian Petzold‘s previous work, Phoenix and Transit. The latter actually stars the same German actors: Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski. The underwater fantasy theme reminds me a bit of The Shape of Water, though this one doesn’t exactly involve a literal underwater creature. Apparently the story is loosely based on a German fairytale novella by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué in which Undine, a water spirit, marries a knight named Huldebrand in order to gain a soul. 

The film is set in Berlin where Beer’s character Undine works as a guide for the city’s Urban Development project, which happens to be inside a museum. There’s actually a long scene where she gives historical narration about the city’s past and how it’s actually built on water. Just before that, Undine is in a café with her boyfriend Johannes who tells her he’s leaving her, at which point she tells him nonchalantly that she’d kill him if he does. But on the same day, she runs into a man named Christoph in the same café and the two embarks in a whirlwind romance. 

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Sometimes you watch a movie where you’re absolutely baffled by what’s going on, but it’s captivating enough you’re willing to go on a ride. Undine is such a movie, and up until the end, I still can’t quite figure out what it’s all about. Both leads are charismatic in an otherworldly way, which are such perfect casting for this movie. The scene where an aquarium tank explodes is both bizarre yet romantic. Undine and Christoph lie together on the floor, drenched in a pool of water amidst broken glass and dead fish. There’s a little diver figurine from that said aquarium that she takes with her, which has a mysterious connection to Christoph who works as an underwater welder who fix damaged underwater turbines. A lot of the dream-like fantasy elements happen when Christoph works underwater, such as when encounter a giant catfish nicknamed Big Günther, seeing Undine’s name written in concrete, and at times Undine herself swimming about as a mermaid-like creature.

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The fact that this Berlin fairy tale is set in contemporary times and that the mythical water nymph looks like a typical female human and seemingly function like normal people adds to the decidedly discombobulating experience of this movie. Undine is shown interacting with her co-workers, preparing for work and dealing with relatable life/work issues, etc. but yet there is something that’s obviously ‘off’ about her. For the most part Undine is sweet, playful and even loving, but a scene towards the end certainly shows the darker side of this mysterious being. I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say it seems jarring that a violent act is done in such a nonchalant way.

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Are everything that happens real or are they in someone’s head? Petzold doesn’t exactly provide conclusive answers and that’s by design. There are parts that reminds me of Neil Jordan’s Ondine, which is more brooding and atmospheric, but shares a primary strength in the strong chemistry between the two romantic leads. I think the less concerned I was with trying to ‘get’ the movie, the more I was able to enjoy Undine for what it is. For one, I enjoy watching the almost innocent, playful nature of the romance, such as the goodbye scene on the train station. It’s always lovely to see on-screen couples being absolutely lovestruck in a genuine, non-cheesy way. I think it’s interesting too that Petzold uses music by Johann Sebastian Bach instead of hiring a contemporary composer, which gives that timelessness quality that fits with the central theme of past/present co-existing. While Bach is a Christian who have written plenty of sacred works, this film is devoid of spirituality or even the concept of God as a guiding principle.

In any case, I appreciate this movie but not swept away by it. Still, you could do so much worse than watching a Christian Petzold film with these two wonderful leads. Petzold remains a filmmaker I admire and I look forward to what he’ll tackle next.

3.5/5 Reels


Have you seen UNDINE? I’d love to hear what you think!

Guest Review: TONI ERDMANN (2016)

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Written/Directed By: Maren Ade
Cast: Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek, Michael Wittenborn
Runtime: 2 hr 42 minutes

Parent-child conflict is a universal theme that can be spun into an infinite variety of narrative fabrics and colours. For mothers, it is often treated as an angst-ridden melodrama while for fathers it is usually a comedy. Each relationship mix has its own tropes and conventions but the German-Austrian film Toni Erdman (2016) is far from being a genre film. It is a stream of consciousness comedic study of the father-daughter bond that is quirky, insightful and strangely moving.

It is hard to imagine a more mismatched duo: Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) is the epitome of the irritating reconstructed divorced hippie father. He lives alone, seemingly half a century behind everyone else, and loves his own ‘dad jokes’ and clownish antics. When his beloved dog dies, he wants to re-connect with his corporate consultant daughter Ines (Sandra Huller), but his surprise arrival in her city is inauspicious. She barely acknowledges his presence while continuing to do the things that high-potential upwardly mobile young women do to impress and advance their prospects.

From here forward, Winfried wants to save his daughter from a shallow heartless career where firing people, ruining lives, and being fluent in corporate-babble gains respect and reward. Like fathers around the world, he slips into and out of comedic personas to embarrass offspring into self-recognition. His chief alter-ego is Toni Erdmann, alternatively a life coach, Ambassador, or businessman, depending on who Ines introduces him to. In each role, he is able to prick her conscience into seeing herself as the sterile human she has become. In one scene, he tells her boss of a venture where you can hire a daughter to replace one who has no time for you, and in another, he disarms her by asking “are you even human?”. The longer he stays, the more cracks appear in her constructed persona and a softening light peeps through.

Within this linear plotline, there are several sub-stories that work as standalone comedic vignettes. Most contribute to the narrative, but some will leave viewers wondering what on earth just happened? The emotionless sexual encounter between Ines and a colleague is fertile ground for feminist analysis; the off-key singing of “The Greatest Love of All” by Ines is both poignant and ridiculous; and the naked lunch with a hairy guest monster can only be understood through a Beckett-like absurdist lens. At two hours and forty-two minutes, this film requires faith and patience. The pace is slow and another session in the editing suite would have helped without losing what is good and interesting. Fortunately, the acting performances are excellent, with an almost cameo-like deadpan-realism that is delivered convincingly by its relatively unknown stars.

One of the striking things about this film is how not-like-Hollywood it feels. There is nothing formulaic in the narrative nor are viewers pushed into an emotional corner. It is funny, sincere, definitely original, and too long. By using humour intelligently rather than to exploit the quick gag for a loud laugh, it offers warm insight into the universal father-daughter bond that is as unorthodox as it is endearing.

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cinemuseRichard Alaba, PhD
CineMuse Films
Member, Australian Film Critics Association
Sydney, Australia


Have you seen ‘Toni Erdmann’? Well, what did you think?