The Good German (US, 2006)

This is Berlin, Jake

This is Berlin, Jake

Blanchett, Clooney, film noir and Soderbergh: should have been good; but it wasn’t. This is a pastiche of Hollywood noir, obvious from the title credits, and Clooney’s Jake Geismer gets battered as much as his namesake in Chinatown (1974) – also a pastiche. Similarly Berlin just after the end of World War II is a place, like the Chinatown of the film, where anything can happen. Chinatown works, while The Good German fails I think, because the former establishes the characters better; I found it difficult to care for the their fate.

Robin Clifford makes interesting comments: ‘Shot in the filmmaking style and technology of the 1940’s – antique lenses used in the day; noir style backdrops and back projection of the era; black and white photography; and, attention to the precise detail of period props – Soderbergh and company succeed in (almost) perfectly capturing the look and feel of film of that time. While technically well crafted (though I found the color stock used, when changed to black and white, doesn’t have that wonderful graininess that the great noir films of Billy Wilder or William Wyler) “The Good German” rings forced’

Also there are a number of shots that I don’t think would have appeared in classical Hollywood which I found distracting. For example, there’s back projection on both sides of characters in a car, and not just one side and behind; there’s a shot that foregrounds a steering wheel that breaks the composition. Chinatown is a pastiche noir to an extent but reverses the normal visual style by emphasising bright California sunlight.

The other film that lurks in the background is The Third Man (1949), actually shot in Vienna; both are searching for an elusive character that will resolve the mystery. That is a great film.

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