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Lulu and Jimi
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by Slyder

"Do the words “weird” and “off-beat” strike terror in your heart?"
4 stars

Watching Lulu and Jimi is like having a trip on acid, the voyage can be both surreal as well as nightmarish. I left the theater wondering what the hell was it that I just watched and experienced. This quirky comedy-drama-satire from Oskar Roehler playfully plays with its rather serious-minded material, and it results in a rather odd take on a time gone by, where stereotypes and racism were mixed along with the rock n roll sounds which otherwise defined a generation.

Set of course in Germany, teenage rich beauty Lulu (Jennifer Decker) meets black hunk Jimi (Ray Fearon) while playing bumper cars in a nearby amusement park. Their encounter becomes love at first sight, and love at first lust. This newfound relationship doesn’t sit well with anyone in the area, nor with her brother Richard (Simon Boer) and especially her mother Gertrud (Katrin Sass), who sees the “nigger” as an obstacle towards her plan to have her daughter marry upper class fuckerhead Ernst (Bastian Pastewka), who’s father is a big industry man. Lulu is no girl however, and knows that her mother’s intentions are nothing but selfish, not to mention that Gertrude has found a new stick to suck on in her butler Shultz (Udo Kier) after fucking up her happy-go-lucky husband Carli (Rolf Zacher). Lulu immediately gets it on with Jimi, but things immediately go wrong when Jimi immediately becomes the target of bigots, and after Richard tries to force the issue, Jimi kicks his ass to the point of leaving him in a wheelchair. Jimi goes to jail, but Lulu faithfully awaits the love of her life, despite Gertrud’s evil attempts to sway her from Jimi, even if it means psychologically torturing her with the help of resident psychiatrist Dr. Von Oppeln (Hans-Michael Rehberg). But true love won’t be denied, and both Lulu and Jimi will overcome all these obstacles to live happily ever after.

As stated before, this film on the surface is fucking weird. It’s dreamlike quality makes it hard to target its tone since it juggles around like a ping pong bal, going from dramatic, to humorous, to moody, to horrifying, and even phantasmagoric. And Oskar Rohler constructs every single set piece to match its ever-changing moods. Costumes and set designs highlight in bright colors and then mute down during dramatic moments and then fade into darker more obscure colors during the film’s more tense moments (and there are plenty). The storyline itself is weird, as we get to meet several characters that have rather odd traits as if they were pulled straight out of cartoons, complete with extremisms. In fact, almost every key sequence is painted in extreme colors. For example Dr. Von Oppeln looks like it was plucked straight out of a Looney Tunes cartoon spoofing Frankenstein. We also get to meet a rather curious but key character called Harry Hass (Ulrich Thomsen), who apparently was one of the few survivors who escaped the harrowing battle of Stalingrad in WWII. Hass is obviously not a sane person and has a rather peculiar if not creepy (to say the least) way of getting sexually aroused as well as a more sinister agenda than what appears. Lulu as well, in an effort to raise money, goes to a gymnastics trial competition and shows off impressive acrobatics (where the hell did this come from or was implied?), enough to humiliate her competitors, but the jury of course is racist… Apart from Lulu’s slowly tormented life, Jimi is also a damaged soul, having seen his dad shoot his mom and her lover in front of him, but given the hope of life by a curious figure he calls Daddy Cool.

However, in all that weirdness, there seems to be a reason why all the extremism, and that’s because it’s a satire. Every stereotype typical of the late 50’s and early 60’s is amplified and ridiculed to extremes, from white supremacy, to racism, and all the paranoia that is carried along with it, and its points are sealed in big letters for all of us to see. However, such traits are so impenetrable that one can easily be lost in all the kitsch. I can’t tell you the amount of times I found myself going “huh?” to what I was watching. The couple nearly runs over with their car a woman who just killed her “love of her life” and after taking her under their wings to rest, she flees the following morning with the money they had; never does the movie say what her purpose was. My big beef with this movie is the scene where Jimi beats the shit out of Lulu’s brother, Richard. Jimi’s reaction to Richard’s defiance is handled to such ridiculous extremes that left me scoffing, and by film’s end there’s no proper denouement between the two. Such action left me wondering why was that necessary, but then again, this film is about extremes, and some are handled well while others aren’t.

Of the 2 leads, Lulu is probably the most interesting of the two. She is bravely independent while at the same time can be either fragile or incapable of fighting the very forces she’s so defiant against. Jennifer Decker (whom I’ve never heard of before) fits this character perfectly, she’s beautiful and fragile at the same time and has an aura of mystique, as if she knew something that you don’t but is keeping it to herself. She is easily the highlight of the whole film. Ray Fearon does a very striking impression of Jimi, which reminded me a lot of the glory days of Sydney Poitier, to which I believe is where Fearon draws his inspiration. And it was quite nice to see him sing Stand By Me, which serves as a leitmotif for the movie’s central theme. Katrin Sass makes for quite a weird and menacing villain as Lulu’s mother Gertrude. Her neuroticism and pose for some strange reason reminds me of Brain from that Animaniacs show. Glad to see Udo Kier again only this time as the stoic henchman for Gertrude. He’s always an interesting actor to watch.

In the end, this film is quite a trip for sure. Despite some very rough edges, it certainly entertains. This film fires on all things 50s and blows them up to grotesque proportions and surely gets a kick out of it while doing so while underlying it's message of true love. I was completely weirded out by this film yet strangely ended up satisfied by film’s end. Definitely a curiosity to watch if you are able to get pass the at times impenetrable gloss that it contains along its frames. 3.5-5

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originally posted: 01/24/09 13:11:09
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User Comments

12/04/09 Tristán White Second rate "Wild at Heart" - more an homage than a remake. 2 stars
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Directed by
  Oskar Roehler

Written by
  Oskar Roehler

  Jennifer Decker
  Ray Fearon
  Katrin Saß
  Rolf Zacher

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