Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Tired Of Toothless American Comedies? Here Are Some Alternatives From Europe

By Judith Dry | Indiewire April 11, 2014 at 11:57AM

One must look far beyond Hollywood product for comedies that surprise.
0
The German comedy "I Feel Like Disco."
The German comedy "I Feel Like Disco."

Americans used to fear provoking ridicule abroad because of George Bush, now they're afraid because of "Grown Ups 2." To watch the so-called "comedies" Hollywood churns out faster than Stephen Colbert dodged #CancelColbert is to be assaulted by grown men’s fart jokes and fat jokes about Melissa McCarthy.

Even many U.S. indie comedies tout a certain formula of twee ennui: unlikeable attractive people who can’t get jobs find love unexpectedly. Producers want to bet on a sure thing, so we viewers end up with the same thing by the same uninspired tastemakers over and over again. Which is why one must look far beyond Hollywood product for comedies that surprise. Europe is a good start, as proven by the Museum of the Moving Image's ongoing Panorama Europe series, which includes two great examples.

The first is "I Feel Like Disco," a coming of age film that avoids cliché at every turn and should be a breakout hit at festivals this year. Florian is a fat kid with a kind face. He lives somewhere in Germany, probably not Berlin but some sadder city’s outskirts, possibly present day or during the golden age of disco. We meet him crashing his father Hanno's moped — "Can I just have a piano instead?" — its front wheel rolling jauntily out of frame. Sporting an impressive horseshoe mustache and an equally impressive belly, Hanno is a formidable adversary — albeit one who seems ripped from the pages of "The Adventures of Tin Tin." (Think Captain Haddock plus fifty pounds.) Monika, Florian’s mother, gets him. They dance together in fake sideburns and white blazers beneath his bedroom disco ball, hanging where other kids might choose a solar system mobile, singing a song called "Sexual Intercourse."

"I Feel Like Disco" is better than the fantasy of a good comedy; it’s the real thing.

If Monika seems too good to be true, at least for a tragi-comedy about a fat gay kid, she is. After Hanno sits resignedly naked for a haircut, and she vacuums the cut hair off of his already hairy body, she collapses from a stroke and is pronounced brain dead. So vivid and charming in those first twenty minutes, Monika's absence is made all the more poignant. The movie contains echoes of Gina Gionfriddo’s play "After Ashley," in which our young protagonist loses his mother after a long opening scene painting their unique and intimate bond. With Monika in the hospital, Florian moves his disco ball mobile into "her new home," singing and reading to her and sometimes with her, as she rises from her bed and his golden-hued fantasies melt into the brighter reality of the film.

More than a first crush narrative; though this film sports a particularly cute one, the way that "I Feel Like Disco" blurs the lines between fantasy and reality truly make it a moving queer film. In an early scene, when Florian and Monika switch Henno’s sports game to a war movie, Henno is briefly entertained until the two soldiers begin kissing passionately mid-combat. Later, Florian’s first flutters over his acned paramour take the form of visions of the two boys starring in that same film. I could have been watching myself, falling asleep to scenes from "The L Word" on repeat in my head. (Starring me, of course.)

As the scene makes clear, music, fame, and the movies are openings into our fantasies — not merely entertainment, but a way to be someone different. For a lonely gay fat kid like Florian, fantasy is more than escape; it’s a means of survival. And for the lonely gay fat kid in each one of us, "I Feel Like Disco" is better than the fantasy of a good comedy; it’s the real thing.

"Sonja and the Bull."
"Sonja and the Bull."

If you’re up for some bull-fighting and ball jokes after all that disco, stick around for "Sonja and the Bull," a wacky and unusual romantic comedy from Croatia. A box office success back home, "Sonja and the Bull" might be Croatia's "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." After a small bullfighting outfit full of eccentric old men learns of an animal rights activist spearheading a movement against their favorite pastime, one genius, Stipe (his two sons and his father are named Stipe as well), wagers his balls that she cannot come within three meters of his favorite bull, Garanjo. I repeat: Stipe will cut off his balls, or his father (also Stipe) will bite them off, if Sonja the animal rights activist can stand three meters in front of Garanjo.

If it sounds loopy, it is, which is precisely what makes it so funny. So Ante, the man betting against Stipe (pronounced: stee-pay), sends his son, who is named — you guessed it — Ante, to go fetch this young activist from the big city and bring her back to face the bull. Sonja turns out to be rather lovely despite being a vegetarian, though she is also quite stubborn, or, dare I say it, bull-headed. I was happy the translator connected the dots for me when, towards the end of the film, a policeman refers to Sonja with something akin to, "Tame your shrew."

There certainly is a Taming of the Shrew aspect to this romance, and, like that play, "Sonja and the Bull" walks a fine line between satirizing female archetypes and having a little too much fun making jokes at the woman’s expense. It’s kind of funny the first time one old man offers her his sausage, but by the end even little Stipe’s cute marriage proposal unsettlingly casts him as a child misogynist. Which traditions are all these generations of Croatian men fighting to keep alive, the bullfighting or the keeping the men in charge? I'll make a concession, since this film is so lighthearted and fun, and we could all use a little more meat in our diets.

These exciting films are proof that, at least in other parts of the world, the star-studded group bromance has not forever killed the quirky coming of age comedy, and that fat jokes aren’t nearly as touching as a shot of a father and son hugging, belly pressed against belly, their fatness not quite big enough to keep their hearts apart.

"Panorama Europe" continues at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens through Sunday. For more information, go here.

This article is related to: Reviews, I Feel Like Disco, Sonja and the Bull, Museum of the Moving Image, Europe, Comedy, Germany, German, Croatia






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More