Zöllner is no Boswell, that’s for sure. His prospective subject, Manuel
Kaminski, was no Picasso either, but for a while it looked like he might come
close. Time has since largely forgotten the contemporary of Matisse and
company, but he is ripe for rediscovery. He just needs to die first. Zöllner is
determined to have his definitive biography ready for exactly that moment. To
do so, he must worm his way into the artist’s confidence. It is a rather
ghoulish undertaking, but fortunately Zöllner completely lacks self-awareness.
The art world elite will do their best to humble the impossibly self-centered
twit in Wolfgang Becker’s Me and Kaminski
screens during KINO! 2016, the German Film Festival in New York.
has alienated just about everyone he has ever met, including his long-suffering
live-in girlfriend-meal ticket Elke, but somehow he thinks he can charm
Kaminski and his protective grown daughter Miriam into allowing him exclusive
access. There was a time when Kaminski’s celebrity rivaled that of Warhol.
Frankly, it was not because the masses embraced his work, but because they
found his progressive blindness so compelling. However, Zöllner believes he has
the mother of all scoops to spring on the intelligentsia: Kaminski never went
blind. He just has to prove it.
Kaminski considers Zöllner a potentially useful tool, but she is determined to
tightly control his time with her father. Unfortunately, the pseudo-journalist is
more tenacious and duplicitous than she bargained for. Much to her concern, Zöllner
manages to whisk Kaminski away on an ill-conceived road trip to visit the lost
love of his life. Of course, it will be greatly complicated by Zöllner’s
clumsiness and gross negligence.
on Daniel Kehlmann’s novel, Me and K is
cleverly conceived and often quite witty, but it features one of the most
annoying and utterly loathsome protagonist you will ever find carrying a film.
Everything about Zöllner makes you want to hurt him. In his perversely defiant
performance, Daniel Brühl seems to go out of his way to emphasize his every
cringe-inducing foible and flaw. Granted, it is rather impressive, but in an
exhausting, good will-sapping kind of way.
Christensen’s work is far more predictable as the gruff but sensitive Kaminski.
He is supposed to be an eccentric mystery man, but we pretty much know his
story right from the start. However, there are some terrific supporting turns
that give the film some real color and seasoning. Amira Casar’s Miriam Kaminski
is wonderfully elegant and regally unamused, while the late Jacques Herlin is
delightfully sly as Dominik Silva, Kaminski’s down-on-his-luck former patron.
However, Geraldine Chaplin really delivers the film’s poignant kicker as
Therese, the one that got away.
Throughout the film,
Becker uses John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances” as a recurring motif, but this is
probably a mistake, considering how closely many cineastes associate the
composition with Luca Guadagnino’s infinitely more lush and passionate I Am Love. Becker also displays a distinctive
visual sensibility, but he just cannot compete with the sweep and style of
Guadagnino’s masterwork. Still, he manages to wrap it all up in a satisfyingly
intelligent manner. Recommended despite some reservations (specifically, Brühl’s
clammy performance as the unfathomably abrasive Zöllner), Me and Kaminski screens this afternoon (4/8) and the following
Thursday (4/14) at the Cinema Village, as part of this year’s
KINO! In New York.
Labels: German Cinema, John Adams, KINO '16