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Monday, September 26, 2016

'Kamikaze' 89' BD: When 'Brazil' Met 'Dirty Harry'



The Film Movement September 27, 2016 Blu-ray release of the '80stastic 1982 surreal West German drama "Kamikaze' 89" is even more a labor of love than the scads o' other exceptional foreign films that most North Americans would never see but for Movement. A heartfelt Movement Kickstarter campaign is behind the film returning to the big screen in 2016 and then joining the Movement Classics Blu-ray library.

Stylistically, "Kamikaze" is a textbook example of the retro '50s New Wave look of several '80s films. Central renegade cop Jansen wears a a leopard skin suit, the women are heavily made up. a corporate reception area has a rotary dial Superman telephone, there are bright colors galore, etc. Throwing in the weirdness of New German cinema greatly enhances all that.

These garish and bizarre images and the overall surreal nature of "Kamikaze" evoke a strong sense of the 1985 Terry Gilliam film "Brazil." Scruffy Jansen playing by his own rules and driving his superior officer crazy brings the Clint Eastwood "Dirty Harry" movies to mind.

"Kamikaze" is notable as well for the Berlin Inside Story of the film. Jansen portaryor 37 year-old Rainer Werner Fassbinder is a well-known bad boy of New German cinema and is the victim of a "premature death" form a overdose of cocaine and sleeping pills several months after completing "Kamikaze." "Kamikaze" writer/director/Fassbinder collaborator Wolf Gremm documents the involvement of Fassbinder in that project and in a movie that follows in the hour-long film "Rainer Werner Fassbinder" that Movement includes in this two-disc set.

Although "Rainer" focuses on that man, it also provides insights into Gremm that enhance the enjoyment of "Kamikaze." One example is how Gremm likes portraying scenes in elevators.

Movement also provides a bonus disc that has the roughly 90-minute 2015 documentary "Wolf at the Door" in which Gremm shares the story of a three-year bout with bone cancer.

"Kamikaze" opens with narration that explains the dystopian nature of the alleged Utopia of the Germany of the film. An element of this brave new world is a private organization called The Combine exerting a monopoly over all radio and television outlets. A spot-on prediction of the reality television shows that dominate American television in 2016 has a seemingly endless laughing contest be the big hit on German television. This aspect of the film enhances the vibe of the surreal '80s movie "Max Headroom" and the equally odd subsequent "Headroom" television series.

Jansen is called in when The Combine receives a bomb threat; the subsequent investigation brings him into contact with the unusual usual suspects, who include a former star and the nephew of the head of The Combine. He further obtains evidence regarding the existence and purpose of the mysterious 31st floor of the The Combine headquarters building.

Jansen facing an arbitrary deadline regarding this threat to his perfect solve record further contributes to the aforementioned '70s gritty cop drama feel to "Kamikaze." Throwing in beleagured subordinate Anton, whom Fassbinder frienemy/former lover Gunther Kaufmann portrays well, adds a nice touch to this aspect of "Kamikaze."

The scad o' wonderfully cynical touches that Gremm throws in include bizarre reactions to the bomb threats, a stereotypical empty corporate gesture of appreciation being integral to the plot, and the police using "Clockwork Orange" style tactics to get a confession.

An essay by journalist Nick Pinkerton in a booklet that Movement includes in the Blu-ray set nicely ties all of the above together. Pinkerton expands on the observations and inside scoop shared above with additional insight into the players, the German culture at the time, and commentary on the still-present fascism in that country.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Kamikaze" or any other topic discussed above is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,