Friday, October 22, 2010

Run Lola Run (1998)

Lola rennt, Germany, 80 minutes
Director/writer: Tom Tykwer
Photography: Frank Griebe
Music: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, Tom Tykwer
Editor: Mathilde Bonnefoy
Cast: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup, Nina Petri, Joachim Krol, Amin Rohde, Heino Ferch, Suzanne von Borsody, Lars Rudolph, Ludger Pistor

There is something tremendously exciting about the first 30 minutes or so of this one, which only seems to grow the more I see it. Probably it's something as simple as the kinetics of the running and all the physical movement, not to mention the fast cuts and active camera. But director / soundtrack man Tom Tykwer does deploy his frenetics well. "The ball is round," says a middle-aged man in an official's uniform, stepping forward from the chaos of the opening images and murmurings and ominous synthesizer chords. "The game lasts 90 minutes. That's a fact. Everything else is pure theory. Here we go!" That's the kind of brash gesture that makes this audacious meditation on time, death, love, and opportunities lost and found work as well as it does. Instantly we are plunged into a low-level crime caper in which the stakes have grown sky-high just as we arrive and we are off and, yes, literally running with titular Lola (played with neat economy in a great performance by Franka Potente). In fact, even as her first sprint takes place, the film is so impatient to move that it briefly switches to vivid, pulsating animation. Everything here comes in twos and threes, as a kind of three-part mini-Groundhog Day suite unfolds across parallel time streams. It reads like a comic book in many ways, proceeding panel by panel, set piece by set piece, with broad strokes of fulgent mise en scene. Practically every person and every event seen once will be seen again—incidental characters appear very differently as their individualized contexts are constructed and unpacked and played out repeatedly, even as the central 20-minute arc goes through its paces. Yes, true enough, so much of what you've probably read and heard is true. It's an awful lot like a music video, saturated with garish primary colors and a pulsing techno soundtrack. But even there Tykwer is perfectly willing to switch things up on us if so called for, as with the surprising and effective appearance of Dinah Washington in a very nice, quasi-sepia Bonnie & Clyde set piece. Flashy and short as this is—this game actually lasts only 80 minutes—it is also a dense and thorny thicket, with plot points unrolled and re-tweaked and running off toward horizons at a dizzying pace, making it almost too tempting, particularly by the third act, to try to stop it and rationalize it through, figure out the various implications, morals, etc.—heck, even the basic shared reality. The first third stands as the strongest, with its bag of tricks still essentially fresh and new. The second third is a delight for touching base with that again. The third act may be a bit labored and overwrought, furiously trying to connect dots I think don't necessarily need it. But put that down as a tiny complaint. It's just so much fun getting off the launching pad with this.

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