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Sandra Hüller

Review: Toni Erdmann

Movie comedy lacks a wild streak. We get funny films occasionally, and certainly there are performers who can get nutsy in short spurts—as Melissa McCarthy’s instant-classic White House press-briefing sketch on last weekend’s Saturday Night Live proved. But the storytelling in most comedies now is tame and tidy, or merely a framework in which comedians can improvise. It’s so rare that a modern comedy takes off in the style of a His Girl Friday or Some Like It Hot, where the story devices accelerate and the whole thing goes aloft in a dizzying and demented trajectory. Silver Linings Playbook is a notable recent example of that kind of glorious madness.

The German film Toni Erdmann, Oscar-nominated in this year’s Best Foreign Language category, is a true wild one. It doesn’t achieve craziness in the rocketing manner of a Hollywood screwball comedy, but by its own slowly zany method.

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Film Review: ‘Amour Fou’

Christian Friedel and Birte Schnoeink

In November 1811, in accordance with their suicide pact, the great German Romantic writer Heinrich von Kleist shot and killed Henriette Vogel on the shores of the Kleiner Wannsee outside Berlin. Then he shot himself in the head. There are undoubtedly many ways you could tell this story, and some of them would be of the lip-trembling, violins-keening variety. Amour Fou isn’t that. Instead, Austrian director Jessica Hausner has fashioned a formal, feminist, wickedly humorous variation on history.

The movie suggests that Henriette (the placid Birte Schnoeink) is a Napoleonic-era version of a 1950s American housewife.

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