Wretchedness, unhappiness and confrontational grotesquerie as soon as once more come collectively in a film by Ulrich Seidl, though it’s leavened by one thing nearly – however not fairly – like odd human compassion. Should you’ve seen Seidl’s different motion pictures you’ll know what to anticipate and also you’ll know to metal your self for horror. Maybe this one doesn’t take Seidl’s inventive profession a lot additional down the street to (or away from) perdition, however it’s managed with unflinching conviction, an amazing compositional sense and an incredible aptitude for locating extraordinary places.
The Italian coastal resort of Rimini in winter is an eerie, melancholy place; Seidl reveals it in freezing mist and precise snow. Refugees huddle on the road and a few teams of German and Austrian vacationers take what have to be bargain-basement bundle holidays at low season charges within the tackiest lodges. It’s right here that Ritchie Bravo, performed by Seidl common Michael Thomas, plies his dismal commerce. He’s an ageing lounge singer with a consuming downside, a cheery, bleary type, an Islamophobic perspective, a bleached-blond hairdo of 80s classic and a spreading paunch. Ritchie makes a residing crooning to his adoring senior-female fanbase, who present up of their coach events to catch his act. (You might evaluate him to Nick Apollo Forte in Woody Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose or Gerard Dépardieu in Xavier Giannoli’s The Singer – besides a lot, rather more horrible.) He additionally tops up his revenue by having intercourse with a number of the followers for cash – really ugly scenes within the starkly unforgiving Seidl type.
However Ritchie has reached a private disaster. He has to go residence to Austria when his mom dies and he’s reunited along with his brother Ewald (Georg Friedrich). His father, Ekkehardt (performed by Hans-Michael Rehberg, who died in 2017 shortly after filming his scenes) suffers from dementia and now doesn’t perceive that his spouse is useless. This lonely, stricken determine is awarded the movie’s last desolate moments. However, most traumatically, again in Rimini, Ritchie is confronted with long-alienated grownup daughter Tessa (Tessa Göttlicher), who angrily calls for cash from him as recompense for the way in which he deserted her and her mom years earlier than. Crucified with guilt, and galvanised by household feeling after the funeral, Ritchie units out to get Tessa her cash – which implies embezzling the money out of his addled dad’s checking account and videoing his intercourse periods along with his vacationer shoppers for blackmail functions.
It doesn’t finish nicely. That hardly wants saying. His reunion with Tessa is to be the instrument of his gruelling punishment: he’s responsible and deserves the whole lot that’s coming to him, besides in Seidl’s world you get the sense that horrible issues would occur to him even when, or particularly if, he didn’t behave badly. There’s torment for everybody, together with the viewers. There’s a form of brilliance in it.