Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Water Drops On Burning Rocks

Water Drops On Burning Rocks (2000)
Movie rating: 6/10
DVD rating: 7/10
Release Date: October 9, 2001
Running Time: 1 hour 22 minutes
Rating: R
Distributor: Zeitgeist Video
List Price: $29.99
Disc Details
Special Features:  Widescreen letterbox format.
Chapter selection.
Francois Ozon and Rainer Werner Fassbinder bios.
Two "sing along" with "Dance the Samba With Me" scenes in English and German.
English translation of poem spoken by Malik Zidi in one scene.
Theatrical trailers.
Video Format: Widescreen (1.66:1)
Languages: French (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles: English.
Captions: No
Casing: 1-Disc Keep Case

Rainer Werner Fassbinder died at age 36. He left behind nearly 40 films dealing with the troubling human condition. Along with Werner Hertzog and Wim Wenders, Fassbinder led the charge of the New Wave of German cinema in the 70s. Fassbinder, a homosexual and drug addict, led a troubled life which he bravely explored during his short stay on our planet. "Water Drops on Burning Rocks" was a play that the prodigy wrote at age 19. 15 or so years after his death, French director Francois Ozon brought this play to the big-screen. Theatrical in it's presentation, "Water Drops on Burning Rocks" is set in the apartment of Leo (Bernard Giraudeau), a 50 year old salesman who is not the person he seems at first.

There are four characters, Leo, Franz (Malik Zidi) a 20 year old boy who falls under Leo's spell, Anna (Ludivine Sagnier) Franz's sexy, feisty and headstrong girlfriend and Vera (Anna Thompson) a mysterious woman from Leo's past.

The story opens with Leo and Franz entering Leo's apartment. Leo pours a couple of drinks. Franz tells Leo that he doesn't know why he came home with Leo because he had a date that night with Anna, his fiancee. Leo slowly manipulates the conversation to the point that he asks Franz to have sex with him. The experienced 50 year old man is able to corral the naïve young man into bed. Of course, Franz probably had some idea this was going to happen when he came home with Leo in the first place.

Six months later, Leo and Franz are a couple. Leo comes and goes as he is a traveling salesman. Franz writes poems to Leo even though Leo is a bitchy old queen who berates the younger man all the time. One day while Franz is alone in the apartment, there is a knock on the door. Franz, in his underwear, opens the door. There is an older woman at the door. She has a smile on the door thinking Leo is going to answer it. Her visage changes as she sees the young man. There is a sadness in her eyes that hints at darker secrets than we can imagine. She leaves without giving her name.

More time passes. Again, Franz is alone when there is a knock on the door. It is Anna. She has been asked to marry by someone. She wants to see Franz before she says yes. She doesn't want to lose all the hopes and plans they made together in high-school. She doesn't seem bothered by the fact that Franz is living with a man as his wife. She sees Leo only as competition for her man. She convinces Franz to leave with her. The door opens. It is Leo. Vera shows up shortly. Things really get interesting at this point. I've already told you more than I should have, but I have left pout enough that you won't hate me for it.

I saw the trailer for this movie on the DVD for "Aimee and Jaguar." If not for the trailer, I probably wouldn't have ever seen this one. The trailer is a hoot. The four characters are dancing to a German pop/samba song. They dance side by side, and are having a great time. Leo suddenly walks over to the stereo, turns of the album and says, "That's enough, everyone in the bedroom." Anna, wearing only blue bra and panties and Vera jump up and down, screaming with delight like newly crowned prom queens and run toward the bedroom. The trailer was catchy and fun and hooked me. I'm glad I saw it. It is a stagy and ultimately depressing movie. Just as the writer had an ultimately depressing life which ended in an overdose of barbiturates and cocaine.

The acting is good. Bernard Giraudeau as Leo is both powerful and a royal pain in the ass. His final scene makes you want to go back and reexamine the movie for hints of what was to come. Ludivine Sagnier as Anna is fresh and sexy as hell. Her Anna is in over her head when she goes up against Leo. Anna Thompson as Vera has the least to do. She has an excellent scene with Franz at the end which is very revealing. The final shot of the film is a freeze frame of Vera which sums up all that has come before. Malik Zidi as Franz is also quite good.

"Water Drops on Burning Rocks" has won several international film festival awards as best Gay and Lesbian film. It is thought provoking and entertaining. It does show that love, no matter straight or gay can be a real downer

The Disc
A depressing, but interesting movie. Fair picture and sound. So-so but fun extras.

Picture Quality: 7/10
Not a visually exciting film. If you remember the scenes inside Alex's parent's apartment in "A Clockwork Orange" then you'll have a feel for how this entire movie looks. There is one exception which is the "Samba" dance sequence which is hilarious, sexy, exciting and fun. If only the rest of the movie had this look and tone. Flesh tones are excellent (especially Ms. Sagnier's). I noticed a few artifacts. There was some minor loss of delineation between darker colors during the final sequence.

Sound Quality: 8/10
The sound was fine. This is a dialogue driven movie. As I don't speak French, I was reduced to reading subtitles, therefore I really can't say if any dialogue was lost. The "Samba" scene sounded great. The music was clear and brisk.

Menu: 10/10
Cool menu. The menu and the trailer make this seem like an up-beat sex farce, rather than the serious film it turns out to be. The menu is colorful and makes good use of images and music from the film.

Extra Features: 3/10
The "Sing along" features are cool. I love the great "Samba" scene more than the rest of the movie. The bio of Fassbinder is short. Zeitgeist would have done better by him to include a featurette or documentary. Better yet, somebody hire Werner Hertzog to do a documentary about Fassbinder.

The Final Word:
I'm glad I saw the movie. It was far from what I expected. The ultimately depressing and hopeless ending left me with a bad taste. It's not that I don't like films that have doom as their ultimate message, it is just that this film was promoted as something else. It's worth a look. Whether you rent or buy will be a matter of personal taste.

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