The Movie Waffler New to Curzon Home Cinema - RIMINI | The Movie Waffler

New to Curzon Home Cinema - RIMINI

New to Curzon Home Cinema - RIMINI
A washed-up singer is reunited with his estranged daughter.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ulrich Seidl

Starring: Michael Thomas, Tessa Göttlicher, Hans-Michael Rehberg, Inge Maux, Claudia Martini, Georg Friedrich

rimini poster

Much like his compatriot Michael Haneke, Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl isn't exactly known for his chirpiness. His films generally present a cynical worldview, with Seidl treating his protagonists with contempt at best, cruelty at worst. His latest, Rimini, features a contemptuous protagonist, but while the movie revels in their downfall it also manages to generate a lot of laughs.

rimini review

The film's title suggests sunshine and crowded beaches, but of course this is an Ulrich Seidl film and so we find the Italian resort town in the bleakness of off-season winter. Tourists are few and far between, African migrants sleep in doorways and on the empty beaches, and a constant fog shrouds the town. Seidl uses off-season Rimini here in the same manner as Harry Kumel exploited the bleakness of wintry Ostend in his vampire classic Daughters of Darkness.

Rimini's anti-hero, Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas), a tacky fifty-something crooner in the Germanic schlager tradition, is something of a vampire himself, sleeping all day and emerging as darkness falls to ply his trade. This involves singing for coach-loads of elderly Austrian and German tourists, most of whom are adoring fans familiar with Richie from earlier days of more starry success. The meagre fees the empty hotels pay him for his services aren't enough to fuel his drinking habits so Richie doubles as a gigolo, giving his aging female fans the full Richie Bravo experience, presented in Seidl's typically unflinching style.

rimini review

It's probably not the life Richie would have envisioned for himself, but he's settled into a comfortable rhythm. His contentedness is disrupted by the arrival of his twenty-something daughter Tessa (Tessa Gottlicher), whom he walked out on as a child. Accompanied by a van-load of young Arab men, Tessa sets about extorting money from her estranged father, which she views as a form of reparations for his absence all these years. Struck by either guilt or genuine affection, or both, Richie sets about gathering the sum of €30,000 they've agreed upon as suitable recompense. This involves attempting to access his senile father's bank account and blackmailing his male fans with footage of him shagging their wives.

Thomas's Richie recalls two earlier movie characters. With his line in crooning and his considerable paunch, Richie bears similarities to the figure played by Gerard Depardieu in Xavier Giannoli's When I Was a Singer, but more so he may remind you of the protagonist of Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler. Along with Thomas's resemblance to latter day Mickey Rourke, Richie finds himself in a similar position to the aging grappler of Aronofsky's film. The glimpses of Richie preparing himself backstage for his shows might be confused with those of a fighter about to enter the ring, as he checks his mullet and tries to wrap his stomach in constraining girdles. Like Aronofsky, Seidl focuses heavily on the deteriorating physical condition of his anti-hero. Richie's spangly performances stand in stark contrast to the explicit footage we're presented of him "pleasuring" his female fans, his stomach spilling out across their prone backs, when he can rise to the occasion (it's heavily suggested both of Richie's "talents" are in the wane). And of course, both films feature an estranged daughter, but where there was a sweetness to this dynamic in The Wrestler, here it's more a case of two people exploiting one another. This is an Ulrich Seidl movie after all.

rimini review

And knowing who is behind Rimini makes its comedy all the more surprising. There's a lot of grimness in Rimini, but it's mostly a case of punching up, as Seidl mocks middle-class Europeans and their milquetoast taste in entertainment. There are several digs at the thinly concealed prejudice that permeates in a part of the world that prides itself on its liberalism, with one hilarious sequence that sees Richie forced to croon at the top of his lungs to drown out an old Nazi song his father starts belting out during a nursing home visit. Tragedy and comedy are interwoven in moments like a "client" of Richie interrupting their rutting session to tend to her invalid mother in the next room. Seidl claims he was inspired to make the movie when Thomas began singing a Sinatra song at a wrap party for an earlier film. You'll be glad he did, as Thomas has found what will likely prove his signature character, and Richie, along with his awful yet strangely catchy tunes, is a figure that will linger in the viewer's mind for longer than you'd probably like. Amore Miiiiiiiioooooooooo……….

 is on Curzon Home Cinema now.