Good News | Chicago Reader

Good News

Near the end of this 1990 documentary about Pakistani immigrants selling newspapers in Vienna, Ulrich Seidl has the camera rotate 360 degrees inside a subway station, passing a street vendor in a turban. That's the sort of capricious stunt that got him in trouble with the Austrian commission funding the film; it was rescued from obscurity by director Werner Herzog, who promoted it to an international audience. Seidl's flouting of documentary conventions, more pronounced in later films, is relatively formal here: he follows the vendors on their rounds, posing them and their patrons to create real-time portraits. The loose narrative centers on the tight-lipped Austrians who supervise delivery of the Krone and Kurier; brusque and weary, they train Pakistani vendors (walking them around in circles like dogs), hector them about their work habits, and drive around at night busting them for infractions. But Seidl also drifts into the lives of the vendors and their patrons, introducing a veterinarian who puts down a dog, home owners mowing their lawns, and an old woman at a geriatric home who reads a news story about videotapes for lonely pets. In German with subtitles. 125 min.

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