Grill Point | Chicago Reader

Grill Point

105 minutes

With a musical running gag that alone is worth the price of admission, Andreas Dresen's funky, likable German feature charts the profound but not completely negative effects of adultery on two lower-middle-class couples, best friends until one husband beds the other's wife. Set in Frankfurt an der Oder—not the affluent capital but a poor east German relation—the story unfolds mostly at the characters' workplaces: Uwe operates the bar and grill of the title, his spouse sells perfume in a department store, her new lover broadcasts radio horoscopes, and the lover's wife mans a tollbooth near the Polish border. Like Mike Leigh's work, the film was largely improvised after much rehearsal, but Dresen heightens the immediacy with grungy, bleached-out digital video and nervously mobile camerawork. The actors hold their own against the camera's intimacy, their up-close visages registering a host of conflicting emotions. The fact that their characters are so unprepared for what's happening gives the improvisations a satisfying edge. Dresen maintains a neat balance between humor and pain, never overreaching into bathos or satire: one scene finds Uwe and wife roaming the greensward of their apartment complex with an empty birdcage, forlornly calling for their children's parakeet, which has flown the coop. In German with subtitles. 105 min.

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