Directed by Christian Petzold, Germany 2014.
Screening from Friday May 15th till Thursday May 21st, every evening.
A Leeds Movie Fans Meetup is happening at the 6pm screening on Monday 18th
Friends will probably be familiar with the director Christian Petzold and star Nina Hoss from their excellent earlier films Yella (2008) and Barbara (2012). Phoenix offers the same absorbing and entertaining play on a familiar genre, the world of noir, here set in post-war Berlin. The Guardian review was rather lukewarm including the suggestion that the plot was implausible. This misses the point of Petzold’s films: they appear naturalistic but they are not primarily realist. Thus, Yella is a ghost story: Barbara is set in East Germany, but it is the DDR from film dramas.
Shortly after the end of the war and the liberation of the concentration camps Nelly returns to Berlin to seek out her previous life and her friends and family. Nina Hoss plays Nelly with real verve and is ably supported by Ronald Zehrfeld (also in Barbara) as Johnny and Nina Kuzendorf as Lena.
The Phoenix in the title is a night-club for troops of the allied occupation. One of the pleasures of the film is its use of the ‘lieder’ from Berlin’s popular musical culture. There is a particular skilful play with songs by Kurt Weill.
The film builds to a gripping and likely unexpected climax. Endings are often a let-down in many contemporary films: Phoenix and its cast deliver with superb aplomb.