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Bagdad Café
cast: Jack Palance, Marlanne Sägebrecht, C.C.H. Pounder, Christine Kaufmann, and Monica Calhoun

director: Percy Adlon

91 minutes (12) 1988
widescreen ratio 16:9
Arrow VHS retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Rob Marshall
Quietly hilarious romantic comedy drama about the motley folks at an American truck stop and shabby motel, maintained in a rundown state by irritable Brenda (C.C.H. Pounder), and eventually transformed beyond recognition by the arrival of stout German tourist Jasmin Munchgstettner (Marlanne Sägebrecht).
   There are several absurdly offbeat yet wholly likeable characters, lots of wildly tilted camera angles, barely audible dialogue and important events happening off screen. Bagdad Café (aka: Out Of Rosenheim) avoids plot clichés by simply not having much of a story. It fails to hold viewer attention, at times - much like real life - but is mostly entertaining throughout, often when a rollicking blast of pure entertainment is least expected. The coffee machine becomes a symbolic focus of social interaction at the roadside diner, and leads everyone into a sort of laidback David Lynch styled daydream.
   By that, I mean that this film lacks Lynch's emotional intensity or paranoid mindset, but it adopts certain quirky elements of the cult director's imaginative sensibility. Stage a magical cabaret show? Yeah, we can do that for visitors to the caf´┐Ż of the title. Have the chalk 'n' cheese central characters form a sisterly bond? No sooner said than done, mate. Cast screen tough guy Jack Palance as a rather camp, former Hollywood set decorator and frustrated artist, childishly eager to paint that odd foreign woman's portrait? Oh, sure, anything is possible in this off kilter world...
   How much you enjoy Bagdad Café will depend on your tolerance for its coterie of eccentric characters. Their motives remain obscure, and what they do is always more important and amusing than what they say. This is a strange little movie of vague intentions that's actually made to be uncertain of its own values in the big scheme of things. But that's okay. That's cool - because it's about the uncertainty of modern life, anyway. Life affirming and sourly depressing at the same time, it meanders along towards an ending without conclusion. Even its title, associating the exotic with the mundane, is a snide thumbing-of-the-nose to film marketing departments.
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