Thursday, May 21, 2015

Devil in a White Dress: "Der Samurai" (2014)



If David Lynch and Bruce La Bruce ever teamed up to make a film...well, for one thing, it would be completely insane. For another thing, it would be this film.

In a small German town, police officer Jakob (Michel Diercks) tries to keep the peace even though no one takes him seriously. He lives with his ailing grandmother, and the crime rate is so low he keeps his gun in his desk back at the police station. He passes the time obsessing about a wolf that is prowling around the local woods, leaving it bags of raw meat and hoping it doesn't strike in the town itself. Someone sends a package to Jakob, requesting he deliver it to its rightful owner. Jakob gets a call telling him where to take the giant parcel, and finds himself in an abandoned house face to face with a scary looking man in a white summer dress (Pit Bukowski, who is made up to look too eerily like Courtney Love in her 'Hole' days). The nameless man opens the package, pulls out a large Japanese sword, and then shit gets really weird.

The titular character runs amok through the small town, awkwardly (to begin with) trashing and vandalizing everything with his new sword. He doesn't wield it like Uma Thurman in the "Kill Bill" films, he wants to do more damage than anything. Jakob follows along, unarmed, trying to stop the mayhem while also dealing with a lot of internal issues like his self-loathing sexuality. Lone wolf (or lonely wolf) subtext is everywhere, and soon the body count rises as Jakob tries to reason with the insane mass murderer, who seems to know Jakob better than Jakob knows himself.

Kleinert has written and directed a surreal vision I would compare favorably with Lynch, as well as "Coyote"'s Trevor Juenger. There is that required sense of unease the minute the film starts, you know things aren't going to go well, and Kleinert cranks the tension up early on. His film frame composition is nothing short of lovely, and his editing is perfect (as evident by the behind the scenes featurette on the DVD). Bukowski is creepy, Robert Blake in "Lost Highway"-creepy, carving out quite the silhouette in his short white dress and stringy blonde hair. Diercks doesn't overplay the small town cop, and he turns in a sympathetic performance. The film is short, so getting to know too much about other supporting characters is difficult but not really necessary. Even Conrad Oleak's music is spot on, with one techno riff that sounds just like John Carpenter. There is a lot of gore here, and one shot of the nude samurai that guarantees an NC-17 rating if this had been presented to the MPAA, but Kleinert doesn't hold anything back, and watching this film is a tense experience.

"Der Samurai" is unexplainable, but it meets the criteria I have accidentally developed for a great film over the years- give me something I haven't seen before. If I have seen it before, do something different, show me some originality even in familiarity. Till Kleinert and his cast do just that. (* * * * *) out of five stars. Watch this movie now!: Der Samurai