Episode #23: Europa (Zentropa)
Listen to Episode 23 of the Podcast here while you enjoy the show notes.
SUMMARY - Europa tells the story of American Leopold Kessler (played by Jean-Marc Barr) who has moved to Germany in 1945. His uncle has gotten him a job working as a train conductor. Shortly after starting his position, he meets and becomes entangled with Kate, the daughter of the train company’s owner. The train tracks may be straight, but Leo’s course through post World War II Germany is not.
Screenplay by Lars von Trier and Niels Vørsel; Directed by Lars von Trier, and exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival on May 12, 1991.
The movie starts off with a very hypnotic shot that's tough to screen capture. You're looking at off the back of a train at fast moving tracks while Max von Sydow narrates and puts you into a trance.
The whole movie is absolutely gorgeous looking and full of visually compelling shots like this one where our lead is actually reflected in a mirror and supporting characters flank either side.
Also striking is the use of color and rear projection. We're going to show three stills from a sequence to show how they work.
First shot, he's in color in the foreground acting against rear projected black and white. Second image she comes into main frame and they're both color.
Later he leaves frame and comes back in the perfectly times rear projection segment.
There are a lot of shots that superimpose or combine elements in various ways. It used a lot of classical film tactics in striking and intriguing ways.
The downside is that the story being told wasn't as enthralling. Perhaps we're too geocentric, but even though the film touches on a lot of war and especially post-war issues, it's almost too subtle to be captivating.
We discuss a lot about the use of color and what we think it might mean. Why is it used and when. What are your thoughts?
Such a simple technique that can create such incredible scenes.
Awards Talk - At the Cannes film Festival, it did Win a few prizes. Best Artistic Contribution, Jury Prize (tied with Out of LIfe/Hors la Vie), and a Technical Grand Prize. Director Lars von Trier was quite upset he did not win the Palme d'Or that went to Barton Fink.
TRUE CRIME & POP CULTURE
This week we skipped the true crime part and went right into talking about TV shows from that Sunday.
If you want some more details on a couple of the lesser known shows we discussed, here are the IMDB links for:
Get A Life
Top of the Heap
On to music, we did something a little different. Nikki looked at the Billboard charts and pulled the top 5 for the week of May 18, 1991
I Like The Way - Hi-Five
Touch Me - Cathy Dennis
Here We Go - C+C Music Factory
I Touch Myself - The Divinyls
Rhythm of My Heart - Rod Stewart
Some other notable songs we saw on the top 100:
47. Just the Way it Is, Baby - The Rembrandts Before they had Friends, they had this modest hit.
98. Whitney Houston’s Star Spangled Banner
We were surprised to see that this was on the charts, considering it was a live performance, but evidently it was released in some capacity and sold well.
RANKINGS & RATINGS
Nikki 1-5 star scale - 4 out of 5
Jon 0-4 star scale - 3 1/2 out of 4
Would you watch it again? - Even though it was beautiful, there's no rush to go back to this one. There's not as much to figure out as what we encountered in Barton Fink, but the Criterion commentary could be interesting.
If you want to watch Only Yesterday, as of this recording on July 2021, it’s available on HBO Max, Criterion Channel, Kanopy, VHS, DVD. Check your local listings.
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