May 15, 2008


Yella "Set in a German nowheresville of conference centers and anonymous greenery, Yella has been lauded as a stringent portrait of disaffecting 'dog-eat-dog' business, like some late-capitalist Western counterpart to Still Life," writes Nicolas Rapold in the L Magazine. "But Christian Petzold's stripped-down, lucid-dreamt drama is more slippery than that.... Despite some superficial overlap, like the formal attention and Yella's red suit, the film has little to do with the 2003 French office film She's One of Us; Petzold's film is more controlled and embodies a conflicted state of mind and being."

Updated through 5/16.

"Like Laurent Cantet's Time Out and Nicolas Klotz's recent Heartbeat Detector, it's a corporate ghost story in which the undead are scarcely (and scarily) indistinguishable from the living," writes Scott Foundas in the Voice.

"Given the quick decimation of foreign-language arthouse releases, even award-winning ones like Yella, see it lickety-split if you can; its lead performance, in particular, will linger by the time the piece makes it to pixels." A recommendation from Robert Cashill. "Yella is portrayed by Nina Hoss, who won the Silver Bear at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival for her anxious-under-the-surface performance."

"Hoss effectively exudes deep-seated, intense unease but little else, mainly because Yella - far less concerned with character development than with bludgeoning clues to the drama's true nature - isn't truly a film about a woman or the moral health of modern Germany but, first and foremost, one centered around a climactic surprise, and a frail, trivializing one at that," writes Nick Schager in Slant.

"Hoss provides a performance that is as phenomenal as any I have ever encountered," writes Andrew Sarris in the New York Observer. "Yet, she has been appearing and reportedly excelling in German movies, stage plays and television productions since at least 1996, and I have never, ever seen her perform in any medium. This suggests the still uncertain vagaries of foreign film distribution in America."

Earlier: Chris Darke in Film Comment.

Online listening tip. Kulturwoche's interview (in German) with Hoss.

Updates, 5/16: "Christian Petzold's enigmatic thriller Yella offers a surreal X-ray vision of cutthroat capitalism in 21st-century Germany," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "As the movie, which was inspired by the 1962 film Carnival of Souls, becomes increasingly abstract, the geography and the characters acquire a deeper symbolism."

"Yella's subzero rendering of Euro capitalism's cutthroat culture simultaneously critiques its antihuman modernism and keeps the paranoia simmering at Polanski-esque levels (one scene involving a broken wineglass is worthy of Repulsion)," writes David Fear in Time Out. "Tension is brilliantly sustained, especially when Ben reappears, and yet... You know that horrific feeling of suddenly realizing that a narrative is pulling one of the oldest tricks in the book?"

"[T]hough the sociopolitical message in Yella may be a bit obscure, the feelings conjured by the characters and the scenarios are starkly real and universal," writes Martin Tsai in the New York Sun. "Mr Petzold, whose previous three feature films have not yet been released in America, shows himself to be a major talent. With a severe visual style that recalls the works of Michael Haneke, Yella stirs up the intense emotions that boil beneath clinical, placid settings such as meeting rooms, hotels, and country roadsides. The character of Yella and the film itself remain enigmatic throughout, but it's difficult not to get involved in all the twists and turns."

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Posted by dwhudson at May 15, 2008 12:30 AM