I know what you're about to do. You're planning to read the first paragraph and then the last one to find out what I thought about The Edukators. It's okay --- I understand you're lazy... I mean busy. But I can't accommodate all you movers and shakers this week. As a matter of fact, you could read this entire review and still not decipher whether I liked it. I'm sorry, but there's absolutely no reason you should solve that mystery before I do.
Quietly intense Jan (Daniel Brühl from Goodbye, Lenin!) and deceptively dim Peter (Steip Erceg) are the titular Edukators --- they break in to posh Berlin homes to rearrange the furniture and rattle the affluent out of their complacency with messages such as "Your days of plenty are numbered."
Peter's girl Jule (Julia Jentsch) is also an activist, and when she's not doling out anti-sweatshop flyers, she's working as a waitress in order to pay off a crushing debt. Jule is too broke to go to Barcelona with her pretty boyfriend, and while he's away on vacation, her edukation begins.
Jan decides to clue Jule in to their secret identity, and a series of events lead them to invade the home of Jule's debtor, a wealthy businessman named Hardenburg. Things don't go as planned (do they ever?), so they drag the newly returned Peter into their pickle, which now includes a captive and a lovely mountaintop lair. The prolonged pause at this rustic yet gorgeous hideout lent itself to much dialogue, and that's when the steam began to shoot out of my ears.
Romantic triangle? Of course, silly. Jan, Jule, and Peter are all attractive, intelligent, passionate, and breathing. Sympathetic yet tricky hostage? Check. Hardenburg tries the ol' divide-and-conquer when he isn't smoking the pot with his captors or reminiscing about his formerly long, luxurious locks and commune-dwelling past. But the debates the characters engage in are maddening, as the lawbreaking trio decries Hardenberg's "fucking petty bourgeois ethics" --- such as decency and honesty --- and holds him accountable for the understandable consumerism that followed his hard-earned success.
The ending did not help me deduce whether director Hans Weingartner believed in his well-meaning albeit ineffective little revolutionaries or if he was deriding their naïve ideals and misguided senses of entitlement. Or maybe it's a little of both --- and should a filmmaker be allowed to play both sides like that? This movie is undeniably well executed, if not slightly drawn out, with decent performances (especially Brühl) and great handheld-camera work. But what exactly was I supposed to take away from this besides fury, some disorientation, and a tiny headache right behind my left eye?
I guess the goal of any form of art is to provoke an honest reaction, and The Edukators certainly accomplished that, even if said reaction is "hoppin' mad." But on the off chance you were able to figure out whether I actually enjoyed this flick, would you mind letting me know? I'll be over on the fence.
Perhaps you've seen Jules opine on French fast food during Pulp Fiction and thought to yourself, "This is pretty good, but you know what would make it better? Cartoon bunnies. Really squeaky ones." Or maybe when you watched Jaws you wondered whether sharks would find rabbits more palatable than humans. If so, you should probably meet Jennifer Shiman.
Shiman is a California-based animator who will be at the Dryden to present The Bunny Remakes, a program that features crudely drawn rabbits performing half-minute interpretations of some very famous movies. Her first Bunny Remake, The Exorcist, surfaced in 2003, followed by Titanic, The Shining, and It's a Wonderful Life. Since then Shiman and the 30-Second Bunnies Theatre Troupe have been commissioned by the cable channel Starz to make more Bunny Remakes, including The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Scream, and The Big Chill. They've been multiplying like... well, you know.
The software Macromedia Flash is Shiman's weapon of choice and allows a global audience to enjoy her creations, which start off as drawings on paper before they're scanned into the computer. Douglas McInnes and Shiman provide the voices, and they sound exactly like you might expect a bunny to sound if the bunny were excited, scared, or possessed by aliens or Satan.
Besides the complete bunny series, The Bunny Remakes program will also include some of Shiman's earlier work. The presentation should be of interest to animation aficionados, DIY enthusiasts, and anyone who believes that Titanic should have only been about 30 seconds long. And chock full of bunnies.
The Edukators (R), directed by Hans Weingartner, opens at the Little Theatre on Friday, August 26. | The Bunny Remakes, presented in person by animator Jennifer Shiman, will screen on Friday, August 26, in the George Eastman House's Dryden Theatre, at 8 p.m.