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Christian Petzold Transit Review

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Here’s Lookin’ at You, Visa: Petzold Posits New Fascism on Classic WWII Novel Transit | Blu-ray Review

Here’s Lookin’ at You, Visa: Petzold Posits New Fascism on Classic WWII Novel Transit | Blu-ray Review

Christian Petzold, the shining star of Germany’s Berlin School, unveiled his most provocative narrative reclamation yet with 2018’s Transit, adapted from Anna Segher’s 1942 novel Transit Visa, which was set in WWII France during Germany’s invasion. Petzold’s experimental take melds Segher’s text in contemporary climes, which results in a queasy, nightmarish universe where not even advanced technology could potentially stave the rise of Fascism and the confusing hellaciousness of bureaucratic transportation loopholes reserved for the privileged or the tenacious. Franz Rogowski and Paula Beer (both recently cast in Petzold’s next project, Undine, with the latter seeming to have taken the place of Petzold’s usual lead collaborator, Nina Hoss) are involved in ill-fated romance as they attempt to flee Paris. Premiering out of the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival, where Petzold competed for the Golden Bear for the fourth time (and went home emptyhanded), his latest offering doesn’t have the same emotional generosity of Barbara (2012) or Phoenix (2014), but represents a startling change of pace for the director. US Distributor Music Box Films released the film in early March 2019, where it took in a little over eight-hundred-thousand at the box office—in other words, a title which has yet to claim the reception it deserves.

From our review out of the 2018 Berlin Film Festival:

“Although Petzold never clearly defines the parameters, Transit leaves us on edge, especially as the phantom Paula Beer finally makes her way into the dialogue nearly an hour after the film starts. More of an accent than a character, she is the ghost haunting the romantic desires of three men, her relationship with all three left purposefully vague. Both Beer and Rogowski have a haunted, spectral look to them, their supposed intimacy more of a survival mechanism since life as they know is spinning quickly into its death throe. A return to the bleakness of Petzold’s work in the early 2000s, gone is the emotional heartbeat of his previous two films. This is a new, dubious world redefined through another wave of a rising terror which was never completely quelled in the first place.”

Disc Review:

Music Box releases Transit in 2.35 with DTS-HD Master Audio. Picture and sound quality are well-attenuated in this transfer, which includes several extra features.

Making of Transit:
This twenty-three-minute feature is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Transit, a project inspired by Harun Farocki’s love of the source novel, the writer-director who collaborated on several titles with Petzold before his death in 2014.

The Cinema of Transit:
This six-minute segment features an interview with Christian Petzold.

Christian Petzold Q+A:
This twenty-five-minute Q+A with Petzold was moderated by Dennis Lim at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

In Transit – Thrown Into the World:
Ben Gibson moderates this forty-one-minute conversation with Petzold and Barbara Auer, recorded at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival.

The Refugee as a Person:
Franz Rogowski sits for this nine-minute interview discussing his work on the film.

Franz Rogowski – Shooting Star:
This brief three-minute bit is a glance at Rogowsli, listed as one of European Film Promotion’s (EFP) shooting stars in 2018.

Film Review: ★★★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Review: ★★★½/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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