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With: Moritz Bleibtreu, Christiane Paul, Mehmet Kurtulus, Idil Uner
Written by: Fatih Akin
Directed by: Fatih Akin
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: German, Turkish with English subtitles
Running Time: 99
Date: 08/24/2000

In July (2000)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Force of 'July'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

How many cliches can a movie get away with? A good question, and if the new German film In July is any indication, it can get away with any number -- provided it's done in good spirits.

In July plays like an overseas version of Serendipity, the story of a man who must travel a long, hard road before he finds the woman he's meant to be with. Virtually every step of this journey has been covered in other movies already, but with the considerable charm of Moritz Bleibtreu (Lola's boyfriend Manni in Run Lola Run) to help, we go along willingly once again, like riding our favorite roller coaster.

The story begins not at the beginning, but with a slam-bang scene from the middle, a screenwriter's trick invented years ago to plunk us right into the film without having to introduce characters or set up any situations. But this time it works.

A dirty, rumpled Daniel Bannier (Bleibtreu) surprises a motorist (Mehmet Kurtulus) who has pulled over during a total solar eclipse in the desert -- and takes the opportunity to spray some air freshener on the dead body in his trunk. Daniel manages to hitch a ride with the distraught driver and tells him his story.

Days earlier, Daniel was a shy, uptight schoolteacher who planned to stay in his hometown of Hamburg during his summer vacation. That all changes when an adorable dreadlocked street vendor named July (Christiane Paul) sells him a sun ring. She promises that someone else wearing a sun will enter his life and that that person will be his soulmate. And, unbeknownst to Daniel, July plans to be that person.

Unfortunately, Daniel first meets up with Melek (Idil Uner), a beautiful Turkish woman on vacation in Germany, who happens to be wearing a dress with a sun on it. They spend a beautiful night together, and she leaves, telling Daniel that she plans to meet someone under a bridge in Istanbul the following Friday at noon.

Daniel suddenly decides to go to Istanbul to meet here there, but not before picking up a hitchhiker -- who turns out to be none other than July.

During their trip, Daniel learns to loosen up by learning to smoking pot and losing his glasses, which apparently do not affect his vision one way or the other. He must also learn that his true love is not Melek after all, but July. (Everyone in the film as well as in the audience understands this but Daniel.)

The film offers even more twists that feel cloned but somehow perfectly natural, including a segment involving another attractive girl, the gypsyish Luna (Branka Katic, from Black Cat, White Cat), who tries to drug him and steal his ring.

Directed by Fatih Akin (who also plays a Romanian border guard), In July gets a lot of mileage out of the lazy summer days and the call of the open road that Y Tu Mama Tambien and even Crossroads used so well. It has a jovial, carefree pace and never celebrates its own cleverness.

Credit should go to Bleibtreu as well, going through the Cary Grant romantic comedy motions -- but making them his own with his handsome, unassuming face and his pitch-perfect physicality.

Indeed, I was so relaxed and happy while watching In July that I almost felt like I was on vacation myself. If you need to get away and all you have is nine bucks and two hours, now you know where to go.

DVD Details: Happily, In July works just as well on home video, and it's arriving at the beginning of Summer. Hopefully viewers will discover it and get a good start to their vacations this year. The DVD comes with the original German trailer and cast/crew interviews.

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