Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sophie Rois, Sebastian Schipper, Devid Striesow, Annedore Kleist, Angela Winkler, Alexander Hörbe, Winnie Böwe, Hans-Uwe Bauer
Written by: Tom Tykwer
Directed by: Tom Tykwer
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: German, with English subtitles
Running Time: 120
Date: 08/12/2011

3 (2011)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Comfort in Crowds

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Whenever a director makes something as awesome as Run Lola Run (1999), I will keep checking back on his career in the hopes that it was not a fluke. And when I saw Tom Tykwer's Winter Sleepers in 2000 -- which was made in 1997 and released after the success of Lola -- I became convinced that he was the genuine article. But since then, there has been little to get me excited.

The Princess and the Warrior (2001) was long and shambling, as opposed to the quick, fleet-footed Lola. Heaven (2002) was passably interesting, mainly because of the seeming mismatch between Tykwer and the screenplay by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Krzysztof Kieslowski. Perfume (2006) seemed like an oddly passive approach to a beloved cult novel. The International (2009) was a big Hollywood thriller that's just about right for late-night cable or an in-flight movie.

The best I can say about Tykwer's new 3 is that it comes the closest of any of his films in the past 10 years to showing a little energy, a little life. But unfortunately, it's a bit overstuffed, and far too long for its simple theme.

Sebastian Schipper -- who some will remember as the guy on the bike in Run Lola Run -- stars as Simon, and Sophie Rois is his significant other Hanna. A delirious, multi-screen montage opens the movie, depicting their lives both apart and together, and showing how their 20-year unmarried relationship has stagnated.

Hanna meets the handsome Adam (Devid Striesow) and becomes instantly smitten; she allows herself to be carried away by an affair. In fact, she's with Adam when her husband must have emergency surgery, removing one of his testicles to prevent the spread of cancer. (It's symbolism, you see.)

Not long after, Simon also meets Adam while swimming. The bisexual Simon flirts with him, and he's surprised when he finds himself turned on and responding. Oddly, the affair seems to reinvigorate both Simon and Hanna and they become closer, even deciding to marry! Finally comes the expected "Three's Company" moment when everyone discovers what's going on, and Tykwer handles this scene very well. From there, I suppose you can guess the rest.

For some reason this little drama is allowed to drag on for 120 long minutes, including not one but two uncomfortable subplots about cancer. Even with all this time to spend, Tykwer still relies on little montages to illustrate the passing of time; true, he comes up with a new idea for them, using multi-panels, but still it's a montage.

This time could have been used to deepen the characters, and perhaps find a more emotional reason for their three-way connection, but instead Tykwer seems happy enough with his symbols and montages and gruesome hospital scenes.

3 isn't an all-out bad movie; there's a good movie hiding somewhere within, and like I said before, it does have more energy than Tykwer has bothered to expend in some time. But we know that this filmmaker was once capable of great things, and great themes delivered interestingly. And 3 just isn't up to his best.

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