No movie of recent memory has gotten off to a less promising start. Opening scene: A car on a desert pull off, two unprepossessing, middle-aged Germans arguing, the fat woman gets out, opens the trunk, and pulls out her suitcase. The man, furious, tries to pull away but backs into some obstacle and the trunk pops open. Still shouting at the woman, he gets out, slams down the truck, which pops open again, slams, reslams, and skids away onto the highway, leaving the Rubensque German woman behind. She trudges off, dragging her suitcase.
Okay. So far, not loathsome. A little involving. What the hell was the argument about? How could a man be so angry that he'd drive off and leave a middle-aged fat woman in such a desolate place? But this introduction, whatever its narrative features, is almost obliterated by directorial razzle dazzle. The inserts are instantaneous; the camera tilts at crazy angles; the scene is desemanticized because nobody can get hold of anything while the director insists on his camera being the main character. It's very much like those ill-considered cinematic experiments from the 1980s when making a film was a childhood adventure, like throwing stones at a squirrel.
And what next? Cut to a dilapidated gas/station lunch counter on the same disconsolate road; a one-room aluminum trailer, a broken-down porch, and C C H Pounder, the worst emblem of angry black womanhood imaginable. She's dressed in shabby old clothes. There are a couple of her kids hanging around. Most are lifeless. One is practicing the piano but makes too many mistakes and repeats the same irritating passage over and over. Poor Bach. Poor ill-tempered clavier. Jack Palace with his flat face, toothy grin, and hissing voice is no help. He's dressed like a geriatric hippy and claims to be a painter from Hollywood. He hangs in the background, an indistinct vision. Meanwhile Pounder is bustling here and there, almost hysterical, constantly screeching and slamming doors, though no one pays attention. A viewer is exhausted just watching and listening to her.
Enter the Bavarian Brunhilde, sweaty from her hike but carefully dressed in a suit and a ridiculous Bavarian hat with feathers. She trudges to the counter and says, "Coffee" -- or rather "Kaffee." No coffee. The new plastic coffee maker doesn't work; it just makes grinding noise and jiggles about. Juice? No juice? But with the presence of Marianne Sägebrecht, the movie changes. She takes a room in the shabby motel behind the café. The place is a dump -- paint peeling, holes in the wall, the skeleton of the wooden frame showing through the ceiling. But Marianne Sägebrecht is a German and she is industrious. She sets about, cleaning the place up. Done with her room, she attacks Pounder's office, throws out all the garbage, neatens the shelves, and even blows years worth of accumulated sand from the roof. When Pounder sees this, she explodes with rage.
That's about the point at which the movie acquires genuine character and I don't think I'll take the plot farther. You may or may not be able to guess what happens by the end. (Probably you can.) But by this time, despite that regrettable opening scene, I doubt that you'll switch channels. All kinds of spontaneous stuff crops up. Christine Kaufmann shows up as a truck stop hooker and tattoo artist. Palance explains to the matronly Sägebrecht that, well, yes, he was a painter in Hollywood. "I painted sets." Then he paints absolutely awful portraits of the German lady, meanwhile spouting exaltations in Polish.
The tuneful theme song, "Calling You," is available on YouTube.
It's an impressive film -- if you get through the first five minutes or so.