The Good German
Steven Soderbergh said he decided to direct this adaptation of Joseph Kanon’s murder mystery novel set in Berlin at the end of WWII because he wanted to make a movie in the classic film noir style. Soderbergh, who also produced, photographed, and edited The Good German, has certainly achieved that goal with this immaculate recreation of post-war western cinema. Using vintage camera lenses, simulated rear-projections, swipe cuts between scenes and even archive film of post-war Berlin shot by Hollywood veterans Billy Wilder and William Wyler, Soderbergh’s film not only looks but feels like those classics to which it pays homage, specifically Casablanca and The Third Man.
The savvy script by Paul Attanasio (Quiz Show, Donnie Brasco) makes sense of Kanon’s complex plot, which is set against the backdrop of the 1945 Potsdam Peace Conference (during which the Allies carved up the spoils of the war) and revolves around three main characters: guileless US war correspondent Jake Geismer (George Clooney); opportunistic black marketeer Corporal Tully (Tobey Maguire); and opaque German prostitute Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett). Attanasio also manages to seamlessly blend traditional and contemporary storytelling styles, so that the anachronistic use of the kind of explicit language, sex and violence that would have been curtailed in the days of the Hayes Code comes as a genuine shock and yet it doesn’t feel out of place. And finally, the performances are perfectly pitched in the direct-to-camera, non-introspective acting style of the pre-Method acting 1940s. For once, it appears, they do still make ‘em like they used do.