Friday, May 20, 2011

'Bagdad Cafe' Open Thread

   What did you think?


  1. Did you take a wrong turn heading back from the

  2. Looks like it. A German national touring the country with a penchant for cleaning takes up with an isolated dysfunctional band of misfits, is able to empathize with the disparate individuals and becomes the glue that holds them together. It's a pleasant story of second chances and redemption, but I will have to wait to hear what Cathy has to say on this one.

  3. I enjoyed this even more than I remembered -- of course, it was in the theaters when I saw it the first time, so there was a lot I didn't remember. (Like the, er, portrait sessions).

    I'd also forgotten Jasmin's mini-visions, my favorite being the image of her, complete with suit and hat, perched on a ladder, swabbing down the water tower.

    Mostly I remembered what I liked best about it watching it again: a story of how much change one person who decides to care can make in the lives of others.

    CCH Pounder was terrific as a woman who has nothing left but anger to keep her moving, disappointment and frustration having eaten up any positive energy she once had. I love the scene in her office when, having released Jasmin from the demand that she "put it all back just exactly as it was," Brenda scolds her usually indulged daughter for putting her feet on the desk. Jasmin had given her back some pride in her surroundings, and I love her slow smile as she looks around the reclaimed work area. And I loved watching her gradually stop resenting Jasmin's increasing presence in her world, and come to trust, enjoy, and finally love, this strange lonely woman.

    Jack Palance was wonderful as the old roue', the affectations of his Hollywood heydays as well preserved as his wardrobe. Always smooth, always serene -- until that wonderful last scene when Rudi's as nervous as any hopeful young man asking his sweetheart to marry him. I loved it.

    The kids were great -- young Darron Flagg, who played Brenda's son Salomo, for his magnificent music, and Monica Calhoun, as believable as the heedless truant as she was as Jasmin's happy protege´. There's such a sweet moment when Phyllis introduces Jasmin as her "girlfriend." Her mother may be reflexively indulgent, but Phyllis thrives on the actual attention she receives from Jasmin. (I love the moment, later in the movie, when we see both of the kids working studiously in the cafe, a quiet illustration of the effect of comfortable order being established in their lives.)

    Debbie-the-tattoo-artist is a piquant accent note -- as are the truckers she draws (oh, no pun intended) -- but I can't remember that she has any lines until she explains why she's packed up and heading out: "Too much harmony." I got a kick out of an earlier scene when she and Cahuenga are hiding at the edge of the doorway, taking in Brenda blasting Jasmin -- two little kids trying to spy on the grown-ups.


  4. Continued:

    And Marianne Sagebrecht was wonderful. So eloquent with her nods and one-word answers, her body language, her facial expressions -- much more interesting than when she had actual lines. So perfect as the woman who blooms, slowly, late in life; slowly discovers her own joy, and becomes prettier -- and younger -- at every turn. Her passing the time with the magic kit discovered in the husband's suitcase was pure genius, and the fun of the impromptu magic act, first with the regulars, and then with new customers who heard there was something new to do in Greater Bagdad, felt like something that could happen in a neighborhood place anywhere. (Not to put too fine a point on it, the later show with the canes and the tuxes and the Surprise Musicale was not a strength of the film.)

    I really liked the business with the thermos -- almost another character itself -- its mysterious appearance, and its mystifying contents, bemusing Brenda's poor feckless husband, and earning it a position of honor with the cook, eclipsing the actual coffee maker even when that machine is finally restored to the cafe. It made me think of the endless-supply gifts of myths and fairy tales, magical stew pots and bread sacks -- and the Professor's bottle in The Bishop's Wife :)

    For all the quirkiness, and the odd misstep (I don't want to think they did that awful lounge act on purpose), there is so much sweetness in this movie -- mostly from Jasmin. Her great reserves of love pour out whenever she holds the baby, or plays with Phyllis, or encourages Salomo to continue with his music, and love comes back to her from the children. And just as loving is the quiet patience she shows Brenda until that unhappy woman finally unbends and allows for the possibility of support, and comfort, and friendship.

    And even though Jasmin answers Rudi's proposal with a plan to "talk it over" with her dear friend, the light in her eyes and the glow in her smile as she encourages him in his speech leave me quite confident on Rudi's behalf.

    It's a happy thing.

  5. Yes, there was much to like in this show. You know, seeing why it is that you enjoyed it so does me great good, and that's one of the things I like about Movie Club, the opportunity to share things I enjoyed and explain what it meant to me, and the possibility of seeing things through someone else's perspective, the better to appreciate it. It's a lot of fun for me. Thanks for recommending it to us.

  6. Well, I was thinking of a quiet show about a young women growing up, learning to appreciate those things near to her, while showing consideration and restraint for the lives of those dear to her. A Hollywood production of this movie came out at almost the same time, and though it was fine in its own way, it was the A&E version that I found to be so charming. I hope you all we join me, as we enjoy Mark Strong and a young Kate Beckinsale in the A&E production of 'Emma'.

  7. I love this movie!!!! Small, slow movie but wonderful!!!