Something To Do With The Wall (1991/First Run DVD)
C Sound: C Extras: C- Documentary: B-
Jean-Luc Godard made a film called Germany
Year 90 Nine Zero, which among many other things examined the rise and fall
of The Berlin Wall and with Eddie Constantine as Lemmy Caution (the pulp
detective Godard added to his 1965 classic Alphaville,
reviewed elsewhere on this site) asked serious questions about that wall and
how its loss detrimentally erases the crimes that built it to being with. A few years before, Ross McElwee &
Marilyn Levine started work on a film about it too.
Something To Do With The Wall (1991)
was being made about the Wall and how it seemed it would be there forever. They shot a great deal of 16mm film as part
of their trip and when they arrived back home, assuming the wall would stand
for a very long time, had extenuating circumstances that put the editing and
final cut of the film on the back burner.
When it was torn down along with the collapse of communism and The
Soviet Union, they returned and finished this work.
McElwee has been more comical than anything else in his work (Sherman’s March, Bright Leaves) so I hoped he would be more serious and less silly
in approaching the subject matter and he is more than expected… at first. Then, after establishing what is going on at
Checkpoint Charlie (the now-defunct crossing zone between West and East), it
starts to loose focus and decide to center on eccentric characters that take it
away from the real story of the Wall and the serious implications thereof.
of the protesters, eccentric or not, are at least somewhat brave and maybe
unwise, but the fact that it soon fell shows the futility of what was going on
to some extent. The resuming footage has
no choice but to switch back to the actual event and its gravity, but it is not
always enough to save this work as a whole.
However, it is worth seeing for the better moments and may be the best
thing McElwee will ever make.
X 1 image is aged, but only because this is an older analog transfer of the
16mm material. Considering the historic
value, this deserves to be cleaned, restored and retransferred in HD. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono also shows its age
and some of it is from being a generation or so down, while the actual
recording shows the limits of the equipment used and location audio
limits. Extras include text Filmmaker’s
Notes, Filmmaker’s Biography and a piece on more titles from McElwee which we
have already reviewed elsewhere on this site.
- Nicholas Sheffo