I’ve agreed to a 12.1 review embargo on The Good German (Warner Bros., 12.15) but this Riskybiz item submitted by the Hollywood Reporter‘s Sheigh Crabtree about director Steven Soderbergh getting a “Bronx cheer” following a DGA New York screening two nights ago (i.e., Saturday) leaves an impression that this 1940s-era black-and-white drama is some kind of marginal embarassment and/or unintended hoot. (Crabtree reports that one guy in the audience went “puhleeze” and that a geezer asked Soderbergh during the q & a if he’d intended “to do a spoof or a parody of The Third Man?”) And it’s not.
I’ve seen German twice in Los Angeles, both times with seasoned industry types, and nobody’s gone into a dismissive neg-head chortle about it. Not in my pres- ence, at least. The reactions have been…well, okay, admittedly muted here and there but always respectful. No one I spoke to was deriding it or grumbling on their way out to the parking lot.
Set in the post-World War II rubble of Berlin, The Good German is a very period- esque, Third Man-ish experience, but it’s not spoofy in the slightest. It’s not Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid and it’s not Young Frankenstein and anything like that. Except for the final scene it’s relatively earnest (as far as a film like this can be) and straight and about itself. It’s partly a tribute piece — a recreation of a military whodunit drama as it might have actually looked and moved if, say, Michael Curtiz had directed it in 1946 — and partly a Phillip Marlowe detetective story in uniform.
That’s all I’m saying for now. I just felt that a defense was necessary.