SOLO SUNNY (Konrad Wolf, Wolfgang Kohlhaase, 1979)

Ingrid’s stage name of Sunny may be sorely ironic, but Renate Krößner, who plays her, indeed sparkles and shines as the sharp-tongued though vulnerable pop singer whose Berlin apartment is dilapidated and whose gigs, along with a band, play out in unappetizing restaurants and dingy dives. Sunny, who gives her all at the microphone, is rewarded with obliviousness from diners and, when she is finished, a smattering of applause.
     The opening sequence of Solo Sunny, when the band, including Sunny, are introduced seems lifted from Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972); only, it isn’t. As it turns out, this is a subjective passage keyed to Ingrid’s self-makeover as Sunny, as influenced by Liza Minnelli’s performance. Sunny draws upon Minnelli’s Sally Bowles for pluck and defensive or preemptive insolence. Nevertheless, director Konrad Wolf’s use of the camera to reveal Sunny’s point of view extends beyond Sunny’s identification with Minnelli’s cabaret singer in between-world wars Berlin. There’s a marvelous passage of Sunny on a train, one that is implicitly going nowhere, which seems to be her destination, where the color film slips into grays (including steel- and misty grays) and takes a train’s-eye view. Only, it isn’t a train’s-eye view. The inserted shots of Sunny deep in reverie by a window underscores that the bleak, seemingly unstoppable train’s-eye view discloses Sunny’s lonely, pessimistic outlook. It comes as no surprise when Sunny attempts suicide.
     Many reviewers stress East Germany’s bleakness. Really? More so than West Germany, where instead of singing for her supper at however a threadbare level of show biz Ingrid/Sunny would probably have ended up a prostitute or someone even more permanently on the streets? However mean the Stasi may have been, the ordinary municipal police treat Sunny patiently and tolerantly after neighbors of hers complain about her “loud music” and bohemian stream of one-night stands. One is certainly entitled to link this and other elements of Wolf’s portrait to the need to tow a careful line in a repressive state; but let’s not go overboard with our sociopolitical analysis when there are many different elements that contribute to our understanding of Sunny’s place in the world and situation in life.
     Wolfgang Kohlhaase wrote the script and assisted Wolf, who grew up in Russia (his family having fled Hitler), with Berlinspeak.

B(U)Y THE BOOK

MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.

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