Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: This Ain't California

Prize-winning documentary paints an affecting tale of young GDR rebels on wheels, but is marred by a busy, self-conscious aesthetic approach.

April 11, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1375408-This_Aint_Calif_Md.jpg
Who knew that skateboarding was such a big deal in the German Democratic Republic before the fall of the Wall? Martin Perciel’s documentary This Ain’t California explores this phenomenon, centering around a star shredder, Denis “Panik” Paracek, who led a ragtag band of East German skateboarders. This mythic figure began life as a talented boy swimmer whose fanatically aggressive father trained him relentlessly with Olympic ambitions. Denis, however, had other, far more individualistic notions and gave up swimming, left home and pioneered in Germany the sport for which he became renowned. Today, some 30 years later, the original skateboarders have a reunion in which they fondly recall the halcyon days of their youth, when their flamboyant antics briefly lit up the drably repressive Iron Curtain which enclosed them.

Perciel uses a number of devices—including animation—to flesh out his story and put it into context, some more successful than others. He’s fond of flashy-fast, panoramic montages of historical film clips (Bill Clinton, Princess Diana, 9/11, the fall of the Wall, war in the Middle East, etc.) which can be both numbing and distracting from the simple account of the past he is trying to put forth. Some controversy was aroused on the festival circuit when he admitted to mixing actual doc footage of the skaters with recreations that include Paracek being played by German model Kai Hillebrandt.

Despite the busy, fancy-schmancy mise-en-scène, the film manages to be an affecting, elegiac evocation of a feckless time now gone forever. German reunification—as well as maturity—effectively changed things forever. Most of the skateboarders wound up getting married and holding down regular jobs. As for Paracek, how he came to enlist in the army and eventually lose his life in Afghanistan adds yet more mournful thrust to the story.


Film Review: This Ain't California

Prize-winning documentary paints an affecting tale of young GDR rebels on wheels, but is marred by a busy, self-conscious aesthetic approach.

April 11, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1375408-This_Aint_Calif_Md.jpg

Who knew that skateboarding was such a big deal in the German Democratic Republic before the fall of the Wall? Martin Perciel’s documentary This Ain’t California explores this phenomenon, centering around a star shredder, Denis “Panik” Paracek, who led a ragtag band of East German skateboarders. This mythic figure began life as a talented boy swimmer whose fanatically aggressive father trained him relentlessly with Olympic ambitions. Denis, however, had other, far more individualistic notions and gave up swimming, left home and pioneered in Germany the sport for which he became renowned. Today, some 30 years later, the original skateboarders have a reunion in which they fondly recall the halcyon days of their youth, when their flamboyant antics briefly lit up the drably repressive Iron Curtain which enclosed them.

Perciel uses a number of devices—including animation—to flesh out his story and put it into context, some more successful than others. He’s fond of flashy-fast, panoramic montages of historical film clips (Bill Clinton, Princess Diana, 9/11, the fall of the Wall, war in the Middle East, etc.) which can be both numbing and distracting from the simple account of the past he is trying to put forth. Some controversy was aroused on the festival circuit when he admitted to mixing actual doc footage of the skaters with recreations that include Paracek being played by German model Kai Hillebrandt.

Despite the busy, fancy-schmancy mise-en-scène, the film manages to be an affecting, elegiac evocation of a feckless time now gone forever. German reunification—as well as maturity—effectively changed things forever. Most of the skateboarders wound up getting married and holding down regular jobs. As for Paracek, how he came to enlist in the army and eventually lose his life in Afghanistan adds yet more mournful thrust to the story.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

The Congress
Film Review: The Congress

Part live-action, part cornea-searing animation, this cinematic overload is ambitious but ultimately fatigues as it plays with the intriguing notion of a fading Hollywood star selling rights so her cyberspace avatar can rise to superstardom and stay forever young in virtual reality. Flashy animation and cynical stabs at celebrity culture and movie-studio finagling keep things lively for a while. More »

The Last of Robin Hood
Film Review: The Last of Robin Hood

Serviceable vehicle for a salacious story. More »

Last Weekend
Film Review: Last Weekend

A sort of modern Chekhovian study of family tensions over a country weekend, this indie drama is very pretty to look at and at times disarming, but needed more punch. More »

The Notebook
Film Review: The Notebook

An aloof adaptation of Agota Kristof's best-seller that's technically impressive but precludes audience identification. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, the belated Sin City sequel is more of a repeat, rather than a continuation, of the original. More »

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here