Berlinale 2022 Review: RIMINI, A Seaside Vacation By Ulrich Seidl

Michael Thomas, Tessa Göttlicher, and Hans-Michael Rehberg star in the latest work by the renowned Austrian provocateur, a signature Seidlian tragicomedy.

Contributor; Slovakia (@martykudlac)
Berlinale 2022 Review: RIMINI, A Seaside Vacation By Ulrich Seidl

Austrian provocateur Ulrich Seidl returned to Berlin to unveil his long-awaited follow-up fiction project to the Paradise trilogy.

Rimini is the first part in the planned cinematic diptych, to be followed by Sparta, about two brothers whose past catches up with them. Rimini opens up with scenes in a nursing home, trailing the senile father of the two brothers. The scene and style unfold in unmistakable Seidlian aesthetics, connecting directly to the Paradise trilogy.

Rimini zeroes in on Richie Bravo, who briefly returns home to Austria for their mother's funeral. A short reunion with brother Ewald precedes paying the last respects. Once all the formalities are done, he returns to his primary place of living, the eponymous Italian seaside town. The corny pseudonym refers to his occupation of a schlager singer crooning to Austrian pensioners during the off-season.

Richie is past his prime yet does not want to let go of his career as a lounge singer, nor does he know how to live otherwise. The hulking crooner with a dyed mane tries to make ladies happy, not solely by his singing talent or merchandise but by offering under-the-counter private meetups.

Since the story unfolds in the Seidlian universe, as the custom goes, the viewers are treated to unfiltered sex scenes of a middle-aged gigolo and his aging fanbase. The sex work is more of a necessity to the protagonist's income rather than frivolous entertainment.

The past that caught up with Richie is his neglected daughter, who confronts him regarding his fatherhood responsibilities. While father-daughter frames the central plot, Seidl indulges in the ennui of solitary life that Richie leads, despite his boastful and self-confident persona.

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In a way, Rimini unwinds as a counterpart (and a complementary piece) to Paradise: Love. The loneliness and search for companionship through intimacy are not externalized as explicitly as in the case of a hapless Austrian sex tourist. Seidl tackles the topics without the protagonist accepting the situation or addressing it even in his weaker moments. Rimini is thus another installment in Seidl's ongoing work of human tragicomedy with the auteur's signature miserabilism in full beauty.

Rimini is a fully Seidlian venture; connoisseurs (and the dedicated fanbase) of the Austrian chronicler of human misdeeds know what to expect and will be satisfied aplenty. The foggy days in a seaside resort and its beaches breathes a gloomy melancholic atmosphere, captured in precise and moody compositions by Seidl's verified DoP Wolfgang Thaler. Thaler's compositions and frames govern so much photographic power that a lot of them could be reprinted autonomously in an artbook.

The gritty atmosphere of the sunshine-lacking days is replaced by even more hopeless displays of cheap hotels where Richie Bravo croons to adoring fans. Renate Martin and Andreas Donhauser have been working overtime on the production design, not only guaranteeing the perfect Seidlian milieu rendered through architecture and space -- they have been collaborating on Seidl's films since Dog Days -- but also picking environments where time stood still, yet did not prevent the aging of those crossing through them.

Richie Bravo also thinks that the time stood still in his favor but the opposite is true. The hulking crooner continues to live like a careless bachelor who is not already past its prime.

Rimini is on one hand an almost farcical story of a person whose time has passed, in the words of the director. He is trying to hold on to waning adulation and thus preserve his relevance. The constant boozing, quasi adolescent flirting, and the awkward low-brow version of living a high-life blow into the contour of travesty and even parody.

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Richie Bravo is living a life of bloated delusion and ultimately meets the bitter denouement that his father is openly predicting in an uncharacteristically moralistic gesture for a Seidlian film. The delusion and despair are on par with one of the leading characters, Teresa, from Paradise: Love.

On the other hand, the Austrian provocateur dips lightly into softcore misanthropy and an unflattering depiction of aging. While Rimini does not advance nearby the territory of the civilized horror that is memorable from Import/Export's dementia ward scenes, the film retains a veneer of patheticism towards the elderly vacationers, even though they mostly serve as a tool for a hyperbole ridiculing the protagonist's delusion of grandeur and arrested development.

Nevertheless, Seidl still masterfully blends existential melancholia and rambunctious joie de vivre in the limbo of the depopulated and decaying seaside resort. The signature Seidlian raw verité realism enhances the cringe-value and awkwardness of in flagrante scenes, which can easily swing Rimini from miserabilist drama into a wicked comedy. (After all, the original title of the film was Wicked Games). In this sense, the film harbors a perverse curiosity of witnessing a group of sixtysomething people frolicking like teens in a summer camp brimming with horniness.

Bse Spiele

Director(s)
  • Ulrich Seidl
Writer(s)
  • Veronika Franz
  • Ulrich Seidl
Cast
  • Tessa Göttlicher
  • Inge Maux
  • Claudia Martini
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AustriaBerlinale 2022FranceGermanyHans-Michael RehbergMichael ThomasRiminiTessa GöttlicherUlrich SeidlVeronika FranzInge MauxClaudia MartiniDrama

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