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R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 07/01/1999,

See Lola run

And Summer with Spike Lee

Lola's boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtrau), looks like bad news to me: a small-time punk up to his forehead in trouble for mucking up what appears to be a dirty drug deal. His mobster boss is after him for 100,000 marks, which Manni assuredly does not have. Somehow the empty-pocketed one guilt-trips Lola (Franka Potente) and gives her a daunting mission: hey, Fräulein, get me those marks in 20 minutes, or I'm a mark. A dead man.

Instantly, loyal Lola scurries off like Sir Galahad. As the title says, Run Lola Run. And as Lola races the clock to bring Manni his money, contemporary German cinema, so wretchedly slow, so humorless, so audience-unfriendly, is opened up into a hundred-meter dash of an MTV-ish youth movie.

Filmmaker Tom Tykwer: "The story of Run Lola Run is pretty simple: you have 20 minutes to . . . run through the city to rescue your true love." The primal pleasure of this movie: a healthy body in rhythmic motion, arms and legs, breasts and butt, Lola's Raggedy Ann red hair. Actress Potente, not a conventional movie beauty, is attractive because she moves so freely. The pleasure is sensual, not sexual; anyone seeing the film, male or female, child or adult, will enjoy watching Lola bolt through the urban environs.

The other pleasure is the up-to-datedness of the filmmaking: Tykwer's zesty, bubbly techno soundtrack (he co-wrote it); the kicky mix of 35mm, video, animation sequences (a cartoon Lola whirling down a circular stairway), and fast-cut Polaroid sections; Tykwer's super-duper eye for cutting together disparate chunks of Lola racing down the pavement. My favorite visual moment: on the left side of the screen, Manni plotting a mid-day grocery-store robbery; on the right side, Lola running in profile, yelling toward his ear, "Don't do it, Manni!"

Lola's streak to save Manni is told three times in Run Lola Run, with plot variants along the way each time and, therefore, different endings. The first time Lola makes her run it's exhilarating; the second time it's mostly fun because of the story changes. On the third occasion, alas, Run Lola Run chugs and puffs and stumbles. We on the sidelines naturally expect the movie to grow into more than a footrace. To be about something. But as Lola runs and runs for that third time, you get the creepy feeling of having been bamboozled. This isn't what it should be: Rashomon on speed. Run Lola Run, all 1999 surface, turns out to be about nothing at all.

 

Back in May, when the Knicks were Ewing-driven and an impossible-dream eighth seed, Spike Lee's mind was where it should be: concentrated on Summer of Sam. He discussed his new movie at the Cannes Film Festival, where his volatile tale of the June-July-August serial assassin "Son of Sam" had its world premiere.

"Summer of Sam is not really about the Son of Sam but about the summer of 1977. I remember it vividly. The Yankees had just signed Reggie Jackson. I'd finished my sophomore year at college, couldn't find a job, and was just hanging around. I bought a super-8mm film camera and shot everything about New York. I couldn't get into Studio 54, I didn't want to get into Plato's Retreat. That summer was insane, so the movie is not just about Sam Berkowitz, a killer. It's about his effect, plus the blistering heat, on eight million New Yorkers. I want you to feel that madness."

Yes, he'd been asked to make some cuts in Summer of Sam's sex scenes, not the murder scenes. "The MPAA has two different standards, one for violence, one for sex," Lee explained, annoyed. "They were worried about the First Amendment and said, without being specific, 'Could you just tone it down?' We tried to pin them down, saying, 'What scene bothers you?' We took some frames out, here and there.

"Now I like Saving Private Ryan very much, but that movie is graphic, people picking up their arms and things like that. That's not an 'R' but should be an 'X.' Spielberg can do anything he wants."

Peter Keough's review of Summer of Sam

 

And what about his film's being picketed by the families of victims? "When I choose a story, I'm not thinking about will it be controversial. But I knew I'd hear from the parents of the victims, and I understand their objections. Their sons and daughters are off the earth.

"The father of one of the women led a protest of about 10 people when we were having a casting call in the Bronx. It was in the newspapers, but we never heard anything afterward. Also, I met with a potential victim, someone he tried to kill. She said that only in the last couple of years has she been able to sleep again. With a movie, the nightmares would come back. So please don't make the movie.

"But we couldn't do that. The train had left the station. We were spending Disney's money. The boat had left the pier! I feel very deeply for the parents -- but I am an artist. This film is not a glorification of David Berkowitz. This is a story I wanted to tell."