Each month (starting this month), I'm going to select one movie from the backlogs that I don't feel ever received its due credit, and I'm going to call it the Underrated Movie of the Month (MOTM). Feel free to comment if you've seen them and have anything to share; these won't necessarily be classics or even considered good by most people, but I remember them fondly. Also, I probably won't have actually seen the movies since they were in theaters, so I'm mostly going on memory and a little research to remember why I thought they were so good.
The first Underrated MOTM is Der Krieger und die Kaiserin (known as The Princess and the Warrior in the U.S.), starring Franka Potente and Benno Fuermann, and directed by Tom Tykwer. It came out in the summer of 2001 and was quickly forgotten, mostly because people expected it to be another Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run), which came out in 1998 and made stars of both Potente and Tykwer (who were actually dating for years until they broke up in 2002 - I always find it strange how these film industry relationships work). When it was realized that Princess was in fact not Run Lola Run 2, it was immediately dismissed as plodding, slow, dragging, too long, boring, etc.
Do you remember Run Lola Run? It's like a Nike commercial/music video on crack set to a Prodigy song on repeat. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved it - but how do you follow that up? Tykwer made an excellent film in Princess, but it was "laborious" and "languorous" just because you didn't have a seizure while watching it. I just read one critic's piece about Princess on RT - "Crawl, Lola, Crawl." Really? Guess what, it wasn't meant to be a sequel!
OK, so you understand why The Princess and the Warrior wasn't better received. Well it's too bad, because I think it's an intense, suspenseful, gripping movie. VERY briefly: Sissi (Potente) plays a psychiatric ward nurse who gets mixed up in the life of Bodo (Fuermann), a distraught, aimless widower and would-be bank robber. Tywker heavily uses fate and coincidence to bring the two together in very dramatic ways, yet you never really see what's coming. If you're willing, you might even explore the deeper themes of loss, regret, love and hope. But if you really want to go there, you might as well watch Driving Miss Daisy. See The Princess and the Warrior for a taut, surreal story with interesting characters. If you have the attention span of an 8th grader, you should be just fine. Otherwise crack a Red Bull or eight and watch Run Lola Run again.
Tykwer has of course continued writing and directing since Princess, most recently with last year's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. I haven't seen anything since Princess, but I am looking forward to his next film, The International, due out next year and starring Clive Owen as an Interpol agent.
By the way, bet you didn't know Tykwer is pronounced "tick-ver."