A forgotten café | The Velvet Café

bagdadIs there anyone but me who still remembers Bagdad Café? I guess no. Most of you were probably too young to see it when it came out in 1987. I remember it as being fairly successful and much talked about at that time, at least in Europe, but it never managed to break into any of the top lists that keep the memory of a movie alive.

23 years after my first viewing I found it at my library and decided to pay it a revisit. Blessed with a bad memory for movies (one of the reasons why I’ve started to blog about them, in order to get a reference for the future), I had only vague recollections if it.

It was something about a café in the middle of a desert and a woman arriving there and things starting to change. But what was the plot? Well, as it turned out this actually was the plot.

A voluminously built German woman has a row with her husband as they’re driving through the desert, takes her suitcase and leaves and ends up at the most desolated, miserable truck stop café/motel you could imagine. There’s something in her initial appearance, including lederhosen in her suitcase, which reminds me of the strange characters in a Roy Anderson movie. The motel keeper looks at her suspiciously and even calls the police, since something obviously is wrong with this woman. But gradually Jasmin and the motel keeper will start to connect. Changes are coming for everyone.

So, did it hold up for a second view after all those years? Well, yes and no. There’s something irresistible about the setting – the motel in the middle of nowhere, the road stretching towards eternity, the woman suddenly taking the decision to leave her ordinary life, taking a step into the unknown. The mood is like a sunset. While there’s melancholy in it, it’s still beautiful, sweet and soothing, and it’s enhanced by the song “Calling you“, runs all through the movie. (A hit back in the days, which you might recognize even if you haven’t seen the movie.)

I love the setting, the odd characters dwelling at this God forgotten place for unclear reasons, and above all I love the performance by the leading actress Marianne Sägebrecht, who shows just how attractive and beautiful a full-grown woman can be.

However there was a long scene towards the end which made me rather disappointed, because it was just too much of the goodness. I won’t go into details for spoiler reasons, but to me it changed the movie from being quite offbeat with an indie feeling (in a good sense) into a more conventional and forgettable movie.

Still – if you generally enjoy feel good movies and aren’t too sensitive about a high sugar level, I’d definitely recommend it.

Bagdad Café (Percy Aldon, West Germany/US, 1987) My rating: 3,5/5

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