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Feature Friday: “Mostly Martha” (2001)

So I haven’t seen Mostly Martha since it came out, and I’ll freely admit that on paper, it looks god-awful. A tightly wound German chef, Martha, finds her perfectly-ordered world tipped into chaos when her sister dies, forcing her to take in her niece, Lina; meanwhile, her career is challenged by the hire of a freewheeling Italian chef, Mario. Will the 107-minute run time prove enough for Martha to learn about life and love, and wind up a happy family with Mario and Lina?

Of course. But it’s all in how one tells it …

For one thing, the acting is simply tremendous, with every character quite detailed, not at all the typical cartoons found in fare of this sort. What’s more, this nuanced, subtle approach extends to every aspect of the film. Director Sandra Nettlebeck approaches the project sensitively, thinking her way through each shot and scene. It’s beautiful work.

It doesn’t hurt that the film looks phenomenal. Best of all, its soundtrack—which was assembled by ECM Records founder Manfred Eicher—features tracks by Steve Reich, Louis Prima, Arvo Pärt, Dean Martin, and Keith Jarrett. It’s—well, it’s damned odd, but the whole thing works. And so, after 107 minutes, when the movie ends in catharsis, it feels more than earned.

Here’s Jonathan Rosenbaum’s glowing review.

And here’s part one of the film, which is all up at YouTube. Enjoy!

(The quality isn’t the best, but my hope—as with all of these films—is that you’ll enough like what you see to track down a proper copy.)

  • A. D. Jameson is the author of five books, most recently I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING: STAR WARS AND THE TRIUMPH OF GEEK CULTURE and CINEMAPS: AN ATLAS OF 35 GREAT MOVIES (with artist Andrew DeGraff). Last May, he received his Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the Program for Writers at UIC.

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