Whisky With Vodka

Whisky With Vodka

***1/2

Reviewed by: James Benefield

Whisky With Vodka puts the sometimes cruel world of the movie business under the spotlight. Like Sunset Boulevard or Charlie Chaplin's Limelight, the central focus is on an aging actor. However, there is a sourness here only hinted at in those two movies.

The central character of Otto (Henry Hubchen) is clearly no Norma Desmond or Calvero. He's a raging alcoholic and a womaniser. Yet he also manages to be the greatest actor of his generation. As the movie begins, he's shooting a new period film, Tango For Three, in which he fittingly plays an aging lothario. However after he stumbles in drunk to filming, the producer decides to hire another actor, Arno Runge (Markus Hering), to play his role. The two actors will film the same scenes one after another, as an insurance policy in case Otto falls off the wagon once more.

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The set of the film is depicted as a claustrophobic one. The director is seeing several women at once. Otto's replacement has got his eye on one of the lading ladies. And the producer's gaze is like the eye of Sauron; he's all over the daily rushes like a rash, and scours the tabloids for any sign of trouble.

It's this sense of claustrophobia, and the tension emanating from it, which are key to the film's success. The screenwriter is pushing 80, and has been working in film since the Fifties. His experience clearly shows here. Unlike its central character, it's an incredibly sober piece. Although benefiting from a sense of humour and a cast of likeable, interesting personalities, the overall mood is melancholic. There is a bickering throughout between the two leads of the film, which is enjoyable. But it acts as a reminder of how lonely these characters are.

And in that sense, it's a frightening movie. Whisky With Vodka pulls no punches in concluding that the movie business is essentially heartless and fickle. Sure, it's something we've seen and heard before. But here we see it's peoples lives - and not just reputations - at stake. Toward the end of the film, Otto delivers a sad, slightly drunken speech. It's full of bitterness and resentment at the way he has been treated. He just wants to be heard.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2010
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Dry comedy about the drunken antics of a past-his-prime star, which threaten to derail his latest movie.
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Festivals:

EIFF 2010

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