Streaming Spotlight - Continental comedies

Sunny side up films for the sunnier weather.

by Amber Wilkinson

Delicatessen
Delicatessen
As our dive into documentaries and festival films has been continuing this week with coverage from Sheffield Doc/Fest and the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York, we thought we bring you some sunny escapism with a selection of quirky continental comedies. If you're looking for more inspiration, don't forget to check out our weekly Stay-At-Home Seven.

The Other Side Of Hope, Amazon UK, £3.49

Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki is a fierce controller of the look and colour scheme of his film, crafting worlds that make you aware of their constructed nature even as you're totally absorbed by them. In this tale of a restaurateur who befriends a refugee, the dominant shade is a melancholic blue - but if that all sounds gloomy be assured that Kaurismäki finds plenty of droll humour in unexpected places and you'll certainly never look at sushi in quite the same way again. Refugee Khaled (Sherwan Haji) may be navigating Kafkaesque bureaucracy, but the emphasis is on the humanism and absurdist situations he finds himself in. One of Kaurismäki's more mainstream films, it nevertheless hides a strong message about attitudes beneath its sweet surface.

Toni Erdmann, MUBI

A breakout hit from Cannes that went on to score an Oscar nomination, Maren Ade's tragicomic film about a wisecracking dad (Peter Schimonischek) who infiltrates the life of his workaholic daughter (Sandra Hüller) under the guise of an absurdist alter ego is a offbeat triumph. There's a shaggy dog story element to this lengthy film that's rooted in the often unpalatable truths of modern Europe - but Ade also nails the back and forth of family emotions, complete with all its love and frustrations. Both actors shine in roles that require them to display vulnerability and whip smart comic timing. A Hollywood remake, involving Kirsten Wiig (good choice) has been much-touted since - but why wait for ersatz seconds when you can watch the original?

Danger: Diabolik, Amazon Prime

Jennie Kermode writes: Mario Bava is best known as a horror director but he loved fantasy of all kinds and that extended to comic books. Long before these had become a go-to resource for studios running low on ideas, this playful comedy captured the spirit of a much-loved form of fiction which had already begun to blend with the high spirited espionage and crime genres popular at the time. Bava's love of colour and instinct for stylish framing adds real zap to this tale of a master criminal - the titular Diabolik (played by John Philip Law) whose determination to maintain his reputation as the world's greatest thief is matched only by his love for girlfriend/conspirator Eva (Marisa Mell) and by the determination of detective Ginko (Michel Piccoli) to track him down. With spectacular costume design, daring raids, thrilling car chases, a first class secret lair and an Ennio Morrcone soundtrack, this is much more than a mere spoof and it will keep you laughing throughout. The bad dialogue just adds to the pleasure.

The Apostate, Netflix

When philosophy student Gonzalo (Álvaro Ogalla, playing a fictionalised version of himself) decides to reinvent himself by removing himself from the church baptism records - apostatizing himself - the bureaucratic wheels of Catholicism make that easier said than done. Director Federico Veiroj and his team of writers have some fun with the finer absurdities of the church but this is as much about the inner conflict of a man who is desperate to define himself on his own terms but is unsure how. There are plenty of laughs in The Apostate but its philosophical underpinnings offer more to chew on than just clever comedy.

Diamantino, Amazon, Google Play and other platforms, from £3.49

The word quirky could have been invented for this satirical Portugese comedy that tackles everything from Brexit attitudes to virtue signalling. Despite its science fiction and fantasy elements, this is at heart a modern-day fairytale tracking naive footballer Diamantino (Carloto Cotta), who after becoming embroiled in trouble thanks to his evil twin sisters (Anabela and Margarida Moreira), also becomes the target of an undercover sting. Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt use the purity of heart of Diamantino to set the more unpleasant aspects of modern Europe in relief, while also considering sexual politics and serving up a good dose of silliness.

Ron Goossens, Low Budget Stuntman, Videoland, iTunes Jennie Kermode writes: Middle-aged moustachioed alcoholic Ron (Tim Haars) is a simple man who has only ever wanted two things out of life: to be acknowledged as a skilled stuntman and to be loved by his childhood sweetheart Angela (Maartje van der Wetering). Where the former is concerned he has achieved a measure of success - his disastrously incompetent, failed stunts have made him a YouTube star. But Angela doesn't want to sleep with him - and she says that she'll only feel inspired to do so if he can prove his prowess by seducing famous actress Bo Maerten (playing herself). Writer-directors Steffen Haars (Tim's older brother) and Flip Van der Kuil follow our hapless hero on a quest he really doesn't want to undertake, and which seems hopeless from the outset - not least because the narrator has informed us that Ron only has seven weeks to live - in a film that may be crude and clumsy like its hero, but has a lot of heart. There's some genuinely impressive stunt work here (it's not easy to safely portray things going wrong), some charming character work and some surprising musical numbers. Just one word of warning: don't be too quick to assume it's all over. Not even after the post-credits scene.

A Man Called Ove, Chilli, Amazon and other platforms, from £2.49

If you like your humour deadpan, then comedy from the Nordic nations has plenty to offer, while the likes of Roy Andersson have achieved international purchase, there are plenty of others, including Hannes Holm, who are also worth looking out for. His adaptation of  Fredrik Backman's bestseller, tells the story of a grumpy old man (winningly played by Rolf Lassgård), who finds committing suicide is a lot less simple than he imagined. Holm deftly mixes flashbacks with a more stringent present as the old curmudgeon finds his world opening up again thanks to his new neighbour Parvaneh (Bahar Pars). Holm's film offers a solid amount of social commentary and a feelgood ending without overplaying the sentimentality.

Delicatessen, Amazon, Google Play and other platforms, from £2.49

Cannibalism has rarely been as much fun as it is in Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's surreal feature debut. Former clown and excellent saw player Luison (Dominique Pinon) takes a job as an apartment block odd-job man for a butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), little realising his new boss has a murderous sideline to help keep the residents fed. Caro and Jeunet construct a detailed world around this and the sweet romance that develops between Louison and the butcher's daughter (Marie-Laure Dougnac), filled with grotesques but with humour always to the fore. Although you can see echoes of the likes of Monty Python and Gilliam here, this is a singular world that rattles along to an imaginative conclusion that, for all its outlandishness, retains an inherent sweetness. Jeunet is returning to comedy for his next film Bigbug, a tale of suburbanites stuck together in an android uprising - currently in pre-production.

Before Nacho Vigalondo went on to make comedy alien invasion film Extraterrestrial he made this bitesize comedy short. Sunday tracks a couple's bickering as they watch a flying saucer. Simple but effective.


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