Advice to the Lovelorn

The Germans are not exactly the kings of comedy--not in this century--so it's always a little startling to come across a German film speckled with yuks, even when those yuks are largely about dissolution and death.

Case in point: Doris Dorrie's Nobody Loves Me is a kind of bedroom farce about one Fanny Fink (Maria Schrader), a gloomy young woman in gloomy old Cologne who cannot find a man. Fanny believes this failure is killing her, body and soul, and she wears the glum black clothes to prove it. Okay, then. In the age of feminist orthodoxy, such a plot may not play very well with some people. But wait. The film's female director knows how to throw the curve, so Nobody's second protagonist is an exotic, fortune-telling drag queen from Senegal named Orfeo (Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss), who also happens to believe he was abducted by aliens from Arcturus. He paints his skin in ritual colors, dances on the roof when he's not hustling contributions in the streets, and generally enlivens the proceedings. Oddly, though, Orfeo is apparently the one who's dying, even though he's the film's giver of life: He inspires Fanny to break out of her shell, to give in to desire, to live.

So she does, with mixed results. Because there's a little kink in Orfeo's fortune-telling technique, Fanny sets out in hot pursuit of her big, gloomy apartment house's new manager, Lothar Sticker (Michael Von Au). Despite his armful of roses and his superficial charms, Lothar's a worthless philanderer in an Armani suit (and impotent to boot), so Fanny's best efforts go mostly for naught. One minute she's in romantic heaven off at work (What would you expect? She frisks passengers at the airport); the next minute she catches Lothar flagrante delicto with her best friend.

Meanwhile, Schrader and Sanoussi-Bliss make for one of filmdom's most intriguing odd couples. He's as good at lip-synching Billie Holiday's "Lover Man" with a gardenia tucked behind his ear as he is at throwing bones, and to see Fanny come under the spell of his magic is liberating in itself. She also gives him what he needs--comfort and friendship as he faces his long journey to--well, maybe distant Arcturus. That he sets out wearing the loathsome Lothar's expensive suit is a delight; that he's hastened along by an ear-splitting tape recording of planes taking off and landing is an eventuality I'll let you discover for yourself.

Black comedy and the mysteries of love make for happy bedmates in this surprisingly buoyant German film, and Dorrie adds some delicious details--a graffiti-smeared building elevator with a mind of its own, a houseful of misfits and freaks we come to embrace as neighbors, a hilarious "death preparation" class in which our heroine halfheartedly practices lying down in her own coffin. "The Plexiglas is an excellent idea," the teacher tells her.

Indeed it is, particularly once a young woman changes her luck, embraces life and rejects death. If--impossible thought--Woody Allen were a German, he might have made a movie something like this one. And I mean that as a compliment to them both.


Nobody Loves Me. Written and directed by Doris Dorrie. With Maria Schrader, Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss, Michael Von Au and Elisabeth Trissenaar.


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