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Stratosphere Girl (2003)

Cast: Jon Yang, Chloe Winkel
Director: M.X. Oberg, M.X. Oberg
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: TLA Releasing
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Independent, Suspense/Thriller, Germany, Film Noir, Neo Noir, Crime, Gangsters, Neo Noir, Yakuza
Running Time: 85 min.
Languages: English
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In this imaginative independent drama, Angela (Chloé Winkel) is a French art student living in Germany who loves to draw comics and creates elaborate tales drawn in a soft and romantic style. One night, Angela meets Yamamoto (Jon Yang), a club DJ from Japan, who invites her to come to Tokyo with him. Infatuated with Yamamoto, Angela impulsively agrees, and is soon sharing an apartment with a handful of Western expatriates who work at a nightclub where Japanese businessmen drink, sing karaoke, and date the "hostesses" for a fee. When money runs low, Angela signs on to work at the club, but when a customer is murdered in an ongoing mob war, she realizes she's entered a far more dangerous world than she imagined. The frantic pace of the city and the violence of her new environment has a strong impact on her artwork, which loses its serene qualities and becomes increasingly aggressive and mechanical. The Stratosphere Girl was written and directed by German filmmaker M.X. Oberg, who shot the film on location in Cologne and Tokyo. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

The Real Lost in Translation by Mugwump July 27, 2005 - 12:29 PM PDT
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Let me start at the end and work my way back (Don't worry - no spoilers), since the extras on this disc have a strange, symbiotic relationship to the film itself.
Too often, the stills gallery is an excuse for a feature bullet point on the DVD case, but in this case it was an excellent collection of shots from the movie. One of the themes of SG is that the protagonist, Angela, views the world through a virtual comic book panel, and while you may not have been watching solely for the mise-en-scene, the framing is wonderfully apt. At the risk of depleting the indie cred of this review, it was more the pleasant surprise of re-examining the shots in Robocop 2 after you find out that Frank Miller worked on it (and likely did storyboards), rather than the over-the-top composition of his other, more recent effort. I would have have scrolled through 200 of these stills, but there were less than 20.
Another extra was the letter from the director in which he explains his intentions, but this came across a trifle disingenuous. At one point, he states that the ethereal, disjointed narrative is meant to echo the pace of the comic book experience and the distance that Angela retreats from her interaction with the world.
One problem I had with this interpretation is that many of the details of her troubles with the other club hostesses were understated, yet brilliant, severe, occasionally visceral. When such a moment occurred, it brought an exquisite focus to the scene, which further contrasted the dreamy broad strokes of the narrative itself. Further in the director's letter, he states that this narrative had existed in his head for a while, only to be provided context by tales he had overheard of a young woman's experience as the new girl in a club full of vengeful and competitive hostesses. I couldn't shake the idea that the best moments of the film may have been taken, whole cloth, from her experiences. The other problem is that, as with boredom, it is better to convey the character's experience than to force the effect of that experience on the viewer.
As for watching the film, the bipolar meandering between the moments of lucidity and the casual narrative kept me in constant indecision whether I would follow this movie wherever it took me or just stop it, go to sleep, and pick it up in a day or two when I had some spare time. Eventually, from the perspective of craft and the points of rapt attention, I had no choice but to classify it as flawed brilliance, rather than competence with a dash of luck.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 5.67)
46 Votes
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