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by Pepe Danquart

grade: 6.5

Pepe Danquart’s C(r)ook pis inspired by US gangster movies, but is also closely reminiscent of contemporary French comedies, thanks to a successful mix of genres, between polar and real comedy.

Dining with the dead

The life of a gangster is hard. Especially when, deep down, one would like to live a completely different life. This, for example, is the case of Oskar (played by Henry Hübchen), the protagonist of C(r)ook (original title: Basta. Rotwein oder Totsein ), an amusing comedy directed by Pepe Danquart in 2004. The man is a member of the Russian mafia in Vienna and, one day, manages to escape from prison. But is this really the right road to take in order to realise his dreams? What makes him think about it is Maria, the prison psychologist, with whom the man is in love. Convinced, then, to spend another two years in jail and then enjoy life with his beloved, Oskar, once free, decides to publish a cookbook (his true passion) entitled Secrets. Everything seems to be going well, until his Mafia colleagues discover his project and, convinced that the man wants to betray them, report the matter to their boss.

It is, therefore, a series of bizarre misunderstandings that play a central role in C(r)ook. A film, this one by Pepe Danquart, which from the outset presents a characterisation that is clearly inspired by American gangster movies, but which, on the whole, is also closely reminiscent of contemporary French comedies, thanks to a successful mix of genres, between the polar and the comedy of errors.

Oskar is, after all, a kind-hearted man who has found his place in the world in the culinary arts. Yet his problem is not to antagonise anyone, neither the merciless boss for whom he works – but of whom he is rather fond – nor Maria, his partner, who would like him to be away from the underworld and ready to start a new life with her in another part of the world. Yet, as we know, it is not easy to make everything go right without committing any acts of violence.

If, therefore, the character of Oskar is, on the whole, pleasant and well-written, the real peculiarity of C(r)ook are, in fact, the secondary characters: from the violent killer Valentin (Moritz Bleibtreu), who, after falling in love, turns out to be passionate about poetry, to the ruthless but not very smart Belmondo (Roland Düringer), not forgetting the famous Josef Hader as Nowak, a detective who keeps tailing Oskar, since he is convinced that the man has never cut ties with the underworld. Impossible not to think, in this regard, of the character of detective Simon Brenner, to whom Hader lent his face in the saga dedicated to him that began in 2000 with Wolfgang Murnberger’s Come sweet Death.

Pepe Danquart, for his part, let himself be charmed by overseas cinema, inserting into his C(r)ook amusing fast-paced moments in which the numerous spectacular shoot-outs seem reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s cinema, as well as the comedy Sliding Doors (and, consequently, the beautiful Przypadek, directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski in 1981). Yet, considered in its entirety, this feature film by Danquart is indeed reminiscent of a French film. This is possible thanks to the numerous paradoxes, the characterisations of the figures and the settings themselves.

We agree: C(r)ook is not a perfect film. And its imperfections mainly concern little forced twists in the script. Yet, on the whole, this work by Pepe Danquart entertains with no frills, being well balanced and (almost always) light as a feather.

Original title: Basta. Rotwein oder Totsein
Directed by: Pepe Danquart
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 2004
Running time: 108’
Genre: comedy, crime
Cast: Henry Hübchen, Moritz Bleibtreu, Corinna Harfouch, Nadeshda Brennicke, Josef Hader, Roland Düringer, Paulus Manker, Karlheinz Hackl, Vincent Klink, Georg Veitl, Georg Friedrich, Jumbo Schreiner, Cornelius Obonya, Zoltan Deme, Igor Cillik, Julian Weigend, Tim Seyfi, Franziska Weisz, Martina Poel
Screenplay: Chris Kraus, Mike Majzen, Martin Daniel, Pepe Danquart, Milan Dor
Cinematography: Carl-Friedrich Koschnick
Produced by: Dor Film, Dor Film-West, Frames Filmproduktion

Info: the page of C(r)ook on iMDb; the page of C(r)ook on nientepopcorn.it