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by Paul Harather

grade: 7

Although Cappuccino Melange, in order to accentuate the differences between the two protagonists, plays a lot on clichés, often excessively caricaturing its characters and sometimes even seeming excessive and unbelievable, on the whole the adventures of the two bizarre protagonists work. And they do so especially in the details.

From Italy with love

There are those who, in their time, compared a feature film like Cappuccino Melange to Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law. Interesting comparison, no doubt. And yet, this interesting little feature film directed by Paul Harather in 1992, today actually suggests much more. Because, in fact, a good twenty-eight years after its release, numerous other feature films that remind us – each in its own way – of this precious Cappuccino Melange have been made around the world.

First – for a nocturnal Vienna that witnesses a tender love story that has not yet had time to be born – there is Before Sunrise, Richard Linklater’s masterpiece made three years after the theatrical release of Cappuccino Melange. Secondly, when we see the protagonist as a child, madly in love with an Italian neighbour, watching the latter take a nap on his bed on a hot summer afternoon, it is impossible not to think – also because of several similarities in terms of aesthetics – of Malèna, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore in 2000.

That Linklater and Tornatore were inspired by Harather’s film seems rather improbable, since the latter was initially conceived for a television release. Yet despite this, we cannot fail to notice how Capuccino Melange presents, in its simplicity, some remarkable ideas.

It is 1972, in a small rural village in Styria. Manfred is eight years old and, when he is not at school, he delivers milk to the neighbours’ houses on behalf of his parents. One day the boy goes to the house of a neighbour of Italian origin and immediately falls in love with her, to the point that he starts to consider Italy as a myth. When the woman, before returning definitively to Italy, gives him a small tin box with some souvenirs of Rome inside, Manfred hides it under some boards in his barn.

Twenty years pass and Manfred, now an adult (here played by Josef Hader), is about to marry his long-time fiancée. One day, however, he must travel to Vienna with his tractor in order to look for a friend (Alfred Dorfer) who has run away with money belonging to him. On the way, the man will meet and give a lift to the beautiful and unconventional Gina (Enrica Maria Modugno), who is also on her way to Vienna, but has just had a fight with her boyfriend.

Although Cappuccino Melange, in order to accentuate the differences between the two protagonists, plays a lot on clichés, often excessively caricaturing its characters (in particular Gina) and sometimes even seeming excessive and not very believable, generally speaking the adventures of these two bizarre protagonists work. And they do so especially in the details, when, for instance, we see in the sky two plane trails travelling in opposite directions, or when, at the tables of a café, cappuccino and melange are ordered in turn first by one, then by the other.

Josef Hader as a naive country boy is particularly impressive here. And if at first he and Gina seem to us to be practically at odds, we gradually discover that they are not so different after all. Or, it would be better to say, we discover that each of them has, in fact, characteristics that the other would like to have. But is it not, perhaps, always like that when you establish a certain feeling with someone?

And then, last but not least, there’ s Vienna. A lively, cosmopolitan Vienna. A Vienna theatre of a love story that never came to life. A Vienna of departures, of farewells. Of goodbyes? Only time will tell. Still, the important thing is never to take anything for granted. Which Paul Harather certainly did not do in this little romantic Cappuccino Melange.

Original title: Cappuccino Melange
Directed by: Paul Harather
Country/year: Austria, Germany, France / 1992
Running time: 91’
Genre: comedy, romance
Cast: Josef Hader, Enrica Maria Modugno, Linde Prelog, Alexandra Haring, Alfred Dorfer, Hermann Härtel, Loredana Flore, Andrea Tiziani, Daniela Gäts, Wolf Bachofner, Rainer Spechtl, Victor Couzyn, Milan Dor, Hubert Pabi, Katharina Ziegerhofer, Gernot Kranner, Christina Hirscher, Peter Ziegerhofer, Marianne Bös, Karl Wegerer, Helmut Petric
Screenplay: Paul Harather
Cinematography: Helmut Pirnat
Produced by: ARTE, Dor Film, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, ORF

Info: the page of Cappuccino Melange on iMDb; the page of Cappuccino Melange on the website of the Austrian Film Commission